Thoughts on the new MacBook(s)

March 16, 2015

You may know that it’s early 2015 and I’m still rocking a mid-2010 MacBook Pro. It’s the longest I’ve ever owned a computer and, to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it. I was eagerly awaiting Apple’s event last week, anticipating some badass MacBook updates. I was a little disappointed.

For me, the archetypal MacBook Pro is the ideal machine—a perfect mixture of power and portability—and with that in mind, I’m not especially drawn to the new MacBook. For one, the scarcity of ports (an intentional design decision meant to force portability on the user) means this computer is not likely to be used in a desktop-style setting. And indeed, the machine is so thin that its working innards are relatively weak by necessity; RAM tops out at a disappointing 8 GB, and the processing power is slower than even the baseline MacBook Air.

All of this might seem like a distraction in the direction of metric-chasing; no one needs crazy fast processing power, graphics, and RAM, right?

But on that same note, no one needs 13.1 mm thin computers either. The pursuit of portability has to eventually reach a point of diminishing returns—this notebook can only get so thin before I just don’t need that anymore. The thinner and lighter notebooks get, the less space there is for working parts, and more space needs to be filled with extra battery to make the damn thing usable. The same phenomenon is happening with the iPhone. I’ve long said: I’ll gladly take something that’s 5 mm thicker and equal parts faster and with longer battery life.

As Gabe said in his article “Considering MacBooks”:

I think Apple continues to draw a heavy line between adolescent and adult computing. The MacBook line is for college students and the MacBook Pro line is for people that make a living with their computers.

I myself am a college student, but am also an “adult computer” user—I want power, speed, and possibilities. Last week’s updates to the MacBook Pro line were indeed “modest”, if not “half-assed.” I’m not eager to upgrade my computer given Apple’s latest advancements. Their focus on portability and other silly features (Force Touch?) have neglected the other spectrum of MacBook power users who want massive speed and battery. (I’m not even talking about the Thunderbolt vs. USB-C fiasco. Make up your minds, for our sake.)

If, for every innovation in portability, Apple made an equal and opposite innovation in portable power, I’d be sold on a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. But that just doesn’t seem to be the direction Apple is interested in going, and I’m not enthused about that.