Comparing the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the 2017 Function Keys model

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 10
Apple has removed the old 13-inch MacBook Pro with Function Keys from its online store. As well as bringing the Touch Bar to every model in the range, though, it's made many other significant changes.

Apple has brought the Touch Bar to all models of MacBook Pro
Apple has brought the Touch Bar to all models of MacBook Pro


The clumsily-named 13-inch MacBook Pro with Function Keys is no more. You can't get one, Apple no longer sells it, and instead your only choice is the new 2019 MacBook Pro which comes with a Touch Bar. Except in practice, there are still stocks of the old machine, and even Apple will continue selling them in its refurb store for a time.






So while it's just interesting to see what Apple has really changed, there are ways to buy the discontinued machine -- and there are reasons to.

Let's be clear, though, the new MacBook Pro is objectively much better. It's changed the Touch Bar from being a premium extra to part of the standard package, for instance. You may find that you don't like the Touch Bar, but it used to cost you 500 bucks more to see.

And you will like that having the Touch Bar means you've also now got Touch ID on your MacBook Pro.

About those keys

No question, many or even most people who bought the MacBook with Function Keys, did so because it was substantially cheaper than the models with Touch Bar.

However, some people also went for this because they positively preferred the keyboard on the older model. It's the same physical keyboard as you get now, although the new MacBook Pro models are believed to have the latest version of the Butterfly mechanism.

With the Touch Bar comes Touch ID
With the Touch Bar comes Touch ID


You did, as the name keeps saying, get function keys. Only, you got more than that. Alongside the 12 physical function keys, the older MacBook Pro comes with two more buttons. There's an Escape key and a Power button.

Both of these have now been subsumed into the Touch Bar and while linking Power to the Touch ID is a good thing, developers in particular have complained about Escape becoming a virtual key.

Touchy-feely

They've tended to complain about that because if your software is going wrong, having an actual Escape key can give you a way out. Whereas if you're having a problem, that same problem could be preventing the Touch Bar from offering you the virtual Escape key.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Function Keys.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Function Keys.


That said, though, it's true that the Touch Bar has not been an overwhelming success and one reason is that developers could never be sure whether a user had one or not. They can determine if there's a Touch Bar when the app is run, but they still have to code for when it isn't.

Now that every MacBook Pro user will get a Touch Bar, we might see more developers choosing to utilize it more. And the Touch Bar is a remarkable little display.

Displays and graphics

After the Touch Bar, the first thing you'll notice about the new MacBook Pro is its screen. While every specification from brightness to supported resolutions is exactly the same as it was, Apple has brought its True Tone technology to the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

This means the screen will adjust its own color and white balance depending on your environment. If you're working in photography or video where you must see precisely the right colors, then this isn't a boon. For everyone and everything else, though, it improves the quality of the display and is actually better for us.

There is a small difference in the graphics used by the new and old MacBook Pro models. Where the now discontinued one ran on an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, the new one has the 645 instead.

Details

There are similar small but significant updates between the two machines.

For instance, the new MacBook Pro supports Bluetooth 5.0 where the previous one had 4.2. In hardware, the older machine had two microphones and now it has three.

The base model still has only two Thunderbolt ports.
The base model still has only two Thunderbolt ports.


The base model of the new MacBook Pro comes with two Thunderbolt ports, just as the older one did. However, you can pay more and get an upgraded version with four.

And while Apple quotes precisely the same battery life for either of these two MacBook Pro models, there is a small difference in the details. The older MacBook had a 54.5-watt-hour battery, while the new one has a 58.2-watt-hour one.

Most significantly

The most significant change is one that is only going to become apparent when the new machine can be thoroughly tested, is the processor.

Where the previous MacBook Pro with Touch Bar started with a 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, the new model comes with a 1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5.

It's only really possible to compare different processors through testing, but despite the slower clock speed, the newer models will almost certainly feel faster as you use them.

That's because they're quad- instead of dual-core, it's because they are simply a newer generation of the i5, but also because Apple has increased the eDRAM memory that's included from 64MB to 127MB.

Which to choose

When we previously compared the 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to the old Function Keys model, your choice was harder. However, that was really because of the price and just what value the Touch Bar did or didn't add.






Unless we make the unexpected but not impossible discovery that the processor in the new model isn't better than the old one, there's only a single reason to buy the previous machine.

The keyboard.

Even then, you're balancing getting an older-style Butterfly keyboard with these extra keys, against an improved newer-style one without them.

You will never see us treat a keyboard as a trivial part of any machine, but objectively, the new MacBook Pro looks like the significantly better buy.

If you disagree, though, if you need that Escape key as you may well do, then hurry. Although you can expect the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Function Keys to remain available for a while, it's going to be a very short while.

Where to buy

Apple Authorized Resellers are currently accepting orders for the new MacBook Pros, with the best deals available 24/7 in the AppleInsider 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro Price Guide. Those looking for the greatest savings on a 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys can also save big on remaining inventory with special deals and discounts.

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 53
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,453member
    After using the touch bar for almost 2 years, I give it an overwhelming ‘meh.’ I miss the physical function keys somewhat for a work application, but that’s not a dealbreaker. I routinely miss the physical escape key, though. I’ve also found that I routinely will accidentally hit the Touch Bar when typing if my fingers land a bit too high on the number keys. 

    On the flip side, I haven’t found any groundbreaking or revolutionary use for the Touch Bar; it’s mostly just a gimmick.  TouchID is definitely nice, but that doesn’t require the Touch Bar. 

    All the  other improvements are great and definitely worth it. The Touch Bar? Meh. 
    edited July 9 avon b7bloggerblogstevenoznumenorean
  • Reply 2 of 53
    anomeanome Posts: 1,279member
    I'm surprised no-one's offering a physical escape key that plugs into a USB-C port so you can add one if you need it. I suppose as long as there was a keyboard that offered one, you didn't have to.

    Then, there's still the MacBook Air for people who want function keys. And we don't know what the keyboard will be like on the 16 inch MBP everyone's been talking about. This could just be a way of getting as many of the current case design into the channel before they switch over to the new design, although if they're getting rid of the 13 inch, I'd expect a 14 inch or equivalent at the same time or soon after the 16 inch.
  • Reply 3 of 53
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 716member
    It's not the main reason, but one reason I've avoided laptops is the narrow function key row. The keys were slimmer. I have big fingers so I don't like tiny keys. I'm currently using an iMac which has full size function keys on its keyboard. The Touch Bar looks just as slim as laptop function keys.
    edited July 9 mike54williamlondon
  • Reply 4 of 53
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,751member
    Let's be clear, though, the new MacBook Pro is objectively much better. It's changed the Touch Bar from being a premium extra to part of the standard package, for instance. You may find that you don't like the Touch Bar, but it used to cost you 500 bucks more to see.

    That was the main problem with the touchbar IMHO. It cost more, and did not actually increase productivity that much for the trade off. Maybe has an effect on battery life too?

    Thing is though, if it no longer costs more, then I would quite okay with it. And now it is more universal on MBPs, maybe software companies will factor it in more.  Now Apple needs to sell a stand alone keyboard with touchbar as well to really make them an integrated part of software design. Maybe even *gasp* windows drivers.
    How to do it at a reasonable price point is no doubt Apple’s dilemma, and why it’s integration has been so half arsed.
    edited July 9 caladanianlolliver
  • Reply 5 of 53
    anome said:
    I'm surprised no-one's offering a physical escape key that plugs into a USB-C port so you can add one if you need it. I suppose as long as there was a keyboard that offered one, you didn't have to.
    I think because if you're OK to have extra devices lying around you're on a desk and you might as well just get a nice bluetooth or USB keyboard? ;-)

    Although I think you're envisaging a tiny little USB-C "keyboard" with just the one key that you just plug into the socket closest to where the escape key should be... would want to be able to rest it somehow on the top of the base unit though. if it was sticking out of the socket like a USB thumb drive it'll snap off, given how escape keys, when wanted, tend to get used with vigour...
    edited July 9 StrangeDays
  • Reply 6 of 53
    burnsideburnside Posts: 16unconfirmed, member
    I'm using 2015 MBPs till they can't be refurbed. Superior keyboard, HDMI, and USB w/o need for dongles. Perfect work computer. Based on how fast they vanish from the Apple refurb store, I'm not alone.
    williamlondonanantksundaramstevenoz
  • Reply 7 of 53
    entropys said:
    Let's be clear, though, the new MacBook Pro is objectively much better. It's changed the Touch Bar from being a premium extra to part of the standard package, for instance. You may find that you don't like the Touch Bar, but it used to cost you 500 bucks more to see.

    That was the main problem with the touchbar IMHO. It cost more, and did not actually increase productivity that much for the trade off. Maybe has an effect on battery life too?

    Thing is though, if it no longer costs more, then I would quite okay with it. And now it is more universal on MBPs, maybe software companies will factor it in more.  Now Apple needs to sell a stand alone keyboard with touchbar as well to really make them an integrated part of software design. Maybe even *gasp* windows drivers.
    How to do it at a reasonable price point is no doubt Apple’s dilemma, and why it’s integration has been so half arsed.
    I fully agree. Roll out the Touch Bar for EVERY mac, including mini, iMac, Mac Pro which all need an external keyboard. Maybe they could include an T2 within to make identification via an external touch-ID safe enough?
  • Reply 8 of 53
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,972member
    Apple has brought the Touch Bar to all models of MacBook Pro
    Is this a British thing? It didn’t “bring” it to all models, just the low end model replacing the 2017 Escape. All other models aware untouched since May. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 53
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 716member
    Apple has brought the Touch Bar to all models of MacBook Pro
    Is this a British thing? It didn’t “bring” it to all models, just the low end model replacing the 2017 Escape. All other models aware untouched since May. 
    Good point. But he said "has brought" which doesn't indicate a time frame. If he had said "has just brought" that would be wrong. Or if he had said "is bringing" that would also imply the present and would be wrong. Let's just call "has brought" incomplete information.
  • Reply 10 of 53
    dtb200dtb200 Posts: 40member
    Apple has brought the Touch Bar to all models of MacBook Pro
    Is this a British thing? It didn’t “bring” it to all models, just the low end model replacing the 2017 Escape. All other models aware untouched since May. 
    Don't blame us, we've got enough trouble at the moment  
  • Reply 11 of 53
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,453member
    burnside said:
    I'm using 2015 MBPs till they can't be refurbed. Superior keyboard, HDMI, and USB w/o need for dongles. Perfect work computer. Based on how fast they vanish from the Apple refurb store, I'm not alone.
    Yes, I’ve noticed that, too. Apart from being unavailable, they’re also getting a bit long in the tooth as far as processing power goes. Except for the processor, they’re better than the current models in just about every way - MagSafe, ‘Legacy’ USB A ports that are still far more common than USB C, HDMI, better keyboards... 
    burnsidestevenoz
  • Reply 12 of 53
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,972member
    dtb200 said:
    Apple has brought the Touch Bar to all models of MacBook Pro
    Is this a British thing? It didn’t “bring” it to all models, just the low end model replacing the 2017 Escape. All other models aware untouched since May. 
    Don't blame us, we've got enough trouble at the moment  
    Dancing cockatoos?
  • Reply 13 of 53
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,978member
    burnside said:
    I'm using 2015 MBPs till they can't be refurbed. Superior keyboard, HDMI, and USB w/o need for dongles. Perfect work computer. Based on how fast they vanish from the Apple refurb store, I'm not alone.
    First of all an adapter isn’t really a dongle, unless any and every adapter is now a dongle. Funny we never called them that before. Second, there’s no need for such USB adapters as you can get native cables that connect USB-C to -A, HDMI, Lightning, etc...You’re whining about a problem solved years ago. 
    edited July 9 fastasleepchiapscooter63williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 53
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,972member

    Apple has brought the Touch Bar to all models of MacBook Pro
    Is this a British thing? It didn’t “bring” it to all models, just the low end model replacing the 2017 Escape. All other models aware untouched since May. 
    Good point. But he said "has brought" which doesn't indicate a time frame. If he had said "has just brought" that would be wrong. Or if he had said "is bringing" that would also imply the present and would be wrong. Let's just call "has brought" incomplete information.
    Well, it was exacerbated by the other post of his today where he made it sound like the entire line had been updated, with similarly confusing wording. I think I have trouble reading Gallagher’s articles in general as they often read like Yoda-speak to me. 
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 15 of 53
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,972member
    MplsP said:
    burnside said:
    I'm using 2015 MBPs till they can't be refurbed. Superior keyboard, HDMI, and USB w/o need for dongles. Perfect work computer. Based on how fast they vanish from the Apple refurb store, I'm not alone.
    Yes, I’ve noticed that, too. Apart from being unavailable, they’re also getting a bit long in the tooth as far as processing power goes. Except for the processor, they’re better than the current models in just about every way - MagSafe, ‘Legacy’ USB A ports that are still far more common than USB C, HDMI, better keyboards... 
    What is it you guys do where you’re constantly running into new USB-A devices you have to plug in where you haven’t replaced the cable? And why have you not just bought a keychain adapter for $3 for those occasions like I did? So bizarre to me that this is an “issue”.
    edited July 9 StrangeDayschiawilliamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 53
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,789member
    MplsP said:
    burnside said:
    I'm using 2015 MBPs till they can't be refurbed. Superior keyboard, HDMI, and USB w/o need for dongles. Perfect work computer. Based on how fast they vanish from the Apple refurb store, I'm not alone.
    Yes, I’ve noticed that, too. Apart from being unavailable, they’re also getting a bit long in the tooth as far as processing power goes. Except for the processor, they’re better than the current models in just about every way - MagSafe, ‘Legacy’ USB A ports that are still far more common than USB C, HDMI, better keyboards... 
    You still need the Ethernet adapter on the 2015 rMBP. The two legacy USB A ports are too few: attach an iPad, a hard disk and you run out of USB to attach your mouse: needs a hub. SD slot is unnecessary. I wish this 15 inch had 6 multipurpose USB-C/Thunderbolt ports instead of 6 single purpose ports. Lesson learned: legacy single purpose ports don't save you from carrying hubs/adapters. Regarding keyboard, tactile feedback may appeal to some but I like the new keyboards' larger keys better. Those old keys are too small to prevent mistyping.
    edited July 9
  • Reply 17 of 53
    ttollertonttollerton Posts: 195member
    Way to work the word “boon” into an AI article!  
  • Reply 18 of 53
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,972member
    MplsP said:
    burnside said:
    I'm using 2015 MBPs till they can't be refurbed. Superior keyboard, HDMI, and USB w/o need for dongles. Perfect work computer. Based on how fast they vanish from the Apple refurb store, I'm not alone.
    Yes, I’ve noticed that, too. Apart from being unavailable, they’re also getting a bit long in the tooth as far as processing power goes. Except for the processor, they’re better than the current models in just about every way - MagSafe, ‘Legacy’ USB A ports that are still far more common than USB C, HDMI, better keyboards... 
    You still need the Ethernet adapter on the 2015 rMBP. The two legacy USB A ports are too few: attach an iPad, a hard disk and you run out of USB to attach your mouse: needs a hub. SD slot is unnecessary. I wish this 15 inch had 6 multipurpose USB-C/Thunderbolt ports instead of 6 single purpose ports. Lesson learned: legacy single purpose ports don't save you from carrying hubs/adapters. Regarding keyboard, tactile feedback may appeal to some but I like the new keyboards' larger keys better. Those old keys are too small to prevent mistyping.
    USB corded mice on a MBP? Haha WHY?
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 53
    Now we know how much battery life the silly Touch Bar consumes. 4 watt-hours for the same overall battery life (Yes, I know that isn't the real measurement).
  • Reply 20 of 53
    ...how about make the touchbar optional, across the entire line of macs (for workflow consistency) at a cost based and usual markup, and see if customers actually want it...?  

    Duet used to offer touchbar for iOS for older macs for $9.99, for example:  
    apps.apple.com/us/app/duet-display/id935754064  
    www.imore.com/how-use-duet-have-touch-bar-your-mac
    edited July 9 stevenoz
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