I own a 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Yes, that’s the most concise way to describe it. While it’s proven a serviceable machine for my work, I don’t know what makes it “professional”. I suppose the inclusion of a quartet of Thunderbolt 3 ports is a pro-grade feature. But a middling dual-core processor, fixed RAM, and integrated Intel graphics limits what this machine can do.
For 2018, Apple made some significant updates to the MacBook Pro. The most obvious is the inclusion of 8th generation Intel CPUs. Intel has finally gone quad-core or greater in this generation for mainstream laptop chips. On the 15-inch models, this goes up to six-cores, which is genuinely impressive. Perhaps more significantly, this should push devs over the long term to really optimize Mac software for more cores, leading to more efficiency all around. The larger laptops also get updated discrete graphics.
Sadly the 13-inch Pro is stuck with Intel’s “finest”. Even though the smaller MBP has been capable of discrete graphics in the past, Apple has not deigned to offer it for some time. There’s no dearth of slim 13-inch Windows machines than use something like the Nvidia MX150 to offer modest discrete GPU performance, sadly we’re left waiting. This is elevated somewhat by Apple officially supporting eGPUs over Thunderbolt 3, which means when docked, a 13-inch MBP is at least capable of impressive graphics. But if you need it with any degree of mobility, you need to pay up for the 15-incher.
The other professional grade feature Apple is adding to the MBP is the improved T2 chip. This offers two notable security enhancements: secure boot and storage encryption on the fly. This kind of dedicated system management chip could have a lot of appeal for Mac sysadmins. It’s not a killer feature by itself, but for a professional device (with presumably valuable information on it), that kind of baked in security hardware is a good move.
This was a hardware refresh announcements, but it’s still discouraging that the Touch Bar seems completely forgotten. It was completely abscent from WWDC, and aside from still being included, seems like a total afterthought. But as far as meaningful hardware refreshes, this one helps make the MacBook Pro line a little more professional-capable.
Ars Technica comments:
The MacBook Pro is widely used by consumers, but Apple markets it as a professional machine. “Professional” means a lot of different things to different people, depending on, well, what their professions are. Showcases and campaigns like this make it clear that when Apple says “Pro,” it mainly means creative professionals like video and music producers, plus scientists and engineers.