A year with MacBook Pro: reviewing Apple's 2017 pro laptop models

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in Current Mac Hardware edited June 23
Apple was rumored to refresh its MacBook line at WWDC 2018, but with the event come and gone with nary an announcement to be heard, we know we have to wait a bit longer for new hardware. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at how our 2017 MacBook Pros have fared over the past 12 months.





Let's start with one of the biggest concerns aired when Apple redesigned its top-tier laptop in 2016: dongles. A good swath of negative MacBook Pro reviews cite a distinct lack of ports as a primary issue with the line, noting most models require a seemingly endless number of USB-C dongles. Depending on the model, MacBook Pro comes with two or four Thunderbolt 3 ports, each of which relies on the USB-C connector format.




At first, USB-C solutions were scarce, but if you take a look at Amazon today, the online marketplace is flooded with cables, adapters, high-speed SD Card readers and more. The affordable AmazonBasics brand offers practically every kind of USB-C cable users need. The accessories are so inexpensive that we have replaced every single cable we typically use with a USB-C version.

Thanks to fairly quick adoption of USB-C technology, dongle hell is pretty much over.

The keyboard

All 2017 MacBook and MacBook Pro models feature Apple's second-generation butterfly keyboard mechanism, which definitely improved over the first-generation's butterfly keys in terms of feel and reliability. However, it took less than a year for some major flaws to be revealed.

Apple's design keeps key travel very short and leaves internal switches unsealed. Over time, dust and other small debris like bread crumbs can begin to collect inside the keyboard mechanism, eventually blocking internal contacts to render affected keys useless.




Apple is already facing multiple class action lawsuits due to this problem, but luckily we have yet to experience similar issues with our 2017 MacBook models.

While Apple has already launched an extended repair program for those afflicted, Apple has two options to fix this issue in future refreshes. The company can individually seal each key or create a new mechanism that is more resilient to debris.

As for the key switches themselves, we like them, but the extremely shallow travel takes some getting used to. Our fingers still get tired after a long day of typing,

To Touch Bar or not to Touch Bar

2017 marked the second year that Apple's dynamic Touch Bar was made available on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. To be honest, we're glad we have the base non-Touch Bar model. Let us explain.




One of the best Touch Bar features is quick, secure, and easy unlocking with integrated Touch ID, but after using the feature for a year we have reverted back to entering our password via the keyboard. Of course it depends on your passcode, but for us typing is just faster.

The same goes for the Touch Bar itself. A year later, our Touch Bar use is literally limited to display brightness and volume adjustments. Sometimes it's a little bit annoying, because Touch Bar forces users navigate an extra menu to find certain settings, like adjusting the keyboard backlight and skipping audio tracks, tasks that take one simple keypress on standard function keys.

If we had the choice of saving some money by opting out of the Touch Bar, we would do so in a heartbeat, in fact, that's what we did for our 13-inch MacBook Pro.

My one wish is that Apple would replace Touch ID with Face ID. Windows Hello works like a dream on the Dell XPS 13, it's basically the perfect way to unlock your laptop, so I'm just waiting for Apple to bring Face ID to their Macs.

Trackpad

Let's quickly mention the massive trackpad, which receives a little bit of hate from some Windows users. We can tell you that once you use this trackpad, it will be incredibly hard to go back.




Windows machines are far behind the MacBook Pro's trackpad, which has user-adjustable force-touch input and feedback. The best part is that the clicking feel is even across the whole surface of the trackpad, unlike most, if not all Windows laptops. You can right click from anywhere by simply using two fingers, so you don't need extra buttons.

MacBook also boasts incredibly quick gestures for almost any command within the macOS user interface. Swiping up with four fingers, for example, launches Mission Control, while a pinch gesture with four fingers invokes Launchpad.

Hardware

Moving on to hardware, MacBook Pro's speakers are very good for their size, much better than most Windows laptops that we tested, including Dell's XPS 13.

As for performance, the base 13-inch MacBook Pro is just as fast as the day we got it. It obviously floors the similarly priced 12-inch MacBook, and in regular use it performs basically the same as the base 15-inch MacBook Pro. This is borne out in nearly identical single-core processor benchmarking scores between the two machines.

The 15-inch does, however, excel at multi-core tasks like video editing.

We recently compared the base 13-inch MacBook Pro with the new Dell XPS 13 laptop, which for us is one the best Windows laptops available. It packs Intel's 8th-gen i7-8550U Coffee Lake processor, so CPU performance is far better than the MacBook Pro's, especially in multi-core.

However, Apple chooses to pay more for CPU's with powerful integrated graphics like the Iris Plus Graphics 640 chip in the base 13-inch Pro. This results in a 20 percent boost to graphics benchmarking scores compared to the XPS, despite the MacBook Pro being an older laptop.

When we use apps that are optimized by Apple, like Final Cut Pro X, the MacBook Pro edits way above its class when compared to a Windows machine using Adobe's Premiere Pro.

Design-wise, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is almost perfect. The aluminum chassis is in a whole different realm compared to Windows laptops. It's basically flawless, all-around. The size is perfect for traveling, it's not too heavy and not too light. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is definitely nice for the extra screen space, but it's a bit more difficult to travel with.

The 13-inch Pro's display is gorgeous and we love the black bezels around it. Our favorite feature is the taller 16:10 aspect ratio, which affords more real estate when compared to the standard 16:9 ratio on most Windows laptops. That extra vertical screen space is what you want when browsing the web.

If you've got the extra cash, definitely pick up the base 13-inch MacBook Pro instead of the MacBook Air, which is long-overdue for a redesign.

Wish list

First and foremost, we obviously want the latest processors, but most of all we want quad-core chips instead of the current dual-core CPU's.

We would also like an updated keyboard with more travel and, more importantly, a reliable architecture that doesn't break when a little dust gets in. It would also be nice if Apple could slim its screen bezels and fit a 14-inch display into the same, perfect form factor.

Of course we can wish for some unrealistic things like a nice dedicated graphics chip and support for 32GB of RAM, but at this price point and form factor, MacBook Pro is nearly perfect as it is.

If you're in the market for a 2017 MacBook Pro, be sure to check out our Price Guides for the latest deals and special offers. Current discounts of up to $400 off are available with our exclusive coupon.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 241
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,394member
    Very nice review! Just curious, did you experience a keyboard failure on the test unit or are you simply summarizing data from the field?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 241
    tailstootailstoo Posts: 38member
    Quad core 13” and I’m buying it.  As long as it doesn’t have the crappy keyboard. 
    jdb8167williamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 241
    nunzynunzy Posts: 409member
     don't worry about the keyboard. The review says that there was no problem found during testing.

    A previous article confirms that the problem is only present in a tiny percentage of devices. People just hate Apple.
    edited June 23 mcdavewilliamlondonredgeminipajeffharrisStrangeDayschasm
  • Reply 4 of 241
    I have to wonder if the delay in updating the MacBook range is not all down to Intel's continuing failure to deliver CPU's with LPDDR4 support but also down to the keyboard issues. IMHO, there has to be at least some changes to it in the near future. Even if there are problems with a small percentage of devices this is generating a lot of bad publicity for Apple.
    I'll stick with my 15in MBP from 2015 for a while longer yet.
    irelandredgeminipaaylk
  • Reply 5 of 241
    I have to disagree. In my opinion the only "pro" model has to be a 17" laptop. Apple made these wonderful "pro" laptops years and years ago. Very much like their current old tech computers. I bought three of them. Best laptops ever. Then Apple became a phone company. I miss the good old days, when Apple was a computer company first. Apple are not in the "pro" market any more. I hope the next Apple event is all about hardware, i.e. computer hardware. A proper "pro" desktop aka Mac Pro, RAM 64Gb to 256Gb, proper "pro" monitors, with 30, 32, 34 or 38" 4K screens, proper "pro" laptops from 17" down to toy-sized 13" "pro" laptop. 4K screens laptop screens, 32Gb RAM as a standard minimum, user upgradable RAM to 64Gb. And then Apple can start again to innovate with great software like it did 10 years ago. Before some idiot decided water-downed feature-less dumbed-down software became the norm for Apple. Apple stopped making computers customers actually wanted years ago. Sad times at the moment with Apple computer hardware.
    freethinkingigohmmmwilliamlondonGeorgeBMacaylkmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 241
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,656member
    I have to wonder if the delay in updating the MacBook range is not all down to Intel's continuing failure to deliver CPU's with LPDDR4 support but also down to the keyboard issues. IMHO, there has to be at least some changes to it in the near future. Even if there are problems with a small percentage of devices this is generating a lot of bad publicity for Apple.
    I'll stick with my 15in MBP from 2015 for a while longer yet.
    Sounds like a reasonable assumption to me, but from the comments I’ve mostly seen on tech sites people bitch that something from Apple isn’t perfect and then bitch when Apple works to correct it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    While the latest MBP is overall the best Mac I’ve ever owned, I definitely don’t type as fast or as well on the new keyboard due to how the layout feels. Since i  haven’t never gotten used to it at this point, I never will, but from what I’ve heard it’s only an issue with those that didn’t grow up with touchscreens. I can’t verify whether that’s true or not, but technology often leaves older generations behind. All I can say with certainty is that whenever I drop back onto my old MBP the instant I touch that keyboard is like putting on a brand new pair of socks.
    edited June 23 lamboaudi4
  • Reply 7 of 241
    rogtufrogtuf Posts: 3member
    The USB-C connector on the MBP is hopeless. It falls out as soon as there is the slighted tension on the cable. Putting USB-C on the Iphone would be a very bad idea.
    williamlondonaylkbloggerblogwatto_cobrajdw
  • Reply 8 of 241
    nunzynunzy Posts: 409member
    I have to disagree. In my opinion the only "pro" model has to be a 17" laptop. Apple made these wonderful "pro" laptops years and years ago. Very much like their current old tech computers. I bought three of them. Best laptops ever. Then Apple became a phone company. I miss the good old days, when Apple was a computer company first. Apple are not in the "pro" market any more. I hope the next Apple event is all about hardware, i.e. computer hardware. A proper "pro" desktop aka Mac Pro, RAM 64Gb to 256Gb, proper "pro" monitors, with 30, 32, 34 or 38" 4K screens, proper "pro" laptops from 17" down to toy-sized 13" "pro" laptop. 4K screens laptop screens, 32Gb RAM as a standard minimum, user upgradable RAM to 64Gb. And then Apple can start again to innovate with great software like it did 10 years ago. Before some idiot decided water-downed feature-less dumbed-down software became the norm for Apple. Apple stopped making computers customers actually wanted years ago. Sad times at the moment with Apple computer hardware.
      Apple makes boatloads more money now than it did when that stuff was popular.
  • Reply 9 of 241
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 360member
    Nice summary - thanks.   I updated my 2009 iMac last year and have wanted to update my 2013 15" MBP, but until it gets quad core and 32Gb RAM I'll wait.   I run lots of heavy vector graphics and require the horsepower.    I've tested out the newer keyboards and the Touch Bar (friends utilize them)  and find them both very useful.  For me the fact that the Touch Bar is programable could be very helpful for various tasks.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 241
    VinceRVinceR Posts: 3member
    nunzy said:
     don't worry about the keyboard. The review says that there was no problem found during testing.

    A previous article confirms that the problem is only present in a tiny percentage of devices. People just hate Apple.
    Disagree completely. I don't hate Apple, I hate what is mistakenly called a "Pro" keyboard. The keyboard is absolute junk for fast touch typists, especially in a quiet room or library. It sounds like a train coming with the clickety-clack racket it makes. I bought a new 2017 MacBook Pro and promptly returned it because of the keyboard, and bought a used 2015 MBP. The newer keyboard was disturbing my clients, as well as myself. My 2011 and 2015 keyboards are beautiful - no problems, quiet, easily serviceable. If Apple is going to charge premium prices for a "Pro" machine, they better dump the amateurish Mattel chiclet keyboard or they will lose a lot of customers.
    Solinunzyking editor the grateirelandigohmmmanantksundaramwilliamlondonGeorgeBMackiowavtelijahg
  • Reply 11 of 241
    nunzy said:
     don't worry about the keyboard. The review says that there was no problem found during testing.

    A previous article confirms that the problem is only present in a tiny percentage of devices. People just hate Apple.
    That tiny percentage of people couldn't get their work done for weeks until their laptops were repaired. How is that hating Apple?
    nunzywilliamlondonpentaepentaeelijahgaylkmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 241
    Nunzy said; Apple makes boatloads more money now than it did when that stuff was popular. Yes Nunzy, and if you look at the revenue figures last qtr 2018, 70% was from phones and just 8% from computers. Sales of Apple computers are going down and not up. Market share is what now? It was growing at one stage 10 years ago. Steve Jobs stated making money was not the main goal for Apple, just making the best product. Tim Cook needs to be reminded of this. Apple is selling 5 year old computers as new tech. If you can point me to the fastest desktop, fastest laptop, fast mini, with the latest graphics cards, fastest processors, fastest RAM, a range of 4K monitors, an iMac bigger than 27", let me and millions of mac users know where they are. As we would buy them today.
    nunzywilliamlondonaylkmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 241
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,656member
    Nunzy is a pro-Apple troll. Look at his simplistic, posting history.
    chianunzykimberlymacxpressavon b7lamboaudi4elijahgaylklkruppmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 241
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,103member
    Well he does have a point, Soli. Apple users have very high expectations. For long periods macs were the best computers you could buy, so they tend to expect perfection.

    But the Mac line is not really worth the list price at the moment. And I believe Mac sales are much, much less than they could have been.

    I honestly can’t recommend one at present. I also desperately need a new machine for myself but am really hoping and hanging out for some decent choices ASAP, or I will regretfully have to move to the dark side, after more than thirty years of macs. I stuck with Apple during the dark days of the nineties, but it seems Apple hasn’t stuck with me. 

    In the eighties, the last half of the nineties, and the first twelve years of Mac OSX machines, macs were the best machines available at the time. You can’t say that now.

    While I don’t expect a redesign every year, at the very least keep them up to date graphics and processor wise.  It sticks in my craw to have to consider a full priced machine with a previous generation(s) processor.  To be honest, it’s a bit insulting. and if I feel insulted, am I going to recommend macs, get family and friends to switch to the Mac, like I have done most of my life?
    And also, once switching to the dark side, am I going to recommend iPhones? Apple should think very carefully about that. Maybe I will be a jilted lover and bad mouth Apple every chance I get? I would hope I am more mature than that, but a lot of people aren’t.  And who are Apple’s greatest, most committed promoters? People deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem, or some temporary instant instagram influencing it girl? Perhaps Apple could just stop treating its oldest and greatest evangelists like shit.

    Anyway, now that I have that off my chest, I am hoping for a Mac hardware event in the next month or so, at the Steve Jobs Theatre. I really expect hardware events to be there from now on.
    edited June 23 nunzysuperk9elijahgaylkmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 241
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,779member
    Soli said:
    I have to wonder if the delay in updating the MacBook range is not all down to Intel's continuing failure to deliver CPU's with LPDDR4 support but also down to the keyboard issues. IMHO, there has to be at least some changes to it in the near future. Even if there are problems with a small percentage of devices this is generating a lot of bad publicity for Apple.
    I'll stick with my 15in MBP from 2015 for a while longer yet.
    Sounds like a reasonable assumption to me, but from the comments I’ve mostly seenon tech sites people bitch that something from Apple isn’t perfect and then bitch when Apple works to correct it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    While the latest MBP is overall the best Mac I’ve ever owned, I definitely don’t type as fast or as well on the new keyboard due to how the layout feels. Since i  haven’t never gotten used to it at this point, I never will, but from what I’ve heard it’s only an issue with those that didn’t grow up with touchscreens. I can’t whether that’s true or not, but technology often leaves older generations behind. All I can say with certainty is that whenever I drop back onto my old MBP the instant I touch that keyboard is like putting on a brand new pair of socks.
    Interesting. 

    My first couple of weeks were hideous, but once I adjusted my typing style so I didn’t hit the keys so hard, I now find it’s the best keyboard I’ve ever used. Much easier on the fingers and wrists, and I type faster with fewer mistakes, including the number keys.  Still wish the Return key was bigger though. 
    edited June 23 igohmmmlamboaudi4williamlondonredgeminipamuthuk_vanalingampscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 241
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,779member
    rogtuf said:
    The USB-C connector on the MBP is hopeless. It falls out as soon as there is the slighted tension on the cable. Putting USB-C on the Iphone would be a very bad idea.
    And if it didn’t do that, you’d be complaining that you tripped over the cable and pulled your laptop on to the floor. 
    Solientropyswilliamlondonredgeminipajeffharrismuthuk_vanalingamfastasleeppscooter63
  • Reply 17 of 241
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,845administrator
    Nunzy said; Apple makes boatloads more money now than it did when that stuff was popular. Yes Nunzy, and if you look at the revenue figures last qtr 2018, 70% was from phones and just 8% from computers. Sales of Apple computers are going down and not up. Market share is what now? It was growing at one stage 10 years ago. Steve Jobs stated making money was not the main goal for Apple, just making the best product. Tim Cook needs to be reminded of this. Apple is selling 5 year old computers as new tech. If you can point me to the fastest desktop, fastest laptop, fast mini, with the latest graphics cards, fastest processors, fastest RAM, a range of 4K monitors, an iMac bigger than 27", let me and millions of mac users know where they are. As we would buy them today.
    Mac sales are either staying steady or increasing in volume on a quarterly basis, in a PC market that is contracting in total sales.
    nunzyRayz2016fruitstandninjaredgeminipajeffharrismuthuk_vanalingamfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 241
    Nice review. My thoughts after a number of months with my 2017 MBP, are very similar 

    I decided to be proactive about the keyboard and installed a keyboard cover the day I got it. Whether it will save me from issue I cannot be sure but it has highlight how much debris my bad habit of eating in front of my laptop results in. 

    I really like TouchID so I’d hate to loose that for FaceID. Each account uses a different finger so I can switch users really quickly and simply. 

    The dongle discussion I always  found interesting as I realised even with my old 2012 MBP I virtually never plug anything in anymore. 

    I bought one do all portable hub, a lightning cable and one USB-A adapter for times when I cannot be bothered with the hub. Ok, I spent $200 on these things and one could argue that’s a problem but it’s not like connectivity hasn’t changed previously. 

    I bought a USB Serial Adapter when Serial went the way of the Dodo. Just like I did with eSata, PC Card, parallel ports and incompatible Dell docking stations on the PC side. 

    Overall, I’d still recommend it although unless your in a rush wait for the next refresh. 
    redgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 241
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,103member
    Nunzy said; Apple makes boatloads more money now than it did when that stuff was popular. Yes Nunzy, and if you look at the revenue figures last qtr 2018, 70% was from phones and just 8% from computers. Sales of Apple computers are going down and not up. Market share is what now? It was growing at one stage 10 years ago. Steve Jobs stated making money was not the main goal for Apple, just making the best product. Tim Cook needs to be reminded of this. Apple is selling 5 year old computers as new tech. If you can point me to the fastest desktop, fastest laptop, fast mini, with the latest graphics cards, fastest processors, fastest RAM, a range of 4K monitors, an iMac bigger than 27", let me and millions of mac users know where they are. As we would buy them today.
    Mac sales are either staying steady or increasing in volume on a quarterly basis, in a PC market that is contracting in total sales.
    Yes, that is so, trucking along at the far right top of the product adoption curve, just before senescence. That looks like the choice Apple has made, sadly.

    Just imagine how much better sales would be if the Mac lines were up to date, let alone better in comparison to the competition as macs used to be and thus the curve is reset and Mac production is back in steep growth.
    edited June 23 superk9
  • Reply 20 of 241
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 490member
    Rayz2016 said:
    rogtuf said:
    The USB-C connector on the MBP is hopeless. It falls out as soon as there is the slighted tension on the cable. Putting USB-C on the Iphone would be a very bad idea.
    And if it didn’t do that, you’d be complaining that you tripped over the cable and pulled your laptop on to the floor. 
    ...and again asking why they didn't keep the MagSafe connector. I have a 15" 2017 MacBook Pro. It's a great machine, but I still think it was moronic to go whole-hog with USB C and ditch MagSafe and not have a single USB A. 
    edited June 23 stevenoznumenoreanjeffharrisbloggerblogjdw
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