I am really excited about the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. I placed my order for a 15-inch model with storage upgraded to 1TB SSD on day one which puts me in the initial 2-3 week shipping range between November 17 and November 25. I seriously cannot wait to unbox this Mac.
The time between the unveiling and deliveries, however, has been filled with mass criticism targeted at nearly every change Apple has made between the last MacBook Pro design and the new one. This is a change MacBook Pro and we’ve been through these before. We’ll be fine. But in the meantime, I believe people are complaining about the wrong things.
Remember the last change to the MacBook Pro? It dropped the SuperDrive, Ethernet port, Firewire port, dedicated audio line out jack, and Kensington lock slot, but not without a fair amount of criticism from Pro users. It’s that machine that a very vocal crowd is clinging to four years later.
I’ve generally disagreed with much of the criticism flooding the new MacBook Pro so far. My colleague Ben Lovejoy has his own take on what’s been going on, and I think it varies for everyone, but I really like the direction of the new MacBook Pro and seriously question what some suggest Apple should have done.
For example, MagSafe being replaced with USB-C. Sure, there are trade offs, but the charging situation on the new MacBook Pro is way better overall. MagSafe was a single port dedicated to nothing but charging. The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has four USB-C ports, two on either side, all capable of being a charging port.
Being able to choose between the right or left port may mean the difference in putting tension on the charging cable or not. You have up to four data ports at any given time which takes up the same amount of space as three data ports and one charging port when using MagSafe.
The benefit of MagSafe is that it handles accidental tension more gracefully than traditional connectors. Steve Jobs pitched the magnetic connector that way in 2006 and I’m sure it’s saved a lot of MacBooks in the last 10 years, but (honestly!) I can’t recall my charger ever being tugged by mistake and MagSafe saving it.
MagSafe was 10 years old and physically changed enough to require an adapter during its run. It was a novel connector before USB-C became the new default port, but it wasn’t perfect. Just imagine if Apple removed a data port that can also charge your MacBook for a charging port that happens to be magnetic… this is a step forward.
The other benefit of having a connector like USB-C (which will be adopted by PC makers too) as the charging port is that one cable from an external display can provide power and data transfer to the MacBook. My colleague Jeff Benjamin has employed this single cable solution with his 12-inch MacBook and an external display.
Compare this scenario to the now discontinued Thunderbolt Display. It connected over Thunderbolt for video and data transfer, and a MagSafe cable powered connected MacBooks. When Apple changed to MagSafe 2, Apple had to throw a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter in the box.
Connector aside, Apple has also moved to a brick style for MacBook Pros that we’ve seen for years with iPhones and iPads. You get a charging cable and a wall adapter that are two separate pieces. I’m not joking when I say this has real world benefits for me. I’ve replaced way too many MagSafe chargers because the wire went bad even though the brick was fine.
You do miss out on the flip-out wings that MagSafe bricks had for cable management. It was a very Apple design. But my experience in college was seeing people either have no clue what the wings were for or wrap around them without giving it slack. I wouldn’t be surprised if this strain is the number one reason MagSafe adapters had to be replaced.
The last MagSafe gripe I’ve seen is Apple not including the Power Adapter Extension Cable in the box. Without using the extension cable, you’ll see about eight inches more length from the 2m USB-C cable than what MagSafe offered (78-inches versus 70-inches). If you need the other 70-inches offered by the extension cable, you can buy it separately for $19 (or look in my closet because I’ve collected about a dozen of these over the years).
Replacing USB-A (and all the other ports) with USB-C is also dramatic for people. But it’s clearly the future and so much better than what we’ve been used to before now. Embrace USB-C as fast as possible. Don’t bother with adapters except when you have to, replace your cables instead.
It’s goofy that the iPhone currently ships with USB-A and new Macs ship with USB-C, but that’ll surely be sorted out next year. The idea of releasing a MacBook Pro with both USB-C and USB-A was never a possibility though.
I’m buying my MacBook Pro to last the next four or five years at least. I don’t see USB-A lingering around that long so I’d end up with two dead ports or using USB-A to USB-C adapters. Take a moment to moan and sigh then embrace the future because we’re there now. USB-C has been ready but the superior connector won’t go mainstream until Apple’s mainstream laptop relies on it.
Complaining about the price is fair. These new MacBooks created a higher tier in the lineup rather than replacing the MacBooks that came before them, but prices will normalize over time. This is what happens.
I would also prefer the SD card slot to that headphone jack (especially if you’re a photographer who embraces wireless headphones), but Apple made a different decision there.
When the Touch Bar versions of the new MacBooks start shipping, I think a lot of the criticism will die down really fast. People will love these new MacBook Pros, and they’re already being sold at a record rate.
I do have my own complaints about the current lineup of MacBook Pros, but they’re not about the direction of the MacBook Pro really.
I’m genuinely curious why the MacBook Pro label returned to the display bezel after moving to the bottom of the notebook on the previous model. Samsung puts their branding in your face, but iPhones keep their branding away from the display. The last MacBook Pro design was more tasteful here.
I’m also disappointed that we didn’t see a matte black version that matches the matte black iPhone 7. I think it’s a much better color than space gray which seems like it’s on its way out, and you just know future MacBook Pros will be sold in black, right? There’s also no gold or rose gold which I’ve seen some people disappointed over; I’m sure this has more to do with what colors sell more but too bad.
I was also hoping to see voice-activated ‘Hey Siri’ introduced on new MacBook Pros. I think this approach to Siri on the Mac could be very useful, but clearly Apple disagrees. My hope was we’d see a new chip in the MacBook Pro that powered Hey Siri, and we did see a new T1 chip for Touch ID and the new Touch Bar but no Hey Siri. Hopefully Apple reconsiders in the future as other devices that rely on battery for power handle it just fine.
At any rate, I think a lot of this MacBook Pro criticism is severely shortsighted and will pass in a short amount of time — especially when these new models start shipping in a few weeks. I, for one, just can’t wait.
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