Review: Apple's new Kaby Lake 13" MacBook Pro without Touch Bar unexpectedly speedy vs. 20...

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited July 2017
After less than a year on the market, the 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar has been upgraded with Intel's Kaby Lake processor -- and a lower price. Are the changes (and downgrade, in one notable case) to get the price down enough to get you to buy one?






Just as the 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar straddles the line between the 12-inch MacBook and the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, the so-called MacBook Pro without Touch Bar -- sometimes called the "Escape" -- sits squarely between the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, and the MacBook.

The significant change between the 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar, and the 2017 reiteration is the addition of Kaby Lake -- and we'll get to that in a bit.

Design

As with the late 2016 MacBook Pro, the 2017 MacBook Pro line is a continuation of the design language introduced with the 12-inch MacBook. Dimensionally, the two models are identical, at 0.59 inches tall. Previous 13-inch MacBook Pro models came in at 0.71 inches tall, while the 12-inch MacBook is 0.52 inches at its tallest point.

The new model is still 11.97 inches wide and 8.36 inches deep, smaller than the 2015 model's 12.35 inches by 8.62 inches.




The all-metal hinge that trumps the previous plastic hinge in older Retina MacBook Pros is stil here, as is the revamped keyboard with the second-generation butterfly mechanism keys.

Contrary to rumors saying that the lit Apple on the back of the display's case would return, the Apple logo remains embossed on the case.

Models compared

We previously tested a 13-inch MacBook Pro equipped with a 2-gigahertz Intel Core i5 Skylake CPU, Intel Iris Graphics 540 integrated graphics chip, 8 gigabytes of 1866MHz LPDDR3 RAM and 256 gigabytes of PCIe-based SSD storage. The baseline configuration came in at $1,499.

The tested model comes in at $1,299. For the money, purchasers get a 2.3 GHz dual-core i5 processor from the Kaby Lake family, 8 GB of RAM now running at 2133 MHz, and integrated Intel Iris Plus 640 Graphics.

Given all that, the new $1,299 model appears to be similar in comparison to the older model. However, the SSD storage has been shrunk to 128GB, probably to hit the lower price point. This is a problem, given that the OS and accompanying applications take about 30GB of that space.

Our original machine rated a decent single-core score of 3,691 points and 7,148 points on the latest version of Geekbench 4, outperforming the 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro with higher-clocked fifth-generation Intel CPUs.




Comparing the machines in GeekBench 4, the new Macbook is 21 percent faster in single core tasks, and 30 percent faster in multi-core.

We weren't expecting this. Tock to tock processor updates don't generally give this kind of performance boost, but the boost is delivered through an increase in RAM speed, the architecture upgrade, and a 300Mhz base clock speed increase.

The double digit CPU gains don't translate over to graphics processing, where we found a modest improvement of 5 percent from 2016 to 2017. Given the flash storage decrease to 128GB, the write speeds are slower there too -- but this is to be expected as parallelism decreases with fewer chips.




Overall, a 20 or 30 percent benchmark increase doesn't mean that the job you're doing is going to get done that much faster -- but the speed increase is noticeable.

Best of times, worst of times -- the butterfly keyboard and Trackpad

The butterfly keyboard on the MacBook Pro has taken heat from some users, as evidenced by continuing complaints regarding the key travel. The 2017 MacBook Pro refresh continues to include the "tuned dome switch" part that feels more "clicky" and responsive than the first-generation iteration.

Simply, you like this or you don't. If you didn't like it in the 2015 MacBook, or the 2016 line of MacBook Pros, you still won't like it here.

The relatively enormous Force Touch trackpad is the same size as before, and equally as polarizing as the keyboard. Clearly designed to accommodate macOS gestures, the enlarged size has drawn complaints about palm rejection. Again, this is either a benefit to the machine, or a detriment, and that choice is down to the user.

Display and speakers are unchanged

The 13.3-inch LED-backlit display features the same 2,560-by-1,600 pixel native resolution and IPS technology as last year's 13-inch Pro.

Apple's speakers on the 2016 MacBook Pro line were under-emphasized, in our opinion. Early complaints about Boot Camp blowing out the drivers were rectified by a software patch, and they easily remain the best Mac portable speakers we have heard in over 20 years of assessment, and near the top of the heap for all laptops we've ever looked at.

Battery life

Apple promises 10 hours of battery life -- but they always promise that. We consistently hit that number while surfing the web and performing menial background tasks, perhaps a bit more consistently than we did while actually using the family over the last seven months daily.

More processor intensive applications like Photoshop and Premiere will chew through a MacBook Pro's battery in only a few hours. Kaby Lake promises more efficiency, and we'll have to continue to examine this as time goes on to see if there's any notable difference between the 2017 and 2016 models.

Thunderbolt 3 steals the show

We're not going to hammer on Thunderbolt 3 in this review. If you read AppleInsider even casually, you know that when the mandatory "dongle hell" period expires in about a year from now with wider expansion of the ecosystem, the speed of Thunderbolt 3 and the flexibility of USB-C will win the day.




If you feel like you need a lot of adapters to migrate to a new machine, buy a dock instead. If you have a Thunderbolt 2 dock, that will work too, as the Apple Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter will connect the older dock to the new gear -- it just won't carry power back to the laptop.

Probably, don't sell your 2016

If you've got a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro without TouchBar, there's really no need to jump ship, sell the old gear, and go all-in on the new gear.

There are, however, a small group of users who need the portability of the 13-inch Macbook Pro over the 15-inch, but also demand maximum power for productivity. If that's you, the impressive performance increase of Kaby Lake might be enticing enough to upgrade.

But, Apple cut a big corner in the device's on-board storage to reduce the price to $1,299 -- and we feel that it shouldn't have. If you own the 2016, you have at least 256GB of storage. We feel that the 128GB is a big step backwards for those considering the 2017 who already own a 2016.

If you have pre-2016 machine, and are ready to make the jump to USB-C, the value proposition in an upgraded 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is even better than it was. Just spring for extra storage when you buy.

Score: 4 out of 5

image

AppleInsider gives the 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar the same score we gave the original model. It gets a half-point added for what Kaby Lake brings to the table, but a half point off for the storage reduction. But, if you've got a 2016, the differential may not be worth selling your old gear and starting again.

Where to buy

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 42
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    xzudacloo123
  • Reply 2 of 42
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 950member
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    xzuwilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 42
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,154member
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    You have absolutely no clue if Tim is the one that specifically pushed or encouraged this- in all probability he didn't, and it was the marketing team to decided to create more differentiation this way. I'm sure he has better things to do than dictate how much storage and memory goes into each model. But hey, don't let that spoil that comfortable little narrative that you've created for yourself. I also like that people seem to have a selective memory- Steve Jobs wasn't exactly generous with components either, and I see no evidence that Cook is any worse. I guess SJ was also a "bean-counter".
    ronnStrangeDayspscooter63williamlondonwatto_cobramacxpressmwhiteRayz2016chiamike1
  • Reply 4 of 42
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,968member
    It definitely nice Apple kept starting price of 13" non-touch at $1299. That $1299 for 13" macbook pro is a magical sweet spot number, Don't know why ? Hidden wish of potential new/upgrade buyers was 256GB SSD standard(and OK not discounted to students). May be next time. Other point is to provide the same number of USB ports on all Macbooks Pro. Reasons are first not having 'those'(HDMI,Ethernet,etc) ports and when customer start upgrading processor/RAM/SSD to non-touch $1299 Macbook Pro than it reaches around $2000. Would you expect $2000 laptop with 3-4 USB-C ports ? Doesn't cost much to add 1-2 extra ports.
    edited June 2017 xzuwilliamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 42
    wood1208 said:
    It definitely nice Apple kept starting price of 13" non-touch at $1299. That $1299 for 13" macbook pro is a magical sweet spot number, Don't know why ? Hidden wish of potential new/upgrade buyers was 256GB SSD standard(and OK not discounted to students). May be next time. Other point is to provide the same number of USB ports on all Macbooks Pro. Reasons are first not having 'those'(HDMI,Ethernet,etc) ports and when customer start upgrading processor/RAM/SSD to non-touch $1299 Macbook Pro than it reaches around $2000. Would you expect $2000 laptop with 3-4 USB-C ports ? Doesn't cost much to add 1-2 extra ports.
    What?  I don't really understand what you're saying, but it sounds like you may be suggesting it should have 6 USB-C ports?  That's just bizarre.
  • Reply 6 of 42
    xzuxzu Posts: 139member
    I have the 2016 13" Mac Pro without the touch bar, and it is unexpectedly slow. The new model looks to be a much better balance of components. I am glad Apple refreshed the line with current processors and better graphics. It's still a dongle fest, but carrying an extra bag just for adapters is part of being a mac user... "I have an adapter for that!"
    williamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 42
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,968member
    wood1208 said:
    It definitely nice Apple kept starting price of 13" non-touch at $1299. That $1299 for 13" macbook pro is a magical sweet spot number, Don't know why ? Hidden wish of potential new/upgrade buyers was 256GB SSD standard(and OK not discounted to students). May be next time. Other point is to provide the same number of USB ports on all Macbooks Pro. Reasons are first not having 'those'(HDMI,Ethernet,etc) ports and when customer start upgrading processor/RAM/SSD to non-touch $1299 Macbook Pro than it reaches around $2000. Would you expect $2000 laptop with 3-4 USB-C ports ? Doesn't cost much to add 1-2 extra ports.
    What?  I don't really understand what you're saying, but it sounds like you may be suggesting it should have 6 USB-C ports?  That's just bizarre.
    Either I was not clear or you misread. Simple. Non touch strip Macbook Pro should have the same 4 USB-C ports as rest.I am not in-sane to suggest more than 4 ports on Macbook pros.
    edited June 2017 xzupscooter63revenant
  • Reply 8 of 42
    tonglajitonglaji Posts: 12member
    The non-touchbar 2016 13" had a removable/upgradeable hard drive. Can someone confirm if the 2017 model is the same? If so, the standard 128GB drive is a plus when you upgrade with a third part drive. 
  • Reply 9 of 42

    But, Apple cut a big corner in the device's on-board storage to reduce the price to $1,299 -- and we feel that it shouldn't have. If you own the 2016, you have at least 256GB of storage. We feel that the 128GB is a big step backwards for those considering the 2017 who already own a 2016.

    This comment is unfair and misleading.  Apple did reduce the price of the base unit by reducing the storage of that machine, but it retains the 256GB model at the same $1499 price as last year and with significantly higher specs.  Apple didn't cut any corners.  They offered a lower-priced option while keeping the rest of the structure intact.  This is a non-issue. 
    tokyojimuStrangeDayspscooter63williamlondonInspiredCodewatto_cobraNotsofastxzuRayz2016revenant
  • Reply 10 of 42
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 950member
    slurpy said:
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    You have absolutely no clue if Tim is the one that specifically pushed or encouraged this- in all probability he didn't, and it was the marketing team to decided to create more differentiation this way. I'm sure he has better things to do than dictate how much storage and memory goes into each model. But hey, don't let that spoil that comfortable little narrative that you've created for yourself. I also like that people seem to have a selective memory- Steve Jobs wasn't exactly generous with components either, and I see no evidence that Cook is any worse. I guess SJ was also a "bean-counter".
    It's not like Apple has hundreds of different major devices, there's the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AppleTV and Mac. Pretty sure a CEO of a large company would have at least some input to them, especially since they're only updated at most yearly. It's pretty well known Cook is a bean-counter. 

    Steve wasn't generous no, but remember during Steve's tenure the prices of Macs fell and were really quite reasonable. They've steadily risen under Cook. There's no sub-£1000 Macbook anymore for example, and no sub £1000 iMac. There's premium, then there's overpriced. iMacs still come with hard disks, and the base model isn't even a Fusion Drive. The top 27" iMac is £2250 and has a hard disk. What the hell.
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 11 of 42
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,993member
    elijahg said:
    slurpy said:
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    You have absolutely no clue if Tim is the one that specifically pushed or encouraged this- in all probability he didn't, and it was the marketing team to decided to create more differentiation this way. I'm sure he has better things to do than dictate how much storage and memory goes into each model. But hey, don't let that spoil that comfortable little narrative that you've created for yourself. I also like that people seem to have a selective memory- Steve Jobs wasn't exactly generous with components either, and I see no evidence that Cook is any worse. I guess SJ was also a "bean-counter".
    It's pretty well known Cook is a bean-counter. 
    Prove it. 
    pscooter63williamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 42
    nubusnubus Posts: 54member
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    It is 7 months and the reason is Apple not being in sync with Intel. As a result the MBP Late-2016 shipped with old components. 
    Most PC vendors started delivering Kaby Lake laptops within 2 weeks of Apple shipping the MBP Skylake.

    Even this minor update is late on arrival and it is a disappointment to all that expected the price hike of MBP16 to be moderated. Instead we got a Pro laptop with 128 GB storage. The review is refreshingly honest regarding the keyboard and touchpad.

    In general Apple is having a problem with shipping on time. iMac Pro is a terrible excuse for not having a Pro desktop (would Jobs place 2 cooling fans in front of a user?). The launch of HomePod at least 6 months before it ships seems like a 100% me-too FUD attack on Amazon/Google. Last year Apple missed seasonal sales for AirPods and now they plan on doing it again for most of the world. And don't even ask about the LG not-so-UltraFine monitor. What exactly is going on in Cupertino?
    elijahg
  • Reply 13 of 42
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    It probably has more to do with offloading documents to iCloud working well and trying to hit a price point for cost sensitive markets like education.  Since higher capacities are still around, this just gives you more options.
  • Reply 14 of 42
    What I love are the comments begrudging a capitalist company making profit. The comments from certain (negative nellies I like to call them) are actually criticisms that Apple isn't more socialist or communist in its product offerings, and that when they make product strategy and product pricing decisions (a very complex discipline), there are people who criticise Apple for those decisions as if Apple does business in a non-capitalist world.

    The reality is that Apple has obviously hit on a spot (product feature/pricing) that gets people to release more cash for certain features they want. That's product strategy and product pricing in capitalism done perfectly and I applaud their success in this area - they are simply excellent at it.

    If you don't like it, you can choose (again, capitalism provides plenty of competition) another company and their offerings, but to bemoan a company's decisions for doing something very, very, very right is just ludicrous and makes you seem petty and petulant, or perhaps it's just caused by a bad case of sour grapes.

    My suggestion is either to preface your criticisms with, "I am not a capitalist and believe Apple should act in accordance with *my* beliefs," or alternatively one might choose to say nothing and stop the incessant internet complaining. It's that simple.
    watto_cobraanantksundaramStrangeDaysloquitur
  • Reply 15 of 42
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,751member
    Actually Tim Cook would have signed off on the hardware configurations of all important products. There would be a series of product development demos and a brief explaining why that was the recommended configuration and he would have approved it. You could argue he was too preoccupied with other stuff and did not pay enough attention to the company's bead and butter, but to say he is not ultimately responsible for initiatives like a poverty pack MBP at still premium prices is dubious credit indeed.

    It's why he is paid the big bucks.
    watto_cobraelijahg
  • Reply 16 of 42
    NotsofastNotsofast Posts: 386member
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    "Stingy?"   That's simply silly, although I can understand that you were mislead into thinking that by the silly analysis by the staff who wrote this.  Apple reduced the price by $200 for those who didn't need the 256GB SSD, and preferred the option of the cost savings with higher specs elsewhere!  If you think you need the 256GB SSD, Apple has it for the exact same price as before PLUS all the nice upgrades.  This is borderline "fake news," and sooner or later people are going to have to wake up and realize their credibility is on the line when writing articles; thus they need to be scrupulous to the facts, not some narrative.
    edited June 2017 watto_cobraStrangeDayspscooter63
  • Reply 17 of 42
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,635administrator
    Notsofast said:
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    "Stingy?"   That's simply silly, although I can understand that you were mislead into thinking that by the silly analysis by the staff who wrote this.  Apple reduced the price by $200 for those who didn't need the 256GB SSD, and preferred the option of the cost savings with higher specs elsewhere!  If you think you need the 256GB SSD, Apple has it for the exact same price as before PLUS all the nice upgrades.  This is borderline "fake news," and sooner or later people are going to have to wake up and realize their credibility is on the line when writing articles; thus they need to be scrupulous to the facts, not some narrative.
    I get the feeling you didn't even read the review, or just skimmed it. There's no narrative being peddled, here. Or, maybe you and I read different reviews.

    Plus, if a review has no opinions in it, then it becomes PR regurgitation.

    What "facts" got missed? Is the flash storage in fact not half of what it was in the 2016 entry? Did Apple not peddle this as the replacement to the $1499 model in the keynote, making a big deal about the price cut?

    FTA: "Given all that, the new $1,299 model appears to be similar in comparison to the older model. However, the SSD storage has been shrunk to 128GB, probably to hit the lower price point. This is a problem, given that the OS and accompanying applications take about 30GB of that space."

    and...

    "But, Apple cut a big corner in the device's on-board storage to reduce the price to $1,299 -- and we feel that it shouldn't have. If you own the 2016, you have at least 256GB of storage. We feel that the 128GB is a big step backwards for those considering the 2017 who already own a 2016."


    Where, exactly is your beef?

    edited June 2017 anantksundaramDonvermoelijahg
  • Reply 18 of 42
    slurpy said:
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    You have absolutely no clue if Tim is the one that specifically pushed or encouraged this- in all probability he didn't, and it was the marketing team to decided to create more differentiation this way. I'm sure he has better things to do than dictate how much storage and memory goes into each model. But hey, don't let that spoil that comfortable little narrative that you've created for yourself. I also like that people seem to have a selective memory- Steve Jobs wasn't exactly generous with components either, and I see no evidence that Cook is any worse. I guess SJ was also a "bean-counter".
    I think Jobs on the other hand would have cared about those little details that Cook doesn't have time to deal with.
    entropyselijahg
  • Reply 19 of 42
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,896member
    slurpy said:
    elijahg said:
    ljm828312 said:
    It's a year newer, what do you expect?
    You expect to keep the same at least, or increase the available SSD space. Reducing it is really stingy, like they reduced the iMac Fusion drives from 128GB SSD to 24. That'll be Cook's beancounter approach shining through. 
    You have absolutely no clue if Tim is the one that specifically pushed or encouraged this- in all probability he didn't, and it was the marketing team to decided to create more differentiation this way. I'm sure he has better things to do than dictate how much storage and memory goes into each model. But hey, don't let that spoil that comfortable little narrative that you've created for yourself. I also like that people seem to have a selective memory- Steve Jobs wasn't exactly generous with components either, and I see no evidence that Cook is any worse. I guess SJ was also a "bean-counter".
    I think Jobs on the other hand would have cared about those little details that Cook doesn't have time to deal with.
    Little details such as what?
  • Reply 20 of 42
    Same keyboard and trackpad?  Not interested.
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