The MacBook Pro was introduced in February 2006 as the professional portable Mac, replacing the PowerPC G4 and ushering in the Intel era. Each generation since has added innovations to the platform, but notably, Apple's eternal march to thinness made the fourth-generation sour. The MacBook Pro line has always been the go-to choice for developers as the most versatile machine available.
● Aluminum Unibody Design
● 13 or 16-inch Retina display
● Magic Keyboard
● Up to 8-core processor
● Up to 64GB RAM
● Integrated graphics up to AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series
● USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connectivity
● TouchBar with Touch ID
● 500 nit P3 color gamut display
● T2 Security Chip
● Pro Mode(TBA)
The MacBook Pro exists today as a mainstay for developers. Being able to perform complex tasks such as building apps on the go is crucial to many workflows.
Even though the Mac desktop line floundered over the past decade, the MacBook line has flourished as the only place professionals wanted to work. Even now, as we see more powerful desktops emerge, such as the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro, the MacBook Pro remains, offering a less pricey professional Apple computer.
MacBook Pro design and features
The first-generation MacBook Pro used the PowerBook G4 design, but the second-generation adapted its own unique unibody design. While other manufacturers attempt to copy the iconic design, they never quite capture the details. All modern models feature a giant glass trackpad and TouchBar, which haven't yet been reliably copied by other companies.
macOS Catalina is shipped on all current Apple laptops and desktops.
Apple's professional laptop has seen a few keyboard revisions through the years, but none will ever be remembered as well as the fourth generation keyboard. Apple attempted to reduce the thickness of the MacBook Pro line by changing the key mechanism to a much smaller second-generation butterfly switch. The first version of the butterfly keyboard launched in the 12-inch MacBook. This controversial change has haunted the company since.
Apple debuted a new 16-inch MacBook Pro with a new scissor-switch mechanism, dubbed the Magic Keyboard. No reports have stated any issue with the redesign, so likely the keyboard controversy can come to an end.
Apple debuted a new trackpad that could be clicked anywhere on the surface in 2008. This was announced alongside the new unibody enclosure and has been a staple since.
The third-generation MacBook Pros saw an update to the trackpad, making the surface much larger. Apple called this the Force Touch trackpad, and removed the clicking mechanism, replacing it with a motor that would approximate the feeling of a click by vibrating. This meant that the trackpad would not click or operate without power to the device.
While 3D Touch has been removed from the latest iPhones, the MacBook trackpad still uses the Force touch system. It is unknown if this will be deprecated, but because a right-click and force click are easily distinguished gestures, it likely won't.
The controversial fourth-generation MacBook Pro did more to change the keyboard than the butterfly switch, it introduced the TouchBar. The new OLED strip replaced the function key row and escape key entirely, causing much unrest to the users. The TouchBar brought Touch ID with it, as well as the T1/T2 coprocessor.
The TouchBar shows interactable buttons based on what application is open on the screen and active. Text suggestions, emoji, photo tools, and video timelines would pop up depending on what a user was doing. A still-active trick also allows users to skip over YouTube ads using the video slider on the TouchBar.
It was discovered that an altered version of WatchOS was powering the TouchBar, operating entirely on the T1/T2 chip. This coprocessor also handled full disk encryption and storing Touch ID data.
The fourth-generation MacBook Pro introduced new ports to the line. Piling onto the controversial keyboard and TouchBar, the port change was considered user-hostile by the more critical Apple fan base.
USB-C ports replaced all of the existing ports on the previous models, meaning that if any legacy peripheral did not have a USB-C cable, it would need an adapter to be used.
All USB-C connections on MacBook Pro are Thunderbolt 3 ports. This connection standard is run by a separate chipset connected to the ports and drives things like 100W power delivery and 40GB/s data transfer speeds. The 13-inch MacBook Pro can be configured with two or four ports, depending on the processor speed selected. All 15-inch and 16-inch models have four ports.
A new display standard now used across all modern Apple devices, the term Retina Display refers to a screen that can display elements at 2x pixel density and allow users to view content with no noticeable pixels at proper viewing distances. This rating changes depending on the screen size and use case. The iPhone 4 was the first Apple Device with a Retina Display.
In 2012 Apple introduced the third-generation model, and this was the first MacBook to ship with a Retina Display.
Display technology has advanced since then and now allows the high-resolution displays to render at 500 nits within the P3 color gamut.
MacBook Pro history
4th Generation (current)
The 4th generation released in October 2016 and updated both the 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pros. The Mac Pro hadn't been updated in years, and it was making pro users uneasy to see all of the attention iPad and iPhone had been getting. The updates didn't do much to quell those thoughts, considering that many felt like changes to catch up to iOS.
The ultra-thin MacBook Pro needed the smallest ports available, so it came with USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports. Versatile, but uncompromisingly new to users who would need adapters or all new equipment to use the port. No more MagSafe, but all ports could power the laptop, just don't trip over the cable.
All eyes were on the keyboard section of the new generation, however. Thinner keys with less space between them, a touch screen panel instead of a function row called the TouchBar, and a giant trackpad encompassing the entire bottom of the laptop case all made this design futuristic and new. Apple also added its Touch ID technology in a button next to the TouchBar that acted as the sleep/wake switch.
Through the years the ports change mattered less as more users got equipment to match, but the keyboard just didn't live up to Apple's hopes. April of 2018 saw a report that said the butterfly keyboard was failing up to twice as often than the previous generations.
Class action lawsuits were filed, Apple updated the keyboard with membrane material to prevent foreign object ingress, and a final update to the keyboard in May 2019 changed out materials for stronger ones. Apple also announced a keyboard service program for all the affected MacBooks. These changes have seemed to reduce the need for repair of "sticky keys" but still not good enough for users expecting their devices to just work.
The first revision to the fourth generation MacBook Pro came in November 2019, and along with it a newly dubbed "magic keyboard." Apple brought back the scissor mechanisms, and even the escape key, to finally and hopefully bring the years of keyboard issues to rest.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro also featured new spec updates to bring it in line with the iMac Pro, and even increased the battery to the maximum allowed for plane travel, 100W.
Apple released the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with a new magic keyboard, faster processors, and more storage in May 2020.
WWDC 2012 was more than just the usual software announcements, Apple announced the 3rd generation MacBook Pro as well. The first to have a Retina Display, Core i7 processors, USB 3.0, a second thunderbolt port, and HDMI. To further accommodate the thinning of the laptop, MagSafe 2 was introduced, which had a thinner connector and port. FireWire 800 and Ethernet were dropped to allow for the new ports, but could still be connected via thunderbolt adapters.
This laptop also lost a lot of moving parts; the disk drive is gone, and the HDD was switched to SDD. The design further removed user upgradeability by soldering in the memory and gluing in the battery.
This generation saw more significant user-facing updates than the standard memory or screen changes. In 2013 the laptops gained thunderbolt 2, Iris graphics, 802.11ac WiFi, and the higher-end 15-inch got additional Nvidia graphics. 4K support was added via the HDMI as well.
The 2015 update, the last before the current generation, had all of the usual speed updates, but some hardware changes too. The Force Touch trackpad was added to and allowed contextual menus to be opened with a hard press.
Apple announced the 2nd generation MacBook Pro during a press event in October 2008. A new design, dumping the old PowerBook chassis, sported a unibody aluminum enclosure with tapered edges, like the MacBook Air. The optical drive and ports were rearranged for the new body style, ports on the left, optical drive on the right. Ports were changed too, FireWire 400 was dropped, but the FireWire 800 port remained. The DVI port was changed to a Mini DisplayPort.
This generation allowed users to change their battery out, which was useful for travel or switching in a spare battery. The battery only lasted about 5 hours on one charge.
Along with its new sleek aluminum case, a glass surface trackpad was added too. This new trackpad could be clicked anywhere, even with its larger surface area. Later updates to the line would add inertial scrolling, similar to what iOS offered.
Among the first Intel Macs, the 1st generation MacBook Pro was announced in January 2006 and had a 15-inch screen. The larger 17-inch screen laptop was launched later that year in April. These were the first MacBooks to have webcams and introduced the MagSafe connector.
The move from PowerPC to Intel was much faster than anyone, even Apple, anticipated. For whatever reason though, it went without too many hitches. At launch, and subsequent updates to the line, the MacBook Pro proved to be up to three times as fast as the PowerBook G4 it replaced.
The current MacBook Pro line consists of the 13-inch and 16-inch laptops.
The 13-inch starts at $1,299 with an i5 intel quad-core processor, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage. You can configure it up to an i7 intel quad-core processor, four thunderbolt 3 ports, 16GB RAM, and 4TB storage; maxing out at $3,599.
The 16-inch starts at $2,399 with an i7 intel 6-core processor, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, and AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics. You can configure it up to an i9 intel 8-core processor, 64GB RAM, 8TB storage, and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics; maxing out at $6,099.
You can find the latest deals and prices on all Apple MacBook Pro and Mac desktop computers in AppleInsider's Price Guide.