Macbook Pro 2016


I made the decision to move to predominately Apple based platform around 2008. At that stage Mac OS X and iOS had great potential, and Apple was uniquely targeting areas where there was no evidence the other companies would. I assessed there were no downsides, and limited lock in points that were manageable (in that pre-iCloud world). Being able to drop down into a bash shell was great (no cygwin craziness). And free OS upgrades were fantastic and refreshing. You could easily see the TCO equation made sense, even with the higher sticker price of the hardware.

Now, I have always considered myself as a “Pro” user. I code (ranging from large enterprise systems to iOS apps), run VMs, create and edit photos and vector graphics, and occasionally make amateur movies from 4K video.  For this I need a minimum of 16GB and work typically connected to an external monitor (4K now). My Mid-2014 MacBook Pro is still supporting these tasks really well, but is definitely behind the state-of-the-art. The latest Macbook Pro unveiling has addressed a number of items, but has completely missed opportunities and actually regressed in some areas.

The positive items first:
  • Touch ID (awesome but expected… why so long?)
  • smaller size and weight (once again awesome but expected)
  • powering the laptop and driving a 5K monitor all with one cable (awesome)
  • improved graphic processing power (good and expected – this is where my 2014 is noticeably falling behind)
  • USB-C & Thunderbolt 3 (awesome), touch bar (good but yet to be proven)
  • brighter display and wide colour (great), better speakers (awesome but expected), and wider trackpad (good).

OK, all positive things, but 95% of that is “expected”. Just to clarify what I mean by “expected”, these are things that I would expect Apple to enhance (performance/capacity), or items where I know Apple has a solution on another product that makes sense on the Macbook Pro (i.e. Touch ID, keyboard, etc).

Now, for the significant negatives:
  • Price
  • RAM
  • USB-C ramifications and dongle/adapter hell

Price: When I bought my current MacBook Pro (1TB, 16GB RAM) in 2014, it cost me around $3650, and I had to buy a ethernet adapter and a DVI adapter. Today, it will cost $4889, and I have to buy a DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA, SD card, ethernet, and 2 x lightning adapters/dongles! And I always use the extension power lead which apparently doesn’t come in the box anymore which I would also have to purchase. Wow. I would be way over $5000 by the end of that. Now I could justify $4000 but $5000+ is more than a stretch, it is basically drops it out as an option.

RAM:  16GB limit is too low for “pro” users. I don’t think I need to justify this. I understand the limitation might be Intel here (low power RAM only being available in 16GB capacities). Still not good enough.

USB-C: As I point out above, I need to buy and carry 7+ new adapters! This is beyond ridiculous for “pro” users. Then there are the more obvious issues: you cannot connect a iPhone to the Macbook Pro without buying an adapter, and the Apple mouse doesn’t connect either.

An interesting opinion (being discussed around the internet) is that perhaps Apple’s idea of a “pro” user might not match the market. This would go a long way to explain the decisions that led to the design of the new Macbook Pro. However, there are many internal Apple engineers that are pro users, where were their voices in design process? Silent, ignored, or maybe they don’t agree? I guess the price issue isn’t an issue for them, but the RAM and adapters would be.

Another view might be that Apple actually doesn’t want the majority to upgrade to this yet, and it is merely laying the foundations. If early adopters are willing to live with the negatives then let them trail-blaze and by the time the majority of the market (i.e. people like me who are happy with their 2014 edition) really needs to upgrade then a new model will fix the issues or USC-C will be ubiquitous and the price will start coming down again.

I really think they should have changed one of the models to be a bit thicker/heavier (even up to the existing MacBook Pro sizes), include options to max out RAM (64GB or higher), drop the 256GB SSD, leave the SD card, HDMI, and one standard USB port (or even a lightning port for the iphone/headphones). That would have gone a long way to appeasing the “pro” users. One more thing- include a LED to shown power is being supplied (one more removal together with the terrific MagSafe connector).

One other tidbit from the event last Thursday: no more Apple external monitors. Why? End- to-end experience has been key to the Apple position so why the decision to stop making monitors? They have displays in the iMac – why not just offer that screen without the computer? If it is just about money, then that is really disappointing as that is not the position that I think design-oriented consumers expect from Apple.

Final point: Can Apple stop saying at these events “this is the best ‘x’ we have ever made”? It is not objective, and obvious since if they are releasing a new model then they wouldn’t release something was worse than a previous model. Umm… well…