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New MacBook Pro: Should you upgrade?

Just how much of an improvement are the new MacBook Pros? Here's everything you get by upgrading -- and everything you lose.

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The new MacBook Pro is here, available for preorder today, and in many ways it's a very different machine. It might look similar, but it's thinner and lighter, with far more power under the hood, a radically redesigned keyboard and a tiny, potentially amazing touchscreen.

Heck, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is smaller than a 13-inch MacBook Air now.

But what do you truly get if you upgrade, and what do you give up? Here's a handy guide to everything that changes if you trade in your old Mac for a shiny new Pro. (Click here if you'd prefer a giant spec sheet.)

Just scroll down until you see your current Mac. Here's how to find out which Mac you own.


Sarah Tew/CNET

From MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Late 2013-2015)

Even if you just bought a MacBook Pro last year, the new versions are a pretty big bump -- because Apple hadn't meaningfully refreshed the lineup in quite some time.

What you get with the new MacBook Pros

  • Faster processors (roughly 50% faster)
  • Much faster graphics (roughly 2x faster)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Touch Bar secondary display
  • Wider Force Touch trackpad
  • More accurate butterfly keyboard switches
  • Brighter screen with wider color gamut
  • Roughly an hour of extra battery life (15-inch vs. 15-inch only)
  • Double the base memory (15-inch vs. 15-inch only)
  • Half a pound lighter, slightly thinner
  • 4 USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports for single-cable docking and charging
  • Faster solid state storage
  • Space gray color

What stays the same

  • Screen resolution
  • Battery life (13-inch vs. 13-inch only)
  • Storage capacities (unless you bought a 128GB 13-inch model)
  • Memory capacity
  • The headphone jack (phew!)

What you lose

  • Deep, comfy keyboard
  • Full-size USB, HDMI, Thunderbolt 2, Mini DisplayPort and SD card ports (you'll need dongles)
  • MagSafe charging
  • Dedicated function keys (unless you opt for the non-Touch Bar model)

From MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012-Early 2013)

If you bought one of the early MacBook Pros with Retina Display, it definitely might be time to upgrade, unless you're in love with the wider selection of ports and deeper keystrokes.

What you get with the new MacBook Pros

  • Much faster processors
  • Far faster graphics
  • Much faster solid state storage
  • Faster Wi-Fi
  • Up to 3 hours of additional battery life (15-inch model)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Touch Bar secondary display
  • Wider Force Touch trackpad
  • More accurate butterfly keyboard switches
  • Brighter screen with wider color gamut
  • Double the base memory (compared to 15-inch, 2012)
  • More storage options (up to 2TB)
  • Half a pound lighter, slightly thinner
  • 4 USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports for single-cable docking and charging
  • Space gray color

What stays the same

  • Screen resolution
  • Base storage capacities (unless you bought a 128GB 13-inch model)
  • Memory capacity
  • The headphone jack (phew!)

What you lose

  • Deep, comfy keyboard
  • Full-size USB, HDMI, Thunderbolt, Mini DisplayPort and SD card ports (you'll need dongles)
  • MagSafe charging
  • Dedicated function keys (unless you opt for the non-Touch Bar model)

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with optical drive, last updated in 2012.

Sarah Tew/CNET

From MacBook Pro (Mid-2010 to Mid-2012)

It's probably time to abandon your optical drive and slow spinning magnetic storage. Keep your old Pro around for FireWire if you like, but you should definitely consider a new lighter, faster computer -- even if it's not the new Pro.

What you get with the new MacBook Pros

  • Gorgeous high-resolution Retina Display
  • Far faster processors
  • Far faster graphics
  • Blazing fast solid-state storage is standard (faster boots, app launches, file transfers, multitasking)
  • Faster Wi-Fi
  • Hours of additional battery life (3 extra hours compared to 13-inch, 2012)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Touch Bar secondary display
  • Force Touch trackpad
  • More accurate butterfly keyboard switches
  • Double the base memory, double the maximum memory
  • 0.5lb to 2.5lb lighter (depending on model)
  • 4 USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports for single-cable docking and charging
  • Space gray color

What stays the same

What you lose

  • Optical drive
  • Memory upgrades
  • Easy hard-drive swaps
  • Deep, comfy keyboard
  • Full-size USB, Thunderbolt, Mini DisplayPort, FireWire, Ethernet, and SD card ports (you'll need dongles)
  • MagSafe charging
  • Dedicated function keys (unless you opt for the non-Touch Bar model)

The Apple MacBook Air (from 2015).

Sarah Tew/CNET

From MacBook Air (2013-2015)

There are quite a few trade-offs coming from a MacBook Air, including a couple hours' less battery life, but the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is actually a smaller computer. Plus, it should be notably faster.

What you get with the new MacBook Pros

  • Gorgeous high-resolution Retina Display
  • Much faster processors
  • Much faster graphics (15-inch Pro), faster graphics (13-inch Pro)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Touch Bar secondary display
  • Wider Force Touch trackpad
  • More accurate butterfly keyboard switches
  • Wider color gamut
  • Double the base memory, double the maximum memory
  • Double the base storage, quadruple the maximum storage (2TB)
  • 4 USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports for single-cable docking and charging
  • Faster solid state storage
  • Faster Wi-Fi
  • Slightly smaller footprint (13-inch vs. 13-inch)
  • Space gray color

What stays the same

  • Weight (13-inch vs. 13-inch)
  • Battery (if you had an 11-inch model)
  • The headphone jack (phew!)

What you lose

  • Roughly 2 hours of estimated battery life (if you had a 13-inch model)
  • Deep, comfy keyboard
  • Full-size USB, Thunderbolt 2, Mini DisplayPort and SD card ports (you'll need dongles)
  • MagSafe charging
  • Dedicated function keys (unless you opt for the non-Touch Bar model)
  • MacBook Pro is 0.5-1.5 pounds heavier (depending on model)

apple-macbook-2016-18.jpg

The 12-inch Apple MacBook, introduced in 2015.

Sarah Tew/CNET

From 12-inch MacBook with Retina Display (2015)

If you bought into the 12-inch MacBook, you may regret it now. For power users, the new MacBook Pro improves upon it in practically every way. Unless, of course, you're all about thin, light, barely there computers. In that case, stick with it.

What you get with the new MacBook Pros

  • Larger screen
  • Far faster processors
  • Far faster graphics
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Touch Bar secondary display
  • Wider Force Touch trackpad
  • Double the maximum memory
  • Double the maximum storage
  • Higher-resolution webcam (720p vs. 480p)
  • 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, instead of a single plain USB-C

What stays the same

  • Battery life
  • Thin butterfly-switch keyboard
  • Base storage (256GB)
  • USB-C charging
  • Lack of other standard ports
  • The headphone jack (phew!)
  • Space gray color

What you lose

  • Ultra-thin build
  • Dedicated function keys (unless you opt for the non-Touch Bar model)
  • MacBook Pro is 1-2 pounds heavier (depending on model)
  • Gold and rose gold colors

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CNET

If your MacBook isn't on this list

You should upgrade. No question. You can still get last year's MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with Retina Display if you want a deeper keyboard and a wider selection of ports. Either way -- particularly when it comes to battery life -- your old MacBook is now way, way behind the curve.

Check out all of today's Apple news.