The new MacBook Pro keyboards are quieter.
We’ve had a top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro review unit in hand for an hour or two, and in that time, that’s the main thing I can tell you.
I’ll give you a few more impressions, of course, but “pro” machines require quite a bit of testing to judge, and we intend to take our time with it. Is it fast? Of course it’s fast: it has a six-core Intel i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, and 4TB of storage. As shipped, this machine would run for $6,699 (though $3,200 of that is the SSD).
We’ll hold off a more in-depth review after we’ve spent the next week or two putting it through its paces. We’re especially interested in performance editing 4K video, battery life, and overall speed doing intensive tasks.
But back to that keyboard. It’s not silent, but it does have a less metallic, clacky sound to it. It’s a subtle difference and certainly not a reason to buy this machine (the modern Intel processors are the headline feature), but it’s there. Here’s a quick audio recording so you can hear it for yourself:
Unfortunately, without taking apart the keys there’s no way to know how that subtle difference in sound was achieved. And taking apart the keys is a very bad idea on this machine because Apple has not changed the fundamental design that makes it very easy to break the clips. It’s still a butterfly mechanism, and replacing a key can still require replacing the whole top deck if those clips break.
John Gruber at Daring Fireball has speculated that it’s possible that Apple did improve this keyboard for reliability and not just sound, but it won’t admit to it. I have no information about that, but it’s not an unreasonable thing to think. As I mentioned in the announcement for the MacBook Pros, Apple declined to explain how it made the keyboard quieter. Anyway, there’s a pun in here about sound baffling and baffling communications from Apple, which I will leave as an exercise to the reader.
As far as the keyboard’s feel goes, this “third generation” does have about the same key travel as the 2017 models, so far as I can tell. I still don’t mind that, and I think most people can accommodate themselves to it. But then again, I was never truly offended by the minimal key travel on the first-generation butterfly keyboard, so you might not trust my judgment.
True Tone works as well here as it does on the iPad Pro — at least when you’re looking at the screen. The color temperature changes and whites are much easier on the eyes. Unfortunately, the only toggle for True Tone is inside System Preferences. I’d have liked to see it in the Notification Center next to Night Mode so that photographers and video editors who need to trust the consistent color on their screens could toggle it more easily.
The Touch Bar can also change its color temperature based on the color temperature of the room, but the effect is much, much more subtle. We’ve tried to show it in photos, but it’s very hard to see, especially when it’s next to the reflected light on the keyboard deck.
It was super hard to photograph; just toggling it didn’t really show up in our photos. So what you’re looking at below is what we got by changing color temperature but leaving True Tone on in both. On the left is the original photo with a blue color temp. On the right is that same photo but in yellow light. It’s almost impossible to get a photo that shows the differences without just showing a photo that shows reflected, ambient color.
As for other impressions: it’s a MacBook Pro! It has excellent build quality, four Thunderbolt ports, a headphone jack, and Touch ID. It also has a very nice Retina Display that I nevertheless wish had smaller bezels, true 4K resolution, and support for touch or pen. (I know I know, keep dreaming.)
I’d say more but, again, I feel like the only way to say anything valuable about the performance of this machine is to really test it. So we’re off to begin that work. If you have a particular thing you’d like us to test, leave a note in the comments.