Having owned both a MacBook Pro 15″ Retina and a new MacBook, it is crystal clear to me that the new MacBook Pro descends straight from the MacBook and is not (just) an updated version of last year’s MacBook Pro.
The MacBook was the most extreme Macintosh laptop since the introduction of the original MacBook Air; not the reasonably priced and still vastly popular one, but the amazingly expensive and very, very slow 2008 MacBook Air.
The MacBook is supremely opinionated. Something that Apple, for better and often for worse, is great at. Everything was sacrificed for thinness and weight: A single USB-C port that is also used for charging; a keyboard with almost zero key travel; a touchpad that does not move.
Sure the MacBook takes some getting used to. At first, the keyboard is awkward and the touch pad is a little “weird”. Things don’t run as quickly as you’re used to.. then you get used to it and discover the Zen factor: Hush. It’s completely quiet.
After a while, even as a confirmed mechanical keyboard fanatic, I started appreciating the crispness of the keyboard. After less than a year, I started hating the mushy keys on my 2012 MacBook Pro 15″ so much that I started praying for a MacBook Pro with a new style keyboard. The old moving MacBook Pro touchpad feels equally antiquated.
As a fan of wired mice, at first I carried around a USB 3 dock to plug my mouse into, but soon the mouse and the dock stayed in the bag. It’s the convenience dummy. It was annoying having to buy a USB-C to Thunderbolt cable, but hey.. it’s hardly the end of the world.
From the perspective of somebody who has grown to appreciate the MacBook over the past year, the 2016 MacBook Pro looks very different.
The new MacBook Pro is a much faster machine than the MacBook, but keeps many of the attributes that made me fall in love with the later. The keyboard allegedly retains the crisp feel of the MacBook but is somewhat less extreme. The trackpad is huge but also does not move. The 15″ version features no less than 4 ports supporting 4 external displays (or 2 at 5K: a laptop first) and are faster than the built-in SSD. Said SSD might well be the fastest ever to be put into a stock laptop.
I have always found it hard to develop on a laptop, but the portability of the MacBook invisibly changed my habits. The MacBook is underpowered for serious development and the screen is too small for comfort, especially if you are used to multi-screen development setups.. and yet, convenience wins out and today I’m doing most of my exploratory development on the tiny MacBook.
Sure, the 2016 MacBook Pro 15″ is not going to be as portable as the MacBook, but it’s going to be much more so than the old model. On paper, the weight and the bulk savings may not amount to much, but as so often with Apple products, they tend to be more than the sum of their parts.
Many people are upset about the specs. There are faster laptops, with more RAM and with higher resolution screens out there. I don’t know whether it matters.
Intel is the limiting factor. Gone are the days when every two years CPU speeds doubled. Today’s gains are much more modest. We are also already at a point where most current computer models are simply fast enough, even for professional use. Not that I don’t want the fastest CPU out there. In reality, however, even the most power hungry professionals can’t really tell the difference between a Skylake and a Kaby Lake CPU.
Designing the ultimate laptop is no longer a matter of simply putting all the latest and most powerful components into a chassis. With the possible exception of die hard gamers, nobody wants a two inch thick 17″ laptop that sounds like a leaf blower. That does not mean that I’m opposed to Apple making such a machine for those who long for it; but it’s not the machine that I would buy.
I, personally, am looking forward to taking delivery of my 15″ MacBook Pro in the coming weeks and I fully expect it to be a great machine. Shame it couldn’t be thinner and lighter and fan-less (yet).