Apple Macbook Pro 2016 vs. Macbook Air 2012

With the Macbook Pro 2016, Apple introduced new Macbooks at the end of October 2016 after a long wait. After my 2012 Macbook Air no longer meets my current requirements, there is now the possibility of a direct comparison.

Macbook Pro 2016 (Touchbar) next to Macbook Air 2012
Macbook Pro 2016 (Touchbar) next to Macbook Air 2012
As before, the new Macbook Pro 2016 is available in a 13-inch and a 15-inch version. Both are equipped with Intel processors of the Skylake generation - like Microsoft with the Surface Book, Apple does not yet rely on the latest Kaby Lake processors, as these are not yet available as quad-core and not yet with the Iris graphics solution.

However, the biggest innovation is hidden in the interfaces. This already became apparent in the Macbook 12, which has to make do with a single USB-C port. In the 2016 Macbook Pro generation, Apple is now back to USB-C as the connector format, but instead of USB it uses Thunderbolt 3. Depending on the variant, there are up to four of these connections, which are addressed by two "Alpine Ridge" controllers. Apple has also configured the ports so that each port can be used for charging and supports the same standards.

Disadvantage: if you want to connect existing hardware that does not yet have a cable with the new standard, you need a Adapter. If you buy these adapters directly from Apple, this is definitely another three-digit investment - after all, Apple has significantly reduced the prices of some important adapters (such as USB-C to USB-A) by the end of the year. However, it would have made more sense from the customer's point of view if at least the simple adapter for connecting previous USB devices would have been included with the new Macbook Pros.

Macbook Pro 2016: only one type of connector, USB-C
Macbook Pro 2016: only one type of connector, USB-C
On the other hand, the new Macbooks have become a bit flatter and lighter again - there's no room for the Air in the portfolio between the passively cooled Macbook 12 and the smallest Macbook Pro with 2.0 GHz Core i5. But those who already own a 2015 Macbook Pro have little incentive to switch to the new vintage: the speed gains are too small to justify the surcharge.

As before, the processor portfolio comes from Intel; in the 13-inch Macbook, the largest configurable CPU is a 3.3GHz dual-core Core i7 processor with a maximum boost clock speed of up to 3.6GHz. Since there is only a 300 MHz clock but 240,-€ price difference between the slowest and the fastest processor, I decided to use the smallest CPU but the full 16 GB RAM and the 512 GB SSD.

Geekbench 4.0: in pure figures, the new Macbook is about 35% faster than the 2012 model.
Geekbench 4.0: in pure figures, the new Macbook is about 30% faster than the 2012 model.Source: Geekbench

Touchpad: bigger is better (?)

Apple is setting new standards in terms of touchpad size: the input surface takes up a good half of the wrist-rest and, as in previous year's models, is equipped with the Taptic Engine, in which no physical key is moved, but the click is simulated. This feels amazingly real, and those who own an iPhone 7 already know this effect from the home button. Because it would lead to problems if the touchpad caught the palms of the hands while typing, Apple has implemented a software-based detection here. As always with Apple's touchpads, the inputs are very pleasant and precise, and incorrect inputs don't occur.

Touchbar: the revolution?

Touchbar: Color adjustment in the terminal
Touchbar: Color adjustment in the terminal
Where other manufacturers like Microsoft rely on a touch screen, Apple has instead Touchbar integrated. This replaces the previous function keys and offers a context-related menu depending on the application. The background colour can be easily set in the terminal, for example.

Whether the touchbar will become a useful input instrument is still open at present - much stands and falls with the support of the application developers, who must use the new system sensibly. Against this background, it would also make sense for Apple to expand its keyboards accordingly by adding a model with touchbar. This would also allow users who use an iMac to benefit from the new keyboard extension. So far the touchbar is a nice gimmick, but not yet a must-have feature.

Other special features

SSD with endless performance: the hard disk is certainly one of the fastest solutions currently available, but it is soldered.
SSD with endless performance: the hard disk is certainly one of the fastest solutions currently available, but it is soldered.
More important than the touchbar is probably the use of Touch-ID to unlock the device. The fingerprint sensor is already known from the iPhone and iPad and works similarly reliably with the Macbook Pro. The finger is simply placed on the bar. By the way: the Touch-ID button is also the power button and can be pressed to start the Macbook.

For the display, Apple continues to rely on a retina display with a native resolution of 2,560×1,600 pixels, on which a usable area of 1,440×900 pixels is displayed. OLED is not yet an issue, but the display supports the extended display P3 color space, which is already used by the iPhone 7 display. The colors are generally very vivid and the black level is very good (especially in comparison to the 2012 Macbook Air). The maximum brightness should be sufficient to work under the open sky - I haven't been able to check that yet, because the weather at the end of November doesn't exactly invite you to work in the beer garden.


If you have a current Macbook Pro, there's no need to switch to the 2016 model. Likewise, the new Macbook Pro isn't equally suitable for everyone, there was a lot of criticism about the missing possibility to configure more than 16 GB RAM, for example. But if you are looking for a really good device for on the road, I think this is a good choice. Unlike Windows 10, macOS scales to the high resolution in most applications without any problems, so there are no problems and the display can be used sensibly. With 16 GB RAM and the full processor there is enough power for most situations in life not to fail at the resources.

The price remains: with a good 2,000 EURO starting price for the touchbar version (then with 256 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM), the Macbook Pro 2016 isn't a cheap purchase. Here everyone has to decide for himself, apparently the demand is there: currently (26.11.2016) Apple states a delivery time of 3-4 weeks on their website.

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