Shop for Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2017)

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If you splurged on a new 15-inch MacBook Pro when Apple revamped the line in late 2016, it was probably a pretty hefty investment. They started north of $2,000 in the US and went up from there, and included the new Touch Bar interface above the keyboard, a huge touchpad and an AMD graphics chip for photo, video and 3D work.

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So when you heard Apple updated the entire high-end MacBook Pro family just a little more than six months later, you may be feeling a bit of buyer's remorse. The good news is that I'm here to say don't worry about it. These updates are minor enough that you shouldn't feel left out with these new versions hitting stores immediately. On the other hand, if you've been thinking about stepping up to a MacBook Pro, or upgrading a much older model, the jump to newer Intel CPUs and faster AMD graphics cards makes the sky high prices a bit easier to justify.

What's new under the hood?

The biggest on-paper change for the Pro series is the jump to current seventh generation Intel Core I-series CPUs (sometimes known by the code name "Kaby Lake"). Of course, Intel is already starting to talk about the eight gen Core chips now, so it's best not to obsess too much on the exact CPU model in any laptop you buy -- there's always something new coming.

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More interesting for creative pros will be the faster graphics options. The 15-inch Pro models all include AMD GPUs, the Radeon Pro 555 in the $2,399 model and the Radeon Pro 560 in the $2,799 model. The 13-inch MacBook Pro models still have Intel Iris Pro graphics, which is a step up from the standard integrated Intel GPU hardware in most other laptops.

Touch and go

Both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros still have the OLED Touch Bar that extends across the top of the keyboard, replacing the old function key row. It works the same, allowing for fingerprint login, instant access to volume and brightness controls, the MacOS version of Siri, and special touch features in different software apps, such as jumping between browser tabs in Safari.

The Touch Bar is a feature some people love and other people barely use. I find I fall right in the middle of the spectrum, and I use the Touch ID fingerprint reader (similar to the one with the iPhone) frequently, as well as the touch controls for volume and screen brightness. In Safari, I often use the Touch Bar to jump between tabs, where each open browser tab gets a tiny Touch Bar thumbnail. But those tasks probably take up 80 percent of my Touch Bar use.

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Later this year, MacBooks, and other Mac systems, will get even more new features with the next version of the MacOS operating system, called High Sierra (no, really). Things I'm excited about in there include autoplay video blocking, a new file system and support for VR hardware.

We're currently testing this new 15-inch MacBook Pro, and will report performance and battery life scores in an upcoming full review. From my brief hands-on time with the system, it looks, feels and behaves much like the previous 15-inch MacBook Pro, reviewed here. (For comparison's sake, you can also check out the 2016 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.)

Cheaper options

Physically, the new MacBook Pros are virtually identical to the late 2016 models. They still have that classic Apple aluminum unibody construction, they weigh 3 pounds and are about 15 mm thick. The keyboard is that same short-travel model borrowed from the 12-inch MacBook, which inspires some "love it or hate it" divisions in the Mac community. They also still rely on only USB-C ports (with Thunderbolt 3 support) for all your power and connectivity needs, so be prepared to adapt to that or to carry a bagful of dongles with you.

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And while we're testing the 15-inch MacBook Pro, it's the 13-inch version that might be a more interesting update. There's a new 13-inch MacBook Pro, the entry-level version without the special Touch Bar, that's getting a price cut from $1,499 to a more reasonable $1,299. The catch? Apple has sliced the storage capacity in half, from 256GB to 128GB.

If you don't need the Pro-level power, of course, there's also a refreshed 12-inch MacBook running the less muscular Intel Core M chip (albeit also updated for 2017, and now with an option to double the RAM to 16GB). It costs the same as the entry-level no-Touch Bar 13-inch Pro, but comes with double the storage.

And real Mac bargain hunters can find the old MacBook Air, now with a slightly faster (but several generations old) Core i5 processor for $999. But it's the only laptop left in Apple's lineup without that sweet high-resolution Retina display.