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Is the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar just a gimmick?

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern weighs in on Too Embarrassed to Ask.

Apple Holds Event To Announce New Products Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Apple is getting ready to launch its long-awaited refresh of the MacBook Pro, and there are two big changes in store, other than (of course) thinner hardware.

One of those changes is, on two out of the three new laptops, a touch-enabled strip above the keyboard called the Touch Bar. On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Wall Street Journal columnist Joanna Stern debated how important the Touch Bar is with Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode.

“I wrote in my hands-on piece from the event that it did feel like a gimmick, that the only thing that was really splashy that Apple could talk about was this cool touch strip,” Stern said. “If it [the MacBook] didn’t have that, I’m not sure it would have really held an event.”

The other big change to the MacBook Pros: Their prices. Specifically, they’re higher.

“This is a lot of money to spend on a laptop,” Stern said of the new models, whose starting prices range from $1,500 to $2,400. “Sure, we don’t buy laptops as frequently as we used to, so maybe you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to make this investment in that.’ But there are plenty of good Windows laptops with better specs, frankly, and touchscreens, that cost half the price.”

On the new podcast, the trio also talked about Microsoft’s new hardware, including the Surface Studio desktop computer and the new Surface Books. And a big topic of discussion was Apple’s removal of standard USB ports from its computers, which raises the need for dongles.

“How many dongles will we need?” one listener wrote in.

“All the dongles,” she said. “You can get what I call ‘super dongles.’ That is a word that I got in the Wall Street Journal, a very proud moment for me.”

Have questions about Apple and Microsoft’s new hardware that we didn’t get to in this episode? Or have another tech topic on your mind? You can tweet any questions, comments and complaints to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed. You can also email your questions to, in case Twitter isn’t your thing.

Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic.

You can listen to Too Embarrassed to Ask in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
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If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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