Some Thoughts on the New MacBook Pro

I’ve been working on Mac laptops since the early 2000s. I typically get a new one every 2-3 years. My first one was a G3 clamshell iBook. Since then the hardware and software has evolved steadily, and this week I moved from a MacBook Air to a 3.1 ghz, 512mb MacBook Pro for three reasons.

  1. The screen. Everything else I own has a Retina display. It just looks weird now not to have that kind of resolution on my main machine. I don’t have a desktop or other work computer. I do have an iPhone and iPad.
  2. The form factor. I loved the MacBook Air form factor so much I bought three in a row. The 13 inch shape and weight was perfect. The battery life was superb, also.
  3. The ‘future facing’ structure of the machine. This machine is built for the not too distant future when one or two cables connects us to everything. Most of my stuff is in the cloud these days. I’m not likely to live the dongle life, just by dint of the fact that I don’t have digital cameras or oodles of peripherals. (That said, I did buy this Hyper USB hub to connect to my Apple display. This little yoke has actually simplified matters, not complicated them, because so many cables now go on one side of the machine). That, plus the VGA to USB-C connector I've always used, and I'm all set.

The setup of the machine was a dream. All I needed was my iCloud password, dropbox password, and downloading a few pieces of software (dropbox, R, rStudio, MS Office, Papers, Reeder, Things, MacTex, TexPad, Airmail) and away I went. Safari took me to the last page I visited on the other machine, had all my passwords stored, etc. All my files synced overnight with no wires, etc.

The keyboard is fantastic, I don’t know what people were talking about it being hard to type on it, it works perfectly for me. The screen is simply fantastic. The sound from the speakers is very high quality. This machine is very, very fast. I don’t have a geekbench score or whatever for it, but this is a 3.1ghz i5 versus my previous 1.7ghz i7, and on a simple ‘load the same webpage’ test, the MacBook Pro smokes the MacBook Air.

Rescuetime tells me I typically knock out 8,000 to 12,000 words a week in Microsoft Word and TexPad and average 60 - 80 emails a day in Airmail, so the keyboard is, no pun intended, key for me. In fact the last MacBook Pro I bought had an absolutely terrible keyboard (the 2006 version with the silver keyboard). I tried this keyboard in a local shop and knew it was going to be fine.

They are the same weight, but for some reason the MacBook Pro ‘feels’ heavier than the Air. I have no idea why, it’s just a feeling. I don’t really care all that much about weight but it was interesting to note the comparison.

The touch bar is, as far as I can see, a complete gimmick. I liked the slider thing but haven’t used it much. Perhaps I’ll figure a way to get my head around it. The fingerprint sensor is nice and I can see that helping with security and with endless password requests. If I could have bought a non-touchbar, non-fingerprint machine with the same processor speed and hard drive, that would have worked perfectly for me. As it turned out, this spec isn't that far off the highest spec version of the machine without the bar, and quite a bit faster.

Price. This thing was not cheap. Here's how I thought about it. I'm going to have this machine for 2-3 years, using the machine for work and entertainment. So roughly 6-10 hours per day, for say 2.5 years. That's between 5480 to 9120 hours on one machine. So the cost to me is at maximum €0.47 to €0.26 per hour, foregoing any resale values.

The battery life is something I’ll come back to. Installing loads of stuff and getting things indexed with massive amounts of downloading via dropbox and iCloud is not a brilliant way to gauge battery life, but it only got about 4-5 hours on day 1 yesterday. Thanks to the MacBook Air, I now think in terms of 6 to 8 hours uninterrupted work time as the standard. If this machine doesn’t cut the mustard, I’ll be sending it back before the 30 day window.

So that’s my initial impression of this machine. It’s lovely to work with and I like it a lot, and I think it will make things easier and better to work with.