Compare Apple MacBook Pro Retina (2015) to Apple MacBook Pro Touch Bar (2017)
The controls on the MacBook Pro Retina 15”
To each their own, but in my humble opinion, the MacBook Pro Retina's trackpad is the golden standard for all other laptops. The Force Touch trackpad simply works fantastically. It's pressure-sensitive, which means I can use to make a reasonable drawing or fast forward a video faster by pressing the trackpad harder. With Multi-Touch, I can set my own gestures, for instance for opening and closing multiple screens at the same time.
The controls on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15”
The MacBook Pro Touch Bar's Force Touch trackpad has the same functions as that of the MacBook Pro Retina, but is bigger by 50%. That makes navigating even easier. In addition, the 2017 MacBook Pro has the Touch Bar (on the spot where you find the function keys on the MacBook Pro Retina). This touchscreen gives me all kinds of new functions, depending on the program I'm using. For instance, when editing photos, it'll give me options for filters and colors. To the right of the Touch Bar, I find the Apple Touch ID. I put my fingertip on the fingerprint scanner and it logs me in! It's also fast and easy to switch to a different user profile.
Want to know more about the Touch Bar? I describe how to use it in the article below.
The graphics card of the MacBook Pro Retina 15”
MacBook Pro Retina has an Intel Iris Pro video card. This shared video card doesn't have its own memory, but demands – depending on what I'm doing – up to 1.5GB of the MacBook's RAM. Nonetheless, the MacBook Pro Retina 15” performs very well in the different tests that I find online (in part thanks to its 4 processor cores, more about that below). In short, it's a little slower than the Pro 15" Touch Bar version – something you notice particularly when doing serious video editing – but a little more powerful than the MacBook Pro 13" with Touch Bar.
The graphics card of the MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15”
In addition to an Intel HD Graphics 630 video card, the MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15” also has a dedicated AMD Radeon Pro video card. It has 2GB (Radeon Pro 555) or 4GB (Radeon Pro 560) of its own RAM, which boosts the MacBook Pro Touch Bar's performance quite a lot. I notice this particularly when editing large video files, but rendering 3D models will also go a little smoother for instance. Are you planning on doing that? In that case, the MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15” is definitely worth the extra money.
The screen of the MacBook Pro Retina 15”
Whether I'm editing photos or watching Netflix, everything on the Retina Display looks sharp and clear. The display has 2880x1800 pixels, has a brightness of 300 nits (equal to 300 candles, it's really true) and supports a standard color representation (sRGB). In other words, it's very, very good.
The screen of the MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15”
The new MacBook Pro has an improved version of the already excellent Retina Display. The resolution of the Pro 15” model is still the same, but thanks to the P3 color representation, the screen displays more colors and has a brightness of 500 nits. I notice a difference particularly when I'm editing photos; the colors really pop on the screen.
The processor of the MacBook Pro Retina 15”
The MacBook Pro Retina offers a choice between an Intel i5 and an i7 processor. There are 4 processor cores (Quad-Core instead of the Dual-Core MacBooks used before), but these are 4-th generation (Hasswell/Crystalwell) processors. When I check the benchmarks, the MacBook Pro Retina is somewhere between the MacBook Pro 13" Touch Bar (2017) and MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar (2017) in terms of processing power. Not bad for an old gal!
The processor of the MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15”
For the MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar, I can choose between an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. These also have 4 processor cores, but they're from the newer, 7th (Kaby Lake) generation. This gives the MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar enough power to edit photos or videos or run multiple demanding programs simultaneously. This makes the MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar the most powerful MacBook available right now by far.
The connections of the MacBook Pro Retina 15”
MacBook Pro Retina has ports for USB(-A), HDMI, Thunderbolt, and an SD card reader. I find the the SD card reader particularly handy for editing photos. I simply take the memory card from my camera and slide it in the card slot! The Pro Retina also has a headphone jack and MagSafe connector. If my colleague trips over the cable while I'm charging it, the cable disconnects thanks to the magnetic connector and prevents my laptop from being yanked off my desk. Neat!
The ports on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15”
In a few years, perhaps even sooner, USB-C will be the new standard when it comes to connectors. In addition to a headphone jack, the MacBook Pro has 4 of USB-C ports and that's it. That means I need an adapter to connect my trusty mouse or USB flash drive (with standard USB connector). It also means that my data (photos for example) is transferred at very high speeds; USB-C has a speed of 40gbps (or 5GB) per second.
The most obvious difference between the MacBook Pro 15" Retina (2015) and the MacBook Pro 15" Touch Bar is (what's in a name) the Touch Bar. It took some getting used to, but now that I've mastered it, it has really sped up editing photos and videos. The real difference is in the things you don't see: an faster, improved processor and video card. I mostly notice this when carrying out demanding tasks, like editing large video files. Is that something you do regularly? In that case, it's definitely shelling out those extra bucks on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar.