Apple revealed its refresh of the MacBook lineup in Cupertino last night and there are a few features that must have taken oodles of courage to commit to.
The first is the removal of all legacy ports. The MacBook Pro 13inch will house two USB Type C ports, or four Thunderbolt 3 ports if you opt for the model with the Touch Bar. The 15inch model only comes with the Touch Bar and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. What’s important to note here is that the the 13inch model without a Touch Bar won’t have support for Thunderbolt 3 despite the ports being physically identical.
Sadly, Apple didn’t seem to have the courage to remove the 3.5mm jack in any of these notebooks. Oops, did I say sadly? I meant thankfully.
You get USB Type C or Thunderbolt, that’s it
This slaying of ports started last year when Apple introduced a 12inch MacBook with a solitary USB Type C port and a headphone jack. Thankfully the MacBook Pro was left alone and power users still had access to an SD card reader, and HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports and two Thunderbolt 2 ports (though I’ve never met a person who used that standard regularly) to connect their peripherals.
Now however, if you’re a photographer using the latest MacBook Pro you’ll have to bring your external card reader with you if you want to be able to edit photos on site. If you happen to be at a conference and need to plug your MacBook Pro into a projector you better hope that you brought your HDMI to Thunderbolt turnaround with you.
One last thing on the ports, Apple has removed MagSafe. That useful feature in MacBooks that would prevent your MacBook from meeting the ground when you tripped over the cable, it’s gone.
Before I get swept away let’s talk about the other features Apple thinks you no longer need, like physical keys.
The function row of keys on two of the new Macbook Pros has been replaced by the Touch Bar. This is a tiny little touchscreen that displays functions such as the “Esc” key, shortcuts for Siri, shortcuts for volume and screen brightness. The “cool” thing about this second screen is that it can be used to display useful information such as being able to scrub through a video or browse through photos without bringing controls onto the display.
The controls you’ll see in the Touch Bar are app specific so developers can use the space to display useful information, so long as they adhere to Apple’s strict guidelines such as to avoid using the Touch Bar for functions such as copying or pasting or using the Touch Bar as an extension of the keyboard and not the display. The bar in the 15inch and 13inch models will also have TouchID so you can log into your notebook with a finger.
Minor upgrades inside
Through all of this the inside the MacBook, the bits that make it worth upgrading, leave much to be desired.
|MacBook Pro 13inch||MacBook Pro 13inch with Touch Bar||MacBook Pro 15inch with Touch Bar and TouchID|
|Processor||Intel Core i5 @2GHz (3.1GHz Turbo)||Intel Core i5 @2.9GHz (3.3GHz Turbo)||Intel Core i7 2.6GHz (3.5GHz Turbo)|
|Memory||8GB (1866MHz)||8GB (2133MHz)||16GB (2133MHz)|
|Storage||256GB SSD||256GB SSD||256GB SSD / 512GB SSD|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Graphics 540||Intel Iris Graphics 550||Radeon Pro 450 2GB|
The processor speed and speed of the memory have been bumped up and the Radeon R9 M370X has been swapped out in the big 15inch model but aside from that you’re still getting a Skylake CPU (despite the fact that Kaby Lake is out and offers several improvements over last year’s tech) and SSD storage.
But you have all those Type C/Thunderbolt connectors and a fancy new bar display so who cares right? I care, and so should anybody that feels adding fluff without notable hardware improvement to a notebook doesn’t constitute a need to upgrade.
Apple claims its new MacBook will last 10 hours on a charge. A pathetic improvement on the 9 hours claimed in the previous MacBook.
Despite my animosity towards Apple’s bizarre design choices, there is no doubt in my mind that this notebook will sell. Sure, its pricey with the 13inch starting at $1 499 (~R20 800) and the 15inch starting at $2 399 (~R33 289) and the hardware upgrades leave much to be desired but it does look good.
The question I have however is how long it will take for hardcore MacBook Pro users to realise that Apple doesn’t have their needs top of mind and the firm seems more interested in selling them a dongle to connect a notebook to an external display than it does in helping to make your life easier.
Courage folks, it takes courage to stand up and say no, give me back my HDMI port.