Apple Upgrades 15-Inch MacBook Pro with Force Touch Trackpad

Apple has upgraded its 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display with its new Force Touch trackpad — first introduced on the new MacBook earlier this year — as well as faster flash storage, longer battery life, and better discrete graphics.

The Force Touch trackpad uses Apple’s built-in Taptic Engine to produce haptic vibrations that feel like physical clicks, letting you feel a click anywhere on the trackpad. (In previous trackpads, the clicks only work on the bottom two-thirds of the trackpad because the hinge is at the top.)

The new trackpad also lets you use Apple’s Force Touch to sense different kinds of touches, namely a Force Click, which lets you do things like push harder to launch a different menu or trigger a different action — like fast forwarding faster through a video. Apple has release APIs to its developer community, so they will be able to utilize the new trackpad capabilities, too, as they create new apps.

Is the Force Touch trackpad particularly fantastic? Not yet, but it might become a handy tool for using your Mac. Either way, it is the new standard track pad for Macs — Apple added it to the refreshed 13-inch MacBook Pro as well. It is not, however, available in today’s MacBook Air.

Faster Flash Storage

Apple also updated the flash storage in its new MacBook Pro — it’s 2.5 times as fast as the previous generation and offers throughput up to 2GBps. Unfortunately, Apple did not update the base level amount of storage. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display still starts with only 256GB of storage while the more powerful sibling starts with only 512GB of storage.

For mobility, Apple squeaked out another hour of battery life, giving you up to 9 hours of wireless web browsing.

The entry-level 15-inch MacBook Pro also lost its discrete graphics processor — Apple opted to only utilize Intel Iris Pro Graphics that are built into the processor. The upper-end 15-inch MacBook Pro now uses an AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics processor (in addition to the Intel Iris Pro Graphics), which Apple says gives it 80 percent faster performance. Most people will never notice any difference unless they are using their 15-inch MacBook Pro for editing video in Final Cut Pro X, rendering 3D images, or playing high-resolution games — in which case opting for the high end will be worth the extra cost.

No USB-C Port?

While Apple’s new MacBook has just one USB-C port, Apple did not include any USB-C ports on the new MacBook Pro — and has not for any other MacBook yet either. While it’s the new port standard, we’re still about a year out before enough peripherals support it at competitive price points. Would it be a must-have feature now? Not by a long shot. Fortunately the 15-inch MacBook Pro still has two Thunderbolt 2 ports, two USB 3 ports, an HDMI port, and an SDXC card slot.

All-in-All, How Is the Upgrade?

All told, the refresh to the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is a minor one. Because the older generation is in extremely short supply — if you can find one at all from a third-party seller — new buyers don’t have much of a choice. The overall performance boost isn’t particularly impressive, nor is the extra hour of battery life. The price points are the same, too — about $1,999 for the entry model and $2,499 for the high end. If you’ve been waiting for Apple to update the 15-inch MacBook Pro, though, now is the time to buy. It’s highly unlikely that Apple will change anything to the 15-incher any time soon.

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About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.