The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch) and MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) are marvellous laptops, but despite their premium price, they’re both missing something that Windows portables have had for a long time: touchscreens.
The big question is why, and that’s something that Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) was able to put to Apple directly.
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“We make the world’s best touch computer on an iPad,” replied John Ternus, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering. “It’s totally optimized for that. And the Mac is totally optimized for indirect input. We haven’t really felt a reason to change that.”
At a glance, that feels like an unsatisfying answer: just because you can have a better touchscreen experience elsewhere, doesn’t mean you can’t have any touchscreen experience on a laptop.
But then again, would Apple really want every MacBook Pro 14-inch review to focus on how ineffective a theoretical touchscreen is, when there are so many positives to cover? Plus, without needing to touch the screen, there’s less reason to buy that $19 cleaning cloth.
Personally, as the generally happy owner of a Surface Laptop 2 (opens in new tab), I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used the touchscreen — and most of those have been by accident when I’ve forgotten it’s there. So I have a reasonable amount of sympathy for the argument that says “we don’t have a touch screen on the laptop because it’s unnecessary.”
While she had Apple on hand to answer design questions, Stern also asked about the lack of Face ID, and here the response was considerably less convincing, given the notch is right there already.
“Touch ID is more convenient on a laptop since your hands are already on the keyboard,” said Tom Boger, Apple VP of Mac and iPad product marketing. It doesn’t take a great leap of logic to point out that if you’ve just switched on your MacBook, then you’re also right in front of the camera.
And anybody disappointed at the lack of waterproofing on the new MacBook Pro shouldn’t expect that oversight to be rectified any time soon, either. “Both of them stared at me blankly on Zoom when I asked about a water-resistant laptop,” Stern writes. “That hasn’t been on many people’s lists,” Boger eventually responded.
Despite these oversights, the new MacBook Pros sit proudly on our list of the best laptops you can buy right now. They’re expensive, yes, but they are beautifully designed and a thoroughly recommended purchase if money is no object.