Longer battery life, improved performance and an updated touchpad make Apple's new 15-inch MacBook Pro an even better workstation.
Don't expect any major design changes, though. In fact, the new MacBook Pro looks identical to last year's 15-inch model. Don't look for price cuts, either; the starting price remains unchanged, at $1,999. But you do get a bunch of subtle hardware upgrades that should improve the user experience, and potentially make you more productive.
Here are five features that make the refreshed 15-inch MacBook Pro better for business.
Longer battery life
Apple promises that the new MacBook Pro's beefed-up battery is good for up to 9 hours of Web surfing over Wi-Fi. That's about an hour longer than last year's model. It's a nice perk for business users, since long battery life is a key feature if you need your notebook to last through the end of the workday without being chained to a wall outlet.
Faster flash storage
Apple's new MacBook Pro doesn't run on Intel's newest Broadwell processor; like last year's model, this MacBook is powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 chip with 16GB of RAM. But you can still expect improved performance, since Apple is packing in a faster solid-state drive (SSD). The company claims this is about 2.5 times faster than the SSD in the 2014 model. That should allow your computer to boot faster and programs to open more quickly. Copying and transferring files should also be quicker.
Force Touch trackpad
Apple computers are often praised for their excellent touchpads, which provide extremely responsive cursor control. So how do you improve on a component that's already so good? Apple thinks its Force Touch technology, which was already implemented in the 13-inch MacBook Pro earlier this year, is the answer.
Force Touch is the name for Apple's new pressure-sensing tech, which allows the company's touchpads to tell how hard you're pressing down with your finger. To be sure, some of the applications of Force Touch are a bit gimmicky. For example, you can "Force click" — in other words, press down harder — on an address in the Mail app to view a map of the location in a pop-up window. You can also Force click on a search result in the Safari Web browser to preview the page in a small window, without leaving your current tab. These niche uses aren't exactly mind-blowing, but they do have the potential to streamline your workflow a bit.
The Force Touch pad can also provide haptic feedback — basically, small vibrations — when you Force click. The vibrations are a bit more sophisticated than the haptic feedback on your smartphone, though. The result is that it almost feels like the touchpad itself is clicking down, even though it's not moving a millimeter. This is a small addition that can make using the MacBook Pro a bit more pleasant, which is nice if you'll be working on it every day.
Better graphics performance
Buyers can also opt for a more powerful graphics card in the new MacBook Pro model, with the AMD Radeon R9 M370x GPU now an alternative to Intel's integrated graphics. Office workers may not benefit much from the extra graphical oomph, but it will give you a boost if your workload includes video editing. It's also a nice perk if you like to play games after you leave the office.
No, the new MacBook isn't any thinner than last year's model. But it's still important to note that Apple packed in a bunch of nice improvements without making the machine any chunkier. The device is still 0.71 inches thick, which is pretty svelte for a 15-inch workstation. And at 4.49 lbs., it's also a bit lighter than competing machines, like Dell's 4.6-lb. XPS 15 (although that machine has a touch screen, which the MacBook Pro lacks). Neither notebook is something you'll want to lug with you on your daily commute, but a relatively lightweight design is still nice if you need to travel with your MacBook.