Laptops

Apple unveils the new Touch Bar-powered MacBook Pro

The device includes a new touch display along the keyboard, and is the thinnest and lightest MacBook Pro yet.

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Apple on Thursday revealed its newest MacBook Pro laptop, which includes a new interactive, customizable touch strip above the keyboard called Touch Bar.

"The Mac is more than a product to us," CEO Tim Cook told the crowd at the Town Hall auditorium at the company's Cupertino, California, headquarters. "It's a testament to everything we do and everything we create at Apple."

Instead of including a full-blown touchscreen like most new Windows computers, Apple offered up the Touch Bar. The bar lights up with a menu of buttons, control sliders, dials and tools, which change with the app you're using. Taking the place of function keys, the Touch Bar brings up autofill choices as you type, lets you edit videos in Final Cut Pro or straighten photos in the Photos app. Users can also customize the Touch Bar by dragging and dropping new tools into it.

The new MacBook Pro is also the first Mac to include Touch ID. That feature was added right into the Touch Bar where the power button has been located. It allows users to log into their devices with their thumbprints (you can also have multiple accounts for shared family computers) and securely pay for items online with Apple Pay.

Apple is hoping these new MacBook Pros will reinvigorate its computer sales amid a bruising downturn in the PC market. The company is also facing new competition from Microsoft, which on Wednesday revealed the new Surface Studio all-in-one desktop computer and has bulked up its line of Surface devices.

"Apple's laptops no longer enjoy the kind of big hardware advantage they've had in the past," said analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research on Thursday. He said the big difference he sees now is the "philosophical approach" between Apple and Microsoft of offering a touchscreen PC or not.

There are two sizes of the new MacBook Pro. The 13-inch model of the MacBook Pro is 14.9mm thick, weighs 3 pounds and starts at $1,799. The 15-inch model is 15.5mm thick, weighs 4 pounds and starts at $2,399. That's compared to 18mm for the previous 13- and 15-inch Pros, which were both about a half pound heavier than their replacements.

There is also another 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar and Touch ID, priced at $1,499. While Apple will continue to produce the 13-inch MacBook Air, it positioned this lower-tier MacBook Pro as a potential replacement.

Additionally, the new MacBook Pros include larger trackpads, refined keyboard designs, brighter displays that consume less energy, and redesigned speakers. Overall, the new MacBooks have about 10 hours of battery life, equal to the older 13-inch MacBook Pros and an hour longer than the older 15-inch machines.

Ahead of Thursday's event, rumors circulated about a new MacBook Pro with an OLED touch bar above the keyboard.

Apple's line of MacBook laptops and iMac desktops has faced double-digit declines in sales for most of the past year. Mac's weakness comes at a bad time for the company, since the iPhone -- Apple's biggest moneymaker -- has also seen three straight quarters of weaker sales and its iPad tablet business is struggling to keep up growth.

Apple's last big change to the MacBook line came in March 2015, when the tech giant revealed the new MacBook, a super-slim laptop with a force-sensitive track pad and just two ports, a USB-C port and headphone jack. During that March product event, Apple also updated the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air with faster processors.

While these devices failed to re-energize sales, the Mac line remains a very important one for Apple, not just because it was founded as a personal-computer company. Macs continue to generate billions of dollars in sales for Apple, helping the company diversify its revenue and avoid relying too heavily on the iPhone.

Originally published October 27, 10:35 a.m. PT.
Updated, 11:44 a.m. PT: Adds more details on MacBook Pros and pricing.

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