Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Apple's newest MacBook Pro lineup: what is it?

My eyes have been crossed ever since the Apple announcement last week.  I'm just not sure what the company was trying to accomplish and how they ended up at this point.

The Touch Bar looks like great technology and in the video editing portion of the demonstrations, I was enthusiastic.

However, they removed some products, such as the 11 inch MacBook Air and the 15.4 inch MacBook Pro with only Intel graphics hardware.  At least, I believe that's what they did.  My eyes are still crossed.

I recognize that the MacBook Air has become less popular and they make the MacBook Pro line thinner and the MacBook exists just to draw people closer with its bling-y looks.  Supposedly, my iPhone 7 is faster than the MacBook and MacBook Air.  The MacBook with Intel Core M processors is slow indeed.

US$2399 and $2799 seem about right, but maybe a bit extra.  My mid-2012 refurbished machine came at a slight discount in January 2013.  It's difficult to believe that someone would pay $1999 for a MacBook Pro with Intel Iris Pro graphics hardware but there is one in the refurbished list for $300 off at $1699.  I'm thinking that they were introduced at $1499.  Then again, I remember paying for a Wall Street-era Apple laptop computer with passive display for $2600 something around 1998, and that was the cheap 233 MHz model.

It still feels as though the changes in specification aren't enough.  However, I remember when 66 MHz or 133 MHz seemed as big a change as we were getting when Motorola couldn't enhance the PowerPC G3 or G4 further.  Intel is mostly at that point now.

The updated Radeon graphics hardware is appreciated in the higher level machines.  Switching to USB C for everything makes sense.  Leaving the headphone jack does not.  Where are the Lightning connectors, so I can use my ear buds, etc.?  Does the new iPhone come with a USB C adapter?  No.

If I had the $2399 to spend easily, would I replace my current machine with the newest one?

Update 2016.11.04: A lot of people are complaining that the RAM is limited to 16 GB.  One person wrote Phil Schiller who replied that the current technology is such that more RAM would diminish battery life.  It seems that Intel isn't very good at designing processors--or this is a situation of planned obsolescence.

Others are complaining about the ports.  I'm finding it interesting to require a dock or a lot of cables to convert to the proper connector.

Further, a company called Plugable has noticed that their products are not compatible with Thunderbolt 3 in the new computers, because they use a Texas Instruments controller.  This isn't the first time I've heard of TI doing a half-ass job but it certainly is a problem that will be rectified with new controllers from the company.

I'm just not sure these new machines are compelling enough, especially for the wait.

The Touch Bar is useful.  For all the time that I used a touch screen Windows-based Lenovo Flex 3, I never really found the touch screen completely useful.  The display housing would bounce at my finger pressure, and Lenovo has better hinges than most.  In tablet mode, it could be useful, but who wants a 5 pound, 14 inch tablet?

Microsoft continues to make waves with their Surface lines, but will they actually sell many?  I don't believe so.  For the artist, Wacom has been the name for a very long time.  Of course, that's like saying "No gets fired for buying Microsoft." and things have changed.

For most people, the tablet market is only for replacements now.  I wouldn't expect to see more powerful tablets because of the heat, and the weight for heat dissipation hardware.

If Apple had announced a touch screen-enabled display, I would have expected the MacBook Air and MacBook lines to go away immediately, and a lot of "Macs don't need touch screens" kinds of quotes to be dug up from the past.

So, do you need an updated MacBook Pro that isn't much different?  It may all come down to killer Touch Bar additions.

Thinking back to when I was a IRC channel operator and then, moderator for the world's largest Apple-related forums, I remember people building lists of unachievable things for Apple to do with their next revision of whatever machine was next.  They had to be big and powerful and slim and light--at the same time.  Oh, and they had to all be 12 inch laptop computers, similar to the one IBM Japan made for Apple.

Naturally, almost nothing came true because what they wanted wasn't realistic.  This time, the machines are good and powerful, and didn't have anything that anyone wanted, of course.  I gave up on the forums around 8 years ago (after iPhone arrived), although I made a cameo appearance as an Olympic torch bearer for 24 hours or so.  I didn't understand it, so I can't explain it to you.

Why are brand fanatics so--fanatical?

Update 2016.11.13: Got my hands on the new 13 inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar.

The speakers on each side of the keyboard are, as they say, long overdue.  The track pad is !@#$ huge.  I can only think that the size of the track pad is to overcome the touch screen alternative.  My experience with the capable Lenovo Flex 3 14 inch tells me that touch screen is a good idea but even the best hinges have trouble keeping the display steady when you're poking it.  You can put it into a 14 inch tablet mode, which was seemingly heavy and hot.  The new, huge track pad may be a good idea, even if it looks odd.

I can't say that it is much more powerful.  These days feel like the days when Motorola was lucky to eek out an extra 66 MHz to the clock speed.  For the most part, all of the i5 processors are powerful enough to handle most jobs.  Handling video production is another matter.  My mid-2012 15.4 inch MacBook Pro with 2.6 GHz i7 struggles at times--at 100 degrees C.

I'd be happy to try one of the 15.4 inch models.  Certainly having a newer GPU would improve processing power when working on video.

Update 2016.11.23: Saw the Touch Bar-included MacBook Pro models, 13 and 15.4 inch.

There is a US$900 gap between the two sizes, especially since there is no Intel-only graphics 15.4 inch machine.  It's unfortunate that there is no room for better heat dispersion in the 13 inch model since it's so (increasingly) thin.  I'd be more than happy to have a thicker, small model to fit around US$1799.

The Touch Bar was usable, quick, and easy to understand for the function key replacements.  I suppose I should have tried to see if Final Cut Pro was installed to see the timeline enhancements in the Touch Bar.  Instead, I looked at the US$2399 of the 15.4 inch machine in front of me and considered that my mid-2012 machine was just fine.

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