Apple's MacBook lineup: What you need to know

The new, the old, and everything: Here's Apple's 2016 MacBook lineup, and what the differences are.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read
Watch this: The new MacBook Pro: How Apple added touch without a touchscreen

Apple's MacBook lineup has finally been updated, which is great news. But what does that mean, and what laptops are available? Here's what you need to know after Apple's event.

Top-end: Apple's new MacBook Pro

The newest MacBook Pro line comes in three flavors: two 13-inch models, and a 15-inch. They all have thinner bodies, larger touchpads and faster processors, and all ports have shifted to a USB-C type Thunderbolt 3 connection.

But the upper-end 13-inch and all 15-inch Pros have a Touch Bar with Touch ID, which steals the show. The mini touch strip contextually changes to icons in different apps. Sliders, hot keys and function buttons emerge on the fly as needed, almost like a bit of an iPad flew onto the keyboard of the MacBook.

Apple MacBook Pro swaps outdated function keys for Touch Bar

See all photos

Both models have:

  • A shallower butterfly keyboard, like the 12-inch MacBook
  • Brighter display, better color gamut than older MacBook Pros
  • Louder speakers
  • New Thunderbolt 3 ports that convert to other needs, using USB-C style port design
  • The OLED Touch Bar and Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Headphone jacks (as do all MacBooks, don't worry)
  • Space gray or silver color

The 13-inch Touch Bar-enabled MacBook Pro has:

  • 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, upgradable to 3.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
  • Intel Iris 550 graphics
  • A 13.3 inch 2,560x1,600-pixel display
  • 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • 8GB RAM, upgradable to 16GB
  • 256GB SSD, upgradable to 1TB
  • Starts at $1,799, £1,749 or AU$2,699

The 15-inch MacBook Pro has:

  • 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, upgradable to 2.7 GHz quad-core i7
  • AMD Radeon Pro 450 graphics with 2GB of GDDR5, upgradable to Radeon Pro 455
  • 15.4-inch 2,880x1,800-pixel display
  • 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • 8GB RAM, upgradable to 16GB
  • 256GB SSD, upgradable to 2TB
  • Starts at $2,399, £2,349 or AU$3,599

All the action at Apple's Hello Again event

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A more affordable 13-inch MacBook Pro ditches the OLED Touch Bar and saves some money

Another entry-level MacBook Pro aims to be the budget model, minus that crazy magic Touch Bar. Also, it only has two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt support instead of four. But you save a few hundred dollars or pounds. Who's it for? Maybe someone who was looking for a new 13-inch MacBook Air, because this is the closest you'll get.

  • 2x Thunderbolt 3 USB-C type ports
  • 2GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, upgradable to 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
  • Intel Iris 540 graphics
  • Starts at $1,499, £1,449 or AU$2,199
Sarah Tew/CNET

The smallest 12-inch MacBook stays as-is

The super-thin 12-inch MacBook is Apple's tiniest laptop. It was updated back in March, and it's still the same now.

  • Has only one USB-C port, which isn't as fast as the Thunderbolt 3-capable ones on the Pros
  • Has a 12-inch, 2,304x1,440-pixel display
  • 2.03 pounds (920 grams)
  • 8GB RAM, 256/512GB SSD options
  • Around 10 hours of battery
  • Comes in four colors (rose gold, space gray, silver and gold)
  • $1,299/$1,599, £1,249/£1,549 or AU$1,999/AU$2,449

Exclusive interview

The MacBook Air remains as-is, too

If you always liked Apple's older, non-Retina MacBook Air, good news: it's still here. And it's unchanged.

  • 13-inch, 1,440x900-pixel display
  • 2x USB ports, Thunderbolt and an SD card slot, plus MagSafe charge connector
  • 8GB RAM, 128/256/512GB SSD
  • $999, £949, AU$1,549 and up

The 11-inch MacBook Air is education-only now

Sorry, if you want a small MacBook, you'll need to be associated with a school or university, find one for sale online somewhere or get the new 12-inch MacBook instead.

The older MacBook Pro laptops are still around, it seems

Looking to buy one of those older MacBook Pros without USB-C, and good old-fashioned MagSafe connectors? They're still on Apple's website, strangely. They cost a little less, but do a little less. However, they pack a more diverse set of older ports.

So, which MacBook do you get?

Good question. Apple hasn't made the decision any easier...in fact, you could say Apple added yet another option with the toolbar-free 13-inch MacBook. The 13-inch MacBook Pro seems great if money is no object; but the step-down version probably fits the bill for more people. The 12-inch MacBook is attractive, but probably too limited for hardcore users. The 15-inch model is the one to get for graphics-needy functions. Stay tuned for full reviews, of course.

I feel more confused by the new MacBook lineup than before, but maybe choice is a good thing.

Apple 2016 MacBook Pro pricing lineup

MacBook Pro 13-inch (2016)
2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz, 256GB onboard SSD, 8GB RAM $1,499£1,449AU$2,199

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar 13-inch
2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz, 256GB onboard SSD, 8GB RAM $1,799£1,749AU$2,699
2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz, 512GB onboard SSD, 8GB RAM $1,999£1,949AU$2,999

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar 15-inch
2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, 256GB onboard SSD, 16GB RAM $2,399£2,349AU$3,599
2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz, 512GB onboard SSD, 16GB RAM $2,799£2,699AU$4,249