Weekend woe: Dear Apple, your latest MacBook Pro is pathetic

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy October 29, 2016
My love affair with Apple has that tired feeling of a marriage where one party has taken the other for granted. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the new MacBook Pro, the first real upgrade to that line in three years. underwhelming doesn't come close. It's annoying.

MacBook Pro 2016

Like many of my contemporaries, I've been a fervent user of Apple equipment for a good number of years. We are an Apple only household for everything except phones where Jude is a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge user. I have an iPhone 6S and am jealous of the S7's superior display and battery life.

Regardless, when Apple announced the new line up of MacBooks, I was interested because my MacBook Pro is getting a tad long in the tooth in the sense that its design and specification have not been given a full makeover for at least three years. That was until this week.

Since it's Apple, the media is all over the new line up, but with few exceptions, no-one is offering a critique that helps me as a potential buyer. This has implications for those who have become de facto Apple shops.

I know enough about MacBook Pros (I've had them for over 10 years) to reasonably assess whether a new one is worth the investment from online reviews although I always reserve final judgment until I've had a chance to take a look in  real life. This time around the answer has to be a flat out 'NO!' Why?

There is a reason that Apple uses the word Pro to distinguish the machines I buy. I need them for power hungry applications like video editing which sometimes takes place when on the road. The problem is that over time, Apple hasn't paid enough attention to either the graphics processor or the main CPU so that as video editing and other power hungry apps become more sophisticated, I'm left making a meal or some such while the machine grinds through the cycles it needs to get video edited and processed.

My current machine, while a 2015 model is really a three year old design and the graphics capability is getting long in the tooth.

I also need an ethernet connection rather than solely relying upon WiFi and especially when I'm live streaming or using bandwidth heavy apps like Skype. The new MacBook Pros have dispensed with the ethernet port meaning that if want that capability, I have to buy 'yet another dongle' because the replacement ports are all the latest version of Thunderbolt 3. She same goes for connecting my now discontinued 27 inch Apple display, 'ordinary' USB ports for external storage and SD card reader. Oh yes - I need yet another cable to connect my iPhone to the computer should I wish to sync the devices.

And what are they going to do about the Magic Keyboard? The new MacBook Pro dispenses with the Esc key which I use quite often but it is on the separate keyboard. What's the story there?

By my reckoning. IF I was to buy a new MacBook Pro, I'll likely need to add about $200 for the extra dongles I need JUST to hook up existing and needed peripherals. Another reviewer thinks it runs $250 for new dongles.

I would likely be OK with that if it wasn't for the fact that as I spec the machine I'd likely get to replace existing, the chances are I'm looking at the thick end of $3,000 plus tax. That's ridiculous.

I'm well aware that Apple machines have always been something of a premium product and  in the past I've been able to hand older machines down to members of the family, but is a replacement MacBook Pro really worth that amount today?

Apple will argue that they've modernized many parts of the machine that are important to me and have included a Touch Bar (which I can never see me using.) All of that is true but they've taken away so much, including the genius MagSafe power cable that has saved me from crashing my machine on the floor more times than I care to think about.

I have to believe that Apple's designers tried hard to find the right combination of specification and connectivity while at the same time minimizing weight (the latest versions are a good half pound lighter than existing) but that is in no way compensated by the fact I have to acquire a shit load of dongles that you can bet your sweet life are going to need their own bag to ensure none of them get lost on the road.  And I now have to take extra, extra care with the machine itself.

In short, Apple has screwed the pooch and failed me as a long term customer. As I read here by Trent Lapinski, others feel the same. More to the point, it has that feel of a long term marriage that has descended into complacency on one side.

What will I do next? I almost never buy a replacement until I've seen a fresh iteration of a new line so I am guessing that I'm not going to be in the market for a good 6-9 months and probably a year. Unless of course my MacBook Pro dies on me - and that's happened twice in the past. Even so, I now have to reconsider how I use all my devices more carefully. So for example, my iPad mini is really just a controller for my video recording and streaming rig. I can always replace that easily enough.

It seems clear that Apple has decided to get out of the display market following the withdrawal of the separately sold monitors. That's a loss but one I can live with for the time being. I really don't need twin monitors unless I am video editing and then I still have the 15 inch laptop screen for stuff other than the video editor which appears on the 27 inch screen.

A number of commenters are suggesting that Microsoft is now looking a lot more attractive with its line up of Surface machines. The Surface Studio certainly looks gorgeous and while eye wateringly expensive at the top end at $4,200, I could be tempted given the cost of replacing a MacBook Pro, dongles and a 5K screen. Colleagues report excellent usability from the Surface Pro line but that's not an option for me except when I am not filming. The Surface Book certainly looks good but it is only a 13 inch screen and that's no good for me if I am editing video on the road.

Does that mean I am stuck? Possibly not. Casting around, solid alternatives are readily available, albeit not as cool as Apple - at least on the outside. The Dell Precision range could fill the spot and, when configured, provide more power and at an equivalent or slightly better price point than the 2016 MacBook Pro. I'd have to replace the desk side screen but then I've had good experience with Dell screens in the past.

Regardless, I'm left with a conundrum. I'd prefer to keep with Apple kit because everything works together without problem when I need it to. But then given I am already thinking of walking away from Apple when I replace my phone then make now is the time to be rethinking my whole device /equipment needs.

But then I also have a feeling the latest MacBook Pro will prove something of a dud in the same way that the Apple Watch didn't live up to expectations. Some Silicon Valley fanboys and girls will no doubt find a way to love the new stuff, at least for the time being  and until they get fed up having to look down at the touch bar rather than concentrating upon what's on the screen.

Putting aside my own annoyance for a moment, I wonder what this means for those businesses that have become de facto Apple shops or which operate a BYOD policy that includes MacBook Pros. If others are like me then IT departments are going to have a whole new set of problems around security and governance.

There is a perverse silver lining to all this. Because of the way Apple has priced the latest line up and repriced in the UK, which means anywhere between £300-500 price increases courtesy of Brexit, my 'old' equipment is now much more valuable if I sell it in the UK on my way to a replacement.  Who knows, I may yet come out of this clean. ;)

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