Let’s talk about the new Apple MacBook Pro w/ Touchbar

* image courtesy of iDownloadBlog

“A touch of genius”, they say. “Courage to move forward”, they say. “Revolutionary”, they also say.

I agree, aesthetically, this is an astonishingly beautiful machine – well-built, handsome, versatile, carefully finished with its perfect edges where it should be sharp, and smooth curves where it shouldn’t. I have to say, it is THE most beautiful and eye-catching laptop on the market right now. There really hasn’t been anything before that caught my eyes so quickly, the iPhone 5s came close, but this is much more grand and significant. When you pick it up, there’s no flexing of the base, and of course, no squeaking noise coming from anywhere, unlike its rivals, more specifically the Dell XPS, the Microsoft Surface Book, and other well-made plastic or badly-made aluminium laptops. Something about the MacBook Pro, is just a little better defined somehow. It gives you the feeling that it’s sturdy, but not chunky. It’s a fine-line to walk on, and Apple has hit the nail on the head perfectly.

On the back of the screen, there, with certainty, is the iconic Apple logo. Unlike the Apple logos in all but one model (the 12″ MacBook) of the MacBook series previously, this one is shiny, and doesn’t light up. Perhaps Apple has got sick of seeing the logo shine, and on that front, I also think it’s time to change the appearance of the logo on the back. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the logo on the back of my retina MacBook Pro light up before the screen is fully open, and slowly dim down with the screen closing. It’s just that it’s been used for millions of years by Apple, that a change can be good once in a while. When you tilt the laptop sideways, you start to appreciate how unbelievably thin this thing is.

* image courtesy of TechnoBuffalo

With no MagSafe or Thunderbolt connectors taking up the height, replaced by the minimalist USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 connectors, the thinness of the machine is even more amplified. Turning to the other side, you find two more simple connectors, and a 3.5mm headphone jack (*ahem* iPhone 7). That’s really it. That’s the entire range of physical input/output for the machine. Astonishing isn’t it? A few years back, professional-grade laptops had all the ports you can possibly need – Ethernet, FireWire, MagSafe, Headphone, Microphone, SD Slot, USB, VGA, HDMI, eSATA, and other proprietary expansion slots. Now Apple’s minimised everything down to 2.

And that’s pretty much all that I can think of to say about the closed laptop. To be honest, without much attention, it can be mistaken for an earlier year model MacBook Pro (the only difference being the ports and the logo of course, and the colour!). When you open up the laptop screen, that’s a completely different story. The first thing you notice is the enormous track pad. I mean, ENORMOUS. It’s almost as large as my iPhone. It takes up almost a quarter of the entire base of the laptop. It is huge. I don’t think I can effectively convey how massive it is in words, you really need to see one to believe one. Then you move slightly upwards, and see the Touch Bar. In matte black, it looks strangely satisfying. With the machine turned on, it becomes really eye-wateringly beautiful. The contrast and brightness of the display underneath is spot-on, and it reacts to your touch without you realising the delay. It is very much an Apple-style execution of an Apple-style design. Also on the far right, there’s a Touch ID sensor which also acts as the power button.

* image courtesy of Apple

Fondling with the Touch Bar, you can’t help but type something too. That’s when you realise something’s off. The keys on this laptop look as if they were painted on. Apple is calling this the second generation butterfly mechanism. Coming from mainly using mechanical keyboard and the excellent keyboard on the old MacBook Pro, it takes some serious efforts to get used to this one. There is a distinctive click when a key’s been activated, but the travels of the keys are kept minimal. I have to admit, this is a feat of a design, it’s one that I respect, but not one that I like. There’s a saying “Don’t fix what isn’t broken”, and I like that philosophy very much indeed. There’s nothing wrong with the current generation of the MacBook Pro keyboards, in fact, they are one of the best that’s out there today. The only goal that Apple achieved from replacing the keyboard is so that the laptop can be just that tiny little bit thinner.

You can’t talk about the new MacBook Pro without talking about its even brighter, even more colour-accurate IPS display. I’ll just briefly gloss over it – it’s fantastic!

So is there something that I don’t like about this new laptop? Well put your seatbelt on, this is going to be violent. First of all, I think it costs way too much. The base 13″ model with its puny little i5, integrated graphics and 8GB LDDR3 RAM, costs A$2,699, and ramps up to a dream-shattering A$4,249 for the top-of-the-line 15″ model. In my mind, it’s ludicrous. A laptop this expensive should have its own anti-gravity field, invisibility cloak, and be able to travel to the future. This, can do none of those.

Then it’s the IO. When has someone ever said “Argh I think my laptop has too many kinds of ports!”. I bet extremely infrequently, if ever. The list of devices that can directly plug into Thunderbolt 3 is virtually non-existent at this stage, and the dongles for the most basic things like a USB port, or a SD card slot sell for a billion dollars from Apple. The only useful thing that I can think of, is that I can charge the laptop from a regular power bank, albeit very slowly. A time will perhaps come, when everyone moves to a USB-C world, but it hasn’t yet. Apple wanting me to pay a premium for things that will probably happen is like the make-up shops asking my 20-year-old ex-girlfriend to buy anti-wrinkle face creams which, if applied daily, she won’t get any wrinkles when she’s 50. Writing this, I remembered that when the first retina MacBook Pro came out in 2012, I ranted about how stupid a laptop is without an ethernet jack or upgradeable memory, yet I still bought one, and am using it to write this review.

“Ahh, see, you got used to it. You caught up with the trend.” you might say. No – I compromised. If there’s a laptop as good as this with upgradeable memory and an ethernet jack, I wouldn’t think twice before buying that laptop instead of this. Apple is monopolising the market with their own eco-system of macOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and whateverOS they come up with next. Nobody else comes close to the build quality and fit-and-finish of the Apple products. Perhaps this is why a lot of people dislike Apple – it’s too much.

Would I buy one of these beautiful laptops? Probably not. I will wait for the next generation, not because I think the next generation will fit my requirements perfectly, but because I think by the next generation, the accessory market would have caught up a little bit for it to be actually useable. Overall, I believe this laptop is revolutionary, it truly is. I, on the other hand, am not ready for the revolution just yet. There will be people who spend tens of thousands of dollars buying USB-C SSD’s, USB-C memory sticks, USB-C monitors, and the like, but I like to work with my current setup, which doesn’t involve the use of USB-C whatsoever.

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