MacBook Pro replaces function keys with customisable Touch Bar for $500


    Overnight Apple announced an update to their aging MacBook Pro. Of course its thinner, lighter, faster, smarter, better, but the stand out feature this time is the inclusion of the Touch Bar. An integrated touchscreen that’s replaces your tradition F1-F12 keys which to be honest are rarely used in modern computing. The Touch Bar is designed to expose context-sensitive features of the current application, directly to input simply by tapping or sliding.

    Apple showed off a number of use cases like integration with an upcoming release of Adobe’s Creative Suite, but its others uses that may get you more excited for it.

    • Answer your iPhone or a FaceTime call from the keyboard without moving your cursor.
    • Get quick access to text suggestions and emoji in apps like Messages and Mail.
    • Select a palette and tap to choose a colour for text or objects in Pages, Keynote and more.
    • Expand, contract and customise system controls to reveal volume, brightness and more.

    Of course you can also display a digital version of the function keys if required. The customisation looks easy, with a drag and drop experience that treats the addition display like a second monitor, a long, skinny monitor.

    Apple’s relationship with touch is a strange one. While they led the way with the iPhone and iPod Touch in terms of responsiveness of a touchscreen, continued that to the iPad and iWatch, but they’ve been incredibly resistant to adding touch to their desktop OS. The Touch Bar seems like Apple dipping their toe in the water and monitoring reactions. Of course there’s obvious benefits to using a dedicated display for touch, you don’t have to be concerned with display scaling, touch input sizes on UI elements and of course fingerprints on the surface you’re working on.

    Despite those benefits appearing as confirmation Apple is heading in the right direction by separating out the touch components from the primary display, I’ve seen a number of journalists who’ve been hands-on this morning and are already suggesting your brain starts to think about touching the screen.


    The new MacBook Pro also features TouchID as a hardware sensor in the top right of the Touch Bar. If you’re used to fingerprint access to your mobile device, this brings OSX into line with the same simplicity of login.

    There’s 4 USB-C ports which are all Thunderbolt 3 compatible which means they’re great for high-speed data transfers, display outputs and also that any port can be used to charge the device. What is now omitted that will surely alienate some MBP owners is the removal of the SD card slot. This means those with photography or video workflows that involve popping out the SD card from the camera, inserting it into the MBP and transferring files, will now need to connect the camera directly to the USB-C port, likely with an adapter.

    The new MacBook Pro comes in 3 varieties. The 13″ with or without the Touch Bar (why wouldn’t you), and a 15″ that only comes with the Touch Bar. There’s 8GB of RAM in the 13s and 16GB in the 15″ models, and you’ll choose between 256GB and 512GB SSD for storage. If you’re after a dedicated GPU, you’ll only find that in the 15″ model, with a Radeon Pro 450.

    The 13″ model starts at A2,199, or A$2,699 for the Touch Bar and Touch ID version, so there’s a hefty premium for that new hotness. You can pay up to A$2,999 for the top model with the fastest processor and biggest storage, which is definitely at the top end of laptop prices.

    The 15″ model starts at A$3,5999 and goes all the way up to A$4,249 which is definitely a price for your boss to pay.

    The new MacBook Pros are shipping in 2-3 weeks if you want the new Touch Bar (you do) and come in Space Grey and Silver.

    For more information, head to 

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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