Last updated: 2 months ago
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. These computers have always been the go-to choice for developers as the most versatile Macs available.
● Aluminum Unibody Design
● 13 or 16-inch Retina display
● Magic Keyboard
● 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.
Specifications and Pricing
|13-inch MacBook Pro||1.4GHz Intel Quad-Core i5|
|8GB||Intel Iris Plus Graphics||256GB||$1,299|
|13-inch MacBook Pro||2.0 GHz Intel Quad-Core i5|
|16GB||Intel Iris Plus Graphics||1TB||$1,999|
|13-inch MacBook Pro||2.3GHz Intel Quad-Core i7|
|32GB||Intel Iris Plus Graphics||4TB||$3,599|
|16-inch MacBook Pro||2.6GHz Intel 6-Core i7|
|16GB||AMD Radeon Pro 5300M||512GB||$2,399|
|16-inch MacBook Pro||2.4GHz Intel 8-Core i9|
|32GB||AMD Radeon Pro 5500M|
|16-inch MacBook Pro||2.3GHz Intel 8-Core i9|
|64GB||AMD Radeon Pro 5500M|
MacBook Pro Design and Features
The 1st-generation MacBook Pro used the PowerBook G4 design, but the second-generation adapted its own unique unibody design. While other manufacturers have attempted to copy the iconic look, they never get all the details. All modern models feature a giant glass trackpad and TouchBar, which haven't yet been reliably copied by other companies.
13-inch MacBook Pro
The 2020 models can select between 8th-generation and 10th-generation Intel processors. The models with 8th-generation processors do not have significant performance gains from previous models and sport only two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Improvements can be found in the middle of the line with 10th-generation Intel processors and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. These can be configured to be Core i5 or Core i7 Intel processors for up to 80% faster graphics performance.
16-inch MacBook Pro
These models were last updated in 2019 with 9th-generation Intel processors. They can be configured with either Core i7 or Core i9 Intel processors and powerful dedicated AMD graphics.
Apple's professional laptop has seen a few keyboard revisions through the years, but none will ever be remembered as well as the butterfly keyboard. Apple attempted to reduce the thickness of the MacBook line by changing the key mechanism to a much thinner butterfly switch.
The first version of the butterfly keyboard was released with the 12-inch MacBook, which compromised on chipset speed and cooling for an ultra-thin and lightweight design. This controversial move from scissor-switches has haunted the company ever since.
Apple debuted a new 16-inch MacBook Pro with a new scissor-switch mechanism, dubbed the Magic Keyboard. The move back to scissor switches has proven to be the right move, with reliability returning to pre-butterfly switch failure rates.
As of the 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh in May 2020, every MacBook sold by Apple is using the new scissor-switch keyboard.
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 3rd-generation MacBook Pro had an updated 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. The trackpad would not click or operate without power to the device since there were no moving parts.
While 3D Touch has been removed from the iPhone, 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 latest version of macOS Big Sur still has Force Touch, although the feature is not as prominent as when it was first announced.
The controversial fourth-generation MacBook Pro did more to change the keyboard than the butterfly switch, it introduced the Touch Bar. The new OLED strip replaced the function key row entirely, which was not received well by users. The Touch Bar brought Touch ID with it, as well as the T1/T2 coprocessor.
The Touch Bar 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 Touch Bar.
Piling onto the controversial keyboard and Touch Bar, the ports were moved to USB-C, which 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 model 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 display standard 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 3rd-generation model, and this was the first 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. True Tone will adjust the white balance of the screen to match the color temperature of the room you're in.
Apple continues to unify its design across platforms with full-height sidebars, rounded-rectangle app icons, and control center for Mac.
Safari is updated to have better performance and battery efficiency, and will automatically track threats or translate pages. Messages will now work similar to the iOS version with stickers and message effects.
Mac Catalyst lets developers bring iPad apps to the Mac using tools that make the transfer easy. New tools in macOS Big Sur make it even easier for developers to move their apps across platforms.
MacBook Pro history
Apple's professional laptop has seen many changes over the years, and its biggest one is yet to come. What will likely be considered the 5th-generation MacBook Pro is expected by the end of 2021, and it will be running Apple Silicon.
There will likely be a redesigned 14-inch MacBook Pro model with a Magic Keyboard and Touch Bar as the first model with Apple's custom processor.
With Apple controlling the entire hardware and software stack in their Mac line for the first time, it could mean big performance gains and improved battery life. Security will also be much improved due to the nature of having new custom system architecture on the market— no malware or adware will have been made for the product yet.
Apple has not detailed exactly how much better their custom processors will be when compared to Intel, but the company did say that their Developer Transition Kit with an A12Z is an example of what they can accomplish when "not even trying."
The 4thgeneration 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 without the need of a proprietary 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 Touch Bar, 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 Touch Bar 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 4th-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, it proved to be up to three times as fast as the PowerBook G4 it replaced.
Shoppers can easily take advantage of MacBook Pro deals at Apple Authorized Resellers, potentially saving many consumers hundreds of dollars in savings, with bonus discounts available even on AppleCare. To find the lowest prices on Apple laptops and desktops, visit AppleInsider's Mac Price Guide.