MacBook Pro 2018 with Touch Bar - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Hardware & Accessories

Origin Story

I sat waiting for my mid 2013 MacBook Air to finish processing my latest podcast. It was taking forever.

"Ping" shouted my iPhone. I scooped it up like the caped crusader scooping up its distant flashing, red ancestor, and read:

"Apple releases new MacBook Pros!!"

This was what I'd been waiting for, ready to go, ready to pounce like Cat Woman, though in a looser fitting body suit with less makeup.

My new machine arrived mere seconds later (exaggeration) and, with trembling fingers, I pealed back the glossy skin, waited... Waited... As the inner box slowly, so slowly, fighting the back pressure of its former mate, came free.

There it lay, a flat piece of cosmos, imbued with such hope, such potential. I felt like a new parent with a very flat baby... Which could do stuff... And was only expensive once... Okay, nothing like a baby.

The Positives

First of all, the good, just so I can lull you into a false belief that I'm a positive sort of guy.

The audio system on this flat little spawn is delightful. It creates an airy 3 dimensional sound which is clear and sweet. Even the bass isn't bad considering its slender body. It won't be replacing any purpose built and decent bluetooth or airplay speakers any time soon, and JZ won't be using it to pump out his shouts at any festivals, but it's good. I can certainly imagine using this for audio editing whilst on the go.

Next, the new keyboard. I, until recently, was using the old type of keyboard, the one with tiny pin pricks of caps between which unwary typists could plunge to their doom amounts crumbs, dust and former users.

I really like this new keyboard, it took a little time to get used to with the smaller travel, but it has a very satisfying click when the keys are pressed, the keys are wide and, gosh darn it if I'm not typing faster and with less orrors.

The Ugly:

I know it goes, the good, the bad and the ugly, but I'm going straight to the ugly because I live in a binary world. here is where I let rip... Verbally that is.

The setup process crashed twice with voiceover hanging and bellowing out it's last spoken phrase until I depressed the Touch ID button. I expected the reassuring chime from my MBP to confirm restart, nope, silence... Now, Apple, silence is a bad thing when it comes to blind people... Really bad.

Because I had reached part way through my setup and file volt had been turned on, the hard drive was locked. I spent a million (exaggeration) frustrating hours attempting to restart the machine in recovery mode so that I might reinstall the whole OS.

Using Seeing AI (A blessing in such situations), I was able to discern what was on the screen and finally... Finally, 4 hours after opening up my new machine, I was in business.

What a thrill. It was fast, it was smooth, it was like downing a chilly strawberry milkshake. I felt a rush as the sugar hit my brain, files loaded quicker, processing was faster in Amadeus pro, I even seemed to be typing and thinking faster... Then the sugar crash.

The touch bar, and I can't emphasise this enough, is DUMB!!! D U M B... Dumb. For sighted people, yeah, a touch sensitive screen that can be customised is awesome, really awesome. For someone who just wants to be able to press stuff and things happen like they always do, it stinks of sour milkshake.

Fingers clip the bar when using the number strip, changing volume requires searching for the illusive volume button, double tapping, then changing the volume. The escape key requires a double tap and, joy of joys, when trying to watch a video of a cat hiccuping and farting, I accidentally muted all sound... ALL SOUND!!! INCLUDING VOICEOVER.

"Hey, no problem big guy." I thought as I broke out my older and now surprisingly dated feeling MacBook air, "There's a way to turn off mute with just the keyboard, of course Apple aren't that stupid."... Nope, Apple are that stupid.

Now, I'm left searching for a mute button on an ever changing bar of flat glass, double tapping like the frustrated mouse in boxing gloves punching a telly, and no joy, nothing.

Finally I hit that touch ID button, the computer restarts, WITHOUT THE CHIME, and, joy of joys, Alex starts gabbling away.

I Let out a held breath.

Immediately I change the Touch Bar to show the good old function keys... So now I have a fancy strip of touch sensitive nonsense imitating some good old fashioned keys... Increasing the cost of the computer by about £300.


I'm going to keep it... Despite all my annoyances, it's just so fast and fresh. I'll have to learn to live with the ever present and mistrustful touch bar sitting just there, above my frantically flying digits, but, laughs manically I laugh in the face of danger, and possible mutings.

And You?

The touch bar isn't new, the MacBook isn't really new... But what do you think? Do you enjoy the touch bar? Do you think it's a good thing?

And Apple, puts hands on hips sort out your software, two hangs of voiceover on first setup of an £1800 machine is inexcusable. Shame on you, I expected better.

Find me on twitter yelling about other such nonsense here...



Submitted by Brooke on Friday, July 27, 2018

Omg. I don't own a Mac with a touch bar, so I literally have nothing to add. But this post was one of the most entertaining things I've read in a long time.

Submitted by Justin on Friday, July 27, 2018

Alrighty, where do I begin? Okay, on the ugly part... Oliver, and others who are wanting a new MacBook, be aware, if you're not already, the chime sound is gone. It's gone and there's no way or at least I've found no way of getting it back. I read a site somewhere that said you could go into the terminal, and type a certain command, and voila! the chime sound's back... Nope! No bueno.. Volume is controlled either by the touch bar, which you found, or by pressing VO+dash, or VO+equals, respectively. If, for whatever reason you mute the volume, you can get it back by pressing the volume up/down command while VO is running. If VO is disabled, then you'll have to get volume back by doing what you were doing. The touch bar is fine, it's just how apple work. I've had my MBP with touch bar for a year and a haflf, and am loving it. It's a great machine, and once you get past the new things you're struggling with, it'll be smooth sailing. Also, Disable, disable, disable Filevault. I don't care who says it's a good thing, get rid of it! I went to a computer place where I got the new MBP and a guy said that filevault is a pain in the butt, and he doesn't recommend anyone use it at all. If anything, just put a password on your machine if you want to.

Submitted by WildmanJoe on Friday, July 27, 2018

First of all, nice post. Second, I understand the frustration with the touch bar, but I believe I know how to solve the volume problem.
it all depends on your position on the number keys. I have my keyboard set so that the touch bar will expand the control strip when I press the FN key. Although only a slight annoyance to me at least, it allows me to quickly turn the volume up/down with the always reliable split tap method. If I am not using the FN key, then I get two buttons. “Audio Output, and mute. With that said, here is how I keep track of it.
1. If I am using the FN plus touch bar to control the volume, I just remember that volume up is right above the space between the equals and dash keys. Volume down is directly above the center of the Dash, and mute is above the space between dash and zero.
2. If I am not using the FN key, the position of the “Audio Output” button on the touch bar is right above the dash key, and The mute button is between the equals and dash keys. Another thing you could do, is put those little tiny bump dots on the small strip just above those points in the touch bar, but that method might not be that reliable, especially if they pop off.

I hope this helps, at least a little.

Submitted by Rocker on Friday, July 27, 2018

Great post! A little ironic that Microsoft came to the rescue!
You can slice it! Dice it! Chop it! Crop it! Tip it or flip it, but you can’t tell me that the Touch Bar is the right option for a blind person! Go ahead! Hang me from the highest yardarm if you must! It is nonsensical to except such compromise on a flag ship device! I have been cobbling all my Canadian pennies to dive in on this release! Expecting the 13 inch non Touch Bar pro to be updated accordingly! Nope! Nada!! Thank you Apple! Tank you very much!!! That’s right, thanks for nothing! May your camels spit nothing but dates peace out applevis! Cheers… Rocker

Submitted by Chris on Friday, July 27, 2018

The fact that VoiceOver failed during the setup process on such an expensive machine is unacceptable! This just goes to show that Apple's software and now hardware is getting worse and worse. The Touch Bar is a joke! Maybe it's easier for sighted people, but when I can press a function key immediately instead of dragging my finger around the bar, I can say the standard function keys are much better. Also why didn't they update the Mac Mini, MacBook, MacBook Air, or the models of the MacBook Pro with function keys? I'm disappointed with Apple right now. They have so much potential and they're wasting it on crap!

Submitted by Len on Sunday, July 29, 2018

This post is super funny, but the problems on restart are inexcusable! I expect more when I pay that kind of money for a laptop. I run the hell out of my 2015 MBP, much of it involving Vmware Fusion running Windows with NVDA' or JAWS. The lack of function keys in that situation would be super troublesome. So, I am one of the people who would pay good money for the new MBP models with 32 gb of ram and the new fast processor, except those models are only available with the dang touch bar so I will run my 2015 as long as I can. Very disappointing Apple!

Submitted by Justin on Monday, July 30, 2018

Just to clarify on your loss of speech during setup, did you try re-enabling VO by using the shortcut, CMD+Power/touch id button three times? If not, that usually gets speech back. If not, then the volume was turned down to zero for some unknown reason.

Submitted by Dominique Stansberry on Monday, July 30, 2018

Hi! You can change the volume for VoiceOver with VO Dash and Equals and also Shift+VO+Dash or Shift+VO+Equals when VO is on. So no that is not a Mac keystroke. That's been around for ever. Try doing that.

Submitted by Justin on Monday, July 30, 2018

Actually, that keystroke is like using the function keys or touch bar buttons to change the volume. It changes the system volume. It does not change the volume of just VOiceOver. If you want to change the VO volume you navigate to volume by pressing VO+shift+CMD and left/right arrows, then when at volume, use VO+CMD+Shift+up/down arrows to change the voice item.

Submitted by Dominique Stansberry on Monday, July 30, 2018

That’s correct. I like those keystrokes so if I don’t feel like using the function keys... or lack there of... I still can turn up and down the volume. So in theory... there's no need to complain about the touch bar. Remember on the Mac there are loads of ways to do something not just one way.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Monday, July 30, 2018

The issue isn't so much the touch bar, though it is a step back in the functionality of a MacBook for someone who is blind. The issue arises that I'm forced to buy a MacBook with a stupid touch bar because Apple have neglected to upgrade their MacBook with a standard keyboard. Now I have to learn new combinations and the compromises are more complicated.. Where is that simplicity that Apple always boasted about?

I've paid more money for less keyboard functionality. On top of paying for a super sweet screen, a touch pad I don't use and a battery that lasts for less time than my MacBook Air 2013 does, it stings.

The only real benefit I've received is the bump in speed and ability to handle larger files, the fact that it's crashed several times since having it has not improved my mood.

It's an excellent machine that Apple has attempted to innovate and only ended up hamstringing for its blind customers...

So there, I can complain about it, quite expansively as it turns out. :)

And I was hoping I'd be prooven wrong about the new machines. I want a new Mac because I'm ona. 2012 right now. But knot sure what Mac I'd like. i do audio editing and use Pro Tools and Logic Pro X and Reaper but need more processing power. I need the extra ram for sure. i only have 8 GB here.

I do audio editing as well. This depends a lot on personal preference; but I like the new mac. I find it more comfortable with the touch bar... at least for me. I also had a 2012 macbook. Good luck and hth

Submitted by slj on Tuesday, July 31, 2018

For those who don't like the touch bar, I wander why they didn't bought the Mac without the touch bar. :)
I'm using virtual machines on my Mac, and would like to know if there is a way to use the f keys with a screenreader in a virtual machine in Fusion.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, July 31, 2018

They are under powered. The choice is between a normal and functional keyboard without quad core processing, or quad core processing and the stupid, hard to use, regression that is the touch bar... So, to answer you, purchased with the touch bar because I want a computer to last me... And I'm a sucker for punishment.

Submitted by Justin on Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I hate to say this, I really do... Learn to love the touch bar. Sure it might be stupid at first, but I personally like the functionality. Remember, it's a use case senario. Someone might like the bar, others might not. For my needs, the bar works wonderfully, and I'm glad I got this machine a year and a half ago.

Submitted by David Goldfield on Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I am personally not a fan of product reviews where half of the post involves the writer trying to be cute or funny or, in this case, irreverent. I was offended by the line "Finally I hit that touch ID button, the computer restarts, WITHOUT THE CHIME, and, praise Allah or Christ or Pratchett, choose your flavour, Alex starts gabbling away." Many people who visit this site are religious people, myself being one of them, and I found this totally offensive, unnecessary and not at all funny. I'm not intending to impose my beliefs on others but am only asking that you consider the beliefs of others when you compose product reviews. The reviews by Alex Hall are a good example of how a professional product review should be written.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Firstly, I apologise for any offence and will edit the "Post" accordingly.

Aside from that, yup, you're entitled to your opinion. If you want the proper reviews from this site, only read the proper ones. I enjoy writing in this style, it's really none of my concern if you don't enjoy reading it. Considering you referenced something rather late in the "Post" it would seem you really committed to reading something you weren't enjoying. I applaud your tenacity.

This is a community based forum and, as such, there will be a range of voices. Criticising my voice on the basis of a thoughtless religious lightheartedness, is fair... Criticising on the bases of tone and how "Cute" you think it is... Is not.

I shall refrain from giving a review of your comment, I'm nice like that.

Now... Anything to add to the conversation about MacBook Pro 2018 with touch bar?

Submitted by Dennis Westphal on Monday, June 24, 2019

I am wondering if VoiceOver is reacting faster using the newer Macbook. I currently use a Macbook Air 2015 model and found that VoiceOver seems to "think" a few times before my actions are carried out and VoiceOver announces anything. So it feels like i am constantly wayting for VO to catch up. Is that still the case with the newer Macbooks?

As for religious comments in general: I don't mind them. And yes, everyone has his or her right to believe. And that right is in no way offendet if someone makes fun of religions in general. It takes two to be offendet. The one who offends and the one who gets offendet. So it is a decision if you want to be offendet at last. Trying to censor comments because someone is expressing clearly that he or she does not share the same believes with you is actualy wrong in my opinion.

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