(Note that whatever is being said here is solely my opinion, and does not reflect on whether the actual product is objectively good or not, so don’t get your panties in a bunch.)
So, Apple has launched the new 2016 MacBook Pro. Many MacBook Pro users have been waiting for this, as it has been quite a while since the last significant refresh had launched and were eagerly awaiting for Apple’s shiny new pro machine. Only, it wasn’t. What came out was a laptop that was a “Pro” in name and general hardware, but became a general laptop everywhere else.
Before we dive in, let’s see what has changed in the new MacBook Pros.
WHAT HAS CHANGED
- OLED Touch Bar – Replaces the function keys on the upper-tier 13-inch and all 15-inch models. A touch-sensitive panel that changes based on the application that is open. There’s also the TouchID fingerprint sensor on the side.
- Display – Now supports a wider color gamut, is brighter and has a better contrast ratio.
- Chassis – Is now up to 17% thinner than before, with a new Butterfly Keyboard and a larger trackpad.
- Hardware – A more powerful GPU is added, along with faster I/O
- Port selection – There are now only 4 USB-C ports on the new MacBook Pro, all of which are Thunderbolt 3 capable, along with a headphone jack
OKAY. SO WHAT’S WRONG?
Yes, I said it. It’s the ports that are the issue. Sure, there are some others, like how it didn’t have to be thinner, or whether the Touch Bar is implemented well or how it has a significant price hike now, but the ports are the main issue for this.
The last MacBook Pro featured the following ports;
- MagSafe charging port
- 2 Thunderbolt ports
- 2 USB-A 3.0 ports
- An HDMI port
- A 3.5mm headphone jack
- An SDXC card slot
All but the jack have been thrown out the door with the current model, replacing them all with 4 Thunderbolt 3-capable USB-C ports. On its own, maybe that’s not so bad, and Apple is known for killing off standards deemed to be old, but in this case, it’s not really that simple.
OKAY, WHY IS IT NOT THAT SIMPLE?
In the past, Apple has killed off technologies deemed to be old and outdated, such as the floppy drive, and eventually the CD drive and FireWire. But by the time Apple drew first blood, their successors (CD for the floppy drive, cloud storage and USB flashdrives for the CD and floppy drive, USB for FireWire) were already far into the maturity stage and have almost become ubiquitous. In contrast, Apple’s decision to kill off USB-A and others at this stage is just too early. USB-C has only just recently started to see wider adoption with more devices adopting the new port design, notably smartphones but several laptops also have them (albeit as a secondary). However, the adoption rate for USB-C is still quite low right now, and still way too low to justify going all-in with USB-C at this stage in the game.
In order to keep using your current peripherals, you will have to consider adapters, which in the case of the MacBook Pro, can amount to a pretty ridiculous cost in total.
Let’s not forget that since the iPhone does not have a Lightning-to-USB-C cable included, that would mean that the iPhone would not work with the MacBook Pro out-of-the-box. Furthermore, the included Lightning EarPods with the iPhone 7 would also not work with the new laptop because it does not have a Lighting port, and Apple does not sell a 3.5mm-t0-Lightning adapter designed to make Lightning headphones work with 3.5mm jacks. It’s gotten ridiculous to the point where Android phones like the Nexus 6P and Google Pixels work better with Apple’s shiny new laptop out-of-the-box than Apple’s own phone. This is something Steve Jobs would have thrown out of the door almost immediately.
SO, HAS APPLE GONE TOO FAR?
Honestly, I’m inclined to go with “Yes” on this one. I had my concerns when the iPhone 7 made its debut without a headphone jack, with Apple declaring it to be a “courageous” move to kill it off. Seeing a similar ethos with the MacBook Pros solidifed my fears; That the designers are in control of the decision-making process within the company.
The current MacBook Pro is a far-cry from the earlier MacBook Pros that were popular with power-users who use one due to its sheer power and expandability along with professional users who found its display to be just perfect for creative tasks, where a well-calibrated, accurate display is paramount. While the power and display aspects of the MacBook Pro remain, the lack of expandability, emphasis on making it thinner yet again and now the port-selection has pretty much neutered it into a consumer-facing laptop. As a user who uses almost every single port on his laptop, this is a huge disappointment.
Apple needs to take a step back from being too obsessed over style and thinness in order to get in touch with reality. Killing off old standards is well and good but you have to do so at the right time in the right way. With the MacBook Pro, they haven’t. They killed it off way too early and they haven’t even bothered to supply a $1500 laptop with a $19 adapter to at least ease the pain. Apple is out-of-touch right now, and I seriously hope that the 2017 massive iPhone refresh could at least alleviate many of my concerns and give me hope in Apple’s future direction.
But to end on a happier note, whatever I say does not mean that the MBP is a bad laptop. It’s a solid laptop that’s plenty powerful for a lot of tasks, has a great display and some cool additions. On its own, it’s a fine machine. I just wish it had better decisions behind it.