MacBook Pro? No

Let me count the way my latest MacBook Pro is not suitable for professional use, but before I do that, you should know that I’ve been buying and recommending Macs since 2001. I’ve spent a fortune on them. I love them, but I only like my latest MacBook Pro (a 2016 model with the Radeon Pro 460). I write this with a heavy heart and a malfunctioning keyboard.  This is a story about unrequited hardware love.

Typing

The keyboard on my MBP has begun to fail, with the ‘b’ key sometimes giving me doubled characters and sometimes none.

The cursor keys are in that awful cluster configuration where the up and down arrow keys, the ones I use the most, have half the space they should have and consequently make it next to impossible to navigate using them. Not so much cluster as clusterfuck.

They also feel different to the other keys, less responsive, if that were possible.

This £2800 laptop has a distinctly unprofessional keyboard. It’s not a whole lot better than the membrane keyboard on the first computer I owned, the Atari 400 back in 1982. I wouldn’t be surprised if the travel was shorter than that on the rubber keyboard of the ZX Spectrum. I don’t mind the feel, but that’s not good enough for a £2800 laptop. I should adore the keyboard. It doesn’t need much more travel, but it does need it. I don’t expect a Matias Tactile Pro, but I could do with a Magic Keyboard and I’ll take the extra thickness in return for a usable primary input method.

Finally, where’s my damned Esc key? I go for that so often, and miss. Putting it on the Touch Bar was a stupid idea.

Touch Bar

Why? The only thing of any use is the TouchID sensor, but you don’t need a whole keyboard-level touch screen for that!

For a touch typist, if you’re going to have a touchable surface, it might as well be the screen. I don’t want to look at the keyboard, ever; I want to look at the screen. Looking down at that pointless strip that offers me no feedback when I interact with it and which has no delineated edges is an extra cognitive burden that I just don’t need and therefore, as a professional, never use, unless I’m forced to. You know that a design has failed when you’re forced into using it. The Touch Bar is Apple’s Clippy. An embarrassment.

Track Pad

It’s too big. I never use all of that space, and I keep accidentally triggering it with my wrists when I don’t want to. Why not give the keyboard some extra height so I can have some proper cursor keys and while you’re at it, make those keys tactile and replaceable? It’s not a Wacom for crying out loud.

Ports

I like USB Type C, I really do, but like many people with a MacBook Pro, I have a camera and like most decent cameras, it has an SD card slot, except that Apple saw fit to remove this slot. Professional photographers have used the MacBook Pro for as long as they’ve been made. Only now, they need an accursed dongle.

I’d understand and forgive this on a lesser machine, like one without the “Pro” moniker, but not having an SD card on this £2800 machine strikes me as totally stupid. Rather than use another expensive adapter, I just use the iMac, which makes that the professional machine, and this one just a designer’s wet dream.

Power supply

I have a professional laptop, but I can’t tell it’s charging unless I open the lid, gain entry and look at the tiny power indicator in the menu bar. Which genius thought this would be a Pro touch? I know it makes a sound when you plug it in; fine, genius, but what if I didn’t hear the sound? How do I tell when it’s fully charged? You took off the MagSafe, which was a genuinely useful innovation and gave us USB C charging — fine, but add a little adapter that has a charge indicator, and yes, if you must, charge for it, though you really shouldn’t if you want to call this a “Pro”.

While we’re on the subject of lights, I miss the glowing Apple logo at the back of the machine. Bring that back please. Why are you cutting costs on a £2800 machine?

Also, why don’t we get a power extension cable like we used to? Don’t know about you, but I find it hard to find power sockets near me all the time and this is just another tight move.

Battery Life

You claim five hours. I can offer you some more realistic benchmarks. Not five. Sometimes not four. It’s a Pro machine, right? Don’t go backwards then. Give me 8 hours or give me death.

Conclusion

If Apple wants to make a MacBook Pro, they should quit with the design fundamentalism on a machine costing £2800 (£2800 is a ton of money for an ordinary laptop, which apart from the display, this is) and quit with what seem like cost-cutting measures in the name of power efficiency. This machine is no doubt powerful. It never struggles with software, everything runs at a decent clip (when the power is plugged in) and it’s stable, but it’s not a Pro machine — just about any decent PC laptop at not much more than half the price of my MacBook Pro will give me “Pro” functionality.

I say make it faster, make the battery bigger, make the laptop slightly thicker, make the keyboard decent (heck just make it like the Magic Keyboard), get rid of the Touch Bar, make the display a 16” 4K HDR OLED, bring back some kind of MagSafe, bring the lit Apple logo back, bring back the SD card slot, add three USB 3 slots, make the trackpad smaller, beef up the GPU so that it can handle VR and games, and make it £4000. I’ll buy it. In the meantime, drop the price on this experiment and stop calling it a Pro. It doesn’t feel any more Pro than the standard MacBook.

37 Replies to “MacBook Pro? No”

  1. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I’m really glad I bought the last of the outgoing old-style MacBook Pros at the start of last year; in some ways they’re less featureful than the hard-drive MBPs they replaced (I had a 500Gb one which was noticeably slowing down, which I believe was the result of MacOS being re-optimised to assume a solid-state drive) but they still have a proper keyboard. The 2nd-gen MagSafe is inferior to the 1st gen, IMHO, which was much more *safe* than this is — it falls out very easily, especially if you have a lap-table with raised sides like a Trabasack (which I have). These new ones are, essentially, souped-up MacBooks, not pro Mac laptops. And I prefer function keys to that silly touch-bar as well.

  2. The Touch Bar would be much improved if it used haptic feedback — virtual buttons having a *feel*, and not activating simply by brushing them.

    My ‘o’ key, left shift, and capslock (which I use for control) are having issues, but I put up with it because having the laptop gone for several days is an issue. If I go on a trip, I’ll take the sacrificial one and bring this one to Apple for repair.

  3. Yep. And no 17-inch model, and no native blu-ray (and now ultra blu-ray) player software.

    I used to buy brand new maxed out MBPs. Now I buy two (or three) year old maxed out MBPs off eBay for half the price.

    Ranting aside, the pro software available for the MBP is an important part of the pro equation. And while the hardware on the MBPs are decidely un-pro, the pro software is perfectly balanced to work with it. And I appreciate that. (Even on my aging 2012 MBP, I get a pro experience when using Final Cut Pro X. And that’s worth a lot.)

  4. Enjoyed the post. I’d add that the MBP without Touch Bar is not a Pro device in any way. Underpowered, but more specifically, the only 2 USB-C ports make it the last machine you want for someone who works in a docking environment. (as many pros do)

  5. I love the flexibility of usb-c/thunderbolt, not the previous proprietary charge cables. Agree about keyboard, but only from a getting stuff stuck under keys. Happy they have removed glowing apple logo (this was no a pro feature, instead spoke to brand show off and immaturity). My battery life on 13″ is fine, same as my old 2015 Pro, SA card isn’t an issue for me, only take occasional photos. I also appreciate that short term dangle hell is a thing, however with one adaptor (usb a/hdmi and usb-c) all is well for my use cases. As to touchbar, I’m loving it! From an archive button in mail, to taking screen shots with visible help/ options, along with touchid that I love.

  6. You might add a native Ethernet port.

    I really feel stupid without one – especially when my wifi modem needs a fix or i need to download big files fast or connect to en ethernet printer on the go.

    Also – as much i like the dedicated graphics card – i also had 2 macbook pros that are just bricks – and to make things worse i can’t even replace them now – they were 17”.

    High DPI is fine and dandy but bigger is still better for professionnal apps. I can’t ever get how Apple got so lame as to NOT offer a premium pro big-screen laptop. Especially as the size could have been smaller.

    So, after making the keyboard too shallow and the trackpad too big i just hope to never see 16/9 layout on the 15 inch that is already too small to my taste – and too thin – i’d go for extra ports and battery life.

  7. Can completely agree with the keyboard. I basically use my MacBook pro as a workstation, plugged into a monitor and usb keyboard as the magic mouse.
    I only need terminals and vms though and vivaldi I suppose

  8. Great article. I agree with you on everything except for the keyboard. I have been using the version without the Touch Bar, and have not had any issues with the keyboard (over a year now). I actually love the feel and travel of the new keyboard. But, I do hate the arrow key orientation. I only wish that Apple would actual listen to pundits like you. Unfortunately, it is rare when Apple admits they were wrong. Oh well, it was a good try. d.

  9. The glowing Apple logo caused some problems where it shone through in certain lighting environments. So probably good that it’s gone.

  10. And the ventilation slots cut under the body right at the sides where I pick up the macbook pro most of the time have already cut my index finger more than once. Very bad design.

  11. Ditto on everything you wrote. I’m now on my THIRD Touchbar MBP since purchasing new in June 2017. Keyboard failed within days of original purchase; machine totally swapped out no questions asked. Keyboard on that model started acting up about a month later but I’ve suffered through because I didn’t want to be without the machine for the week it would take for them to swap out the entire top case (because you can’t JUST replace the keyboard). Finally, when four keys became flakey on a regular basis I said ENOUGH and took it in. My 2016 came back with the 2017 keyboard, and SO FAR it’s still working. (I also now have a silicone keyboard cover on it so NOTHING falls into the keys.)

  12. Good review. My own experience:

    Bought 2016 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and used it for 3 months. Took it back to the store and really whined about the keyboard for all of your reasons. The one that clinched it was missing and corrupted characters.

    They offered me an exchange to the newer 2017 series and I opted for a maxed out 2017 13″ MacBook Pro. Problem solved. The keyboard is much better and everything “just works”.

    YMMV

  13. I have to totally agree.

    I am glad I bought a 2015 refurb.

    When Apple pays for my workflows, they can tell me what hardware to use.

    Oh, and the newest Macbook Pro has the worst keyboard I have ever used.

  14. Well buddy… you needed to write an article for your complaint? Why didn’t you just go and get yourself one of the myriads windows machines on the market? …I am sure you couldn’t fault those!!!??? 😉 )))

    What I really want to know… is how such a insignificant and novice article can make 2nd position on Google News?

  15. Man! I so feel with you, I could have written that article myself if I had not been extremely careful when my trusted Early-2011 MBP died on me 2 months ago. It had loyally served me for almost 7 years, I had expanded its memory to 16GB, its boot disk to a 500GB SSD and it was just screaming away with everything I threw at it. I didn’t want to part with it, for none of the bling the newer models offered. I didn’t like the touchbar of the newer models, I didn’t like the USB-C port, I didn’t like the lack of an SD slot and I hated the oversized touchpad from the sight of it alone. Fortunately I never got to experience the keyboard frustrations that you described as I settled for the last semi-“decent” Pro-moniker-deserving model, a second hand mid-2015 MBP. I do miss the RJ-45 ethernet port and the cd/dvd burner that I had with the Early 2011 model, but I can find ways around that. I’m thankful for the gorgeous retina display (that’s the *only* improvement over my 4 years older previous model), but still furious for discovering too late that the camera is a piece of shit, though I blame myself for not properly researching that topic. Otoh, how am I supposed to expect that a particular feature of a later model is lower quality than in an earlier model?

    Engineering at Apple has taken a backseat in favour of the stage performers, the rock stars, the designers, sad to say.

    It saddens me deeply.

    I used my first Mac in 1985 (after a short stint with a Lisa the year before) and bought my own first in 1987. I’ve never used anything else since then, spent a fortune on them and evangelised the brand to everyone around me. I don’t do that anymore.

    Sic transit gloria mundi.

    Thanks for letting me blow off some steam.

  16. I can only agree with every single point. I too have problems with the keyboard. Duplicate characters or no characters. The number of times I have lost mails by accidentally touching the touch bar esc key. And boy is it noisy.

    Have had top spec MacBook Pros for the last 11 years and this is the first one I regret.

  17. Good article and well said. This is exactly the reason I replaced my (still working fine) Late 2013 MacBook Pro last year – with a Dell XPS 13. Beautiful machine.

    I don’t mind spending $2k on a great MacBook Pro, but the current lineup isn’t it.

  18. Articles similar to this one are why I bought factory refurbished 2015, 15″ Macbook Pro when I couldn’t wait any longer to replace my 2011 Macbook Air.

    In addition to remedies for the deficiencies pointed out, I think it’s time to ditch the metal case for something lighter yet still strong and high tech, maybe carbon nano tubes or some ultra advanced polymer.

  19. 2012 MacBook pro here. My next laptop will probably be a PC. It’s bad enough I need a dongle to attach a monitor- considering HDMI has been around forever now.
    Without USB-B- which I use to connect a host of stuff- including my WIRED real keyboard, my iPhone for charging and backup, my ethernet- for my internal network- a macbook is a dongle hanger- and not much else.
    I shoot video, I shoot photos- I need an SD card slot. I’m a pro.
    And- believe it or not- I still burn files to archive disks- but- I’ll give that up.
    The magsafe power connector has saved my life a million times- well, maybe not a million. Removing that- was stupid.
    I don’t need smaller, thinner lighter- my 13″ is fine- I hook it up to a big monitor most of the time.
    Retina display- haven’t had a need yet- but it would be nice-
    but- you left out the most important thing- while every other manufacturer has a TB drive standard- apple is still gouging for drive space. While 16GB is the minimum for anyone elses pro machine- they are still behind- and gouging.
    They don’t make money on hardware – they make money on users- who buy software through the app store, who are integrated in their eco system.
    Pro- means PRO. Wake up Apple.
    Don’t get me started on the idiot that designed the Apple pencil without an off switch- and with a male lightning plug- where as every charging cable is a MALE plug.

  20. Completely agree.

    My first Mac was a Mac Pro G4. (How that case opened!! Loved it)

    Anyways, I’ve recently swapped to a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. The hardware is amazing. It gives me the feeling the first few iPhones did. You really feel like you got something futuristic.

    However, I hate the software. I hate windows and just can’t get used to it. My work flow on Apple is so much better.

    And that makes me sad, Apple could’ve made a device like the surface but they didn’t. Probally because they were afraid it would eat into their iPad sales.

    *sigh*

  21. Spot on… and sadly every word so true…
    With a late 2010 model starting to fade I bought a brand new, maxed out 13″ Pro in late 2015. It was awesome but word on the street was that a brand new, refreshed Pro was on the way. I opted to return my pro and spent the next year like a dog on heat waiting for the promised messiah.
    I was on holiday when news hit the street amidst all the secrecy that the new Pro had finally launched! It was October and the rumours were true. The new Pro had a touch bar, retina, 16gb of ram and although the processor wasn’t quite what we were hoping for due to manufacturing timing, this was the new Pro! I dropped my bucket and spade, called my hardware manager at Apple and paid a small mortgage.
    When my Pro finally arrived it is fair to say I was underwhelmed. Besides looking – and feeling – like a brick, I had to carry a small pack for the myriad cables I had ordered in a frenzy of blind excitement.
    The new keyboard felt strange but I had heard good things about the MacBook with the same keyboard. But my Pro kept freezing. And switching off. And becoming unresponsive…
    For three months I had to keep reinstalling. When in blind faith – in Apple we trust! – I suspected I might just have the lone bad Apple (pun intended), I asked if, being within the two week window I might simply be given a replacement I was told that I was outside that window since Apple count from the time they dispatch. From the US. To London. Three weeks. Smart eh?
    So I struggled on. And on.
    And then I gave up.
    My Pro sits abandoned in a garage. I’m currently traveling and narrowly just opted for a late 2016 MacBook Air (11.5″) I found in Malaysia, brand new and boxed, for a song. It was a close call, I did consider a return to the dark side of a PC, after all it is fair to say Microsoft have really narrowed the software divide and the hardware options are broad, impressive and without the premium tag. I did consider the MacBook but (at the time) felt somewhat restricted by the spec.
    So thank you for your article. It makes me realise I’m not alone feeling unloved and unappreciated by Apple.
    Having run a global software house for some years my net spend on Apple and Mac products runs into a comfortable 6 or 7 figures. Apple rolled the dice and lost. Then they tried to hang on to a bad bet. It will come back to bite them.
    Me? I’ve learned my lesson.

  22. Go buy a windows box, ya dork.

    If it’s failing, it’s failing. Get warranty service. But you’re bitching about things that are in the specs. Ports. Size of the trackpad.

    Stop blindly buying shit and do your research. I’m glad you hate it. Now you’re stuck with it.

  23. I own my 2016 model for about 8 months.

    Had double typing on two keys (got first one fixed by myself) and got it replaced with 2017 model – which seems to not have this issue anymore. I really enjoy the low profile of new keyboard, so as long as it’s going to work properly I’m going to be happy with it.

    Map your ESC to Caps Lock which is much easier to reach, so the touch bar isn’t a problem anymore.

    Never had any false clicks with track pad, and I love it being that huge.

    I don’t use my camera anymore and the last time I used an SDCard is to setup a raspberry PI, so a single time in a year. My phone charges with type C, and I can charge my laptop from my powerbank. Having 4 truly universal ports is awesome, I’m planning to use eGPU in future as well. Completely disagree that they should put an old USB in here.

    1. Come to think of it Dmytro, I don’t think we should go back to standard USB 3 either anymore. As for remapping the ESC to Caps Lock, I’ve mapped the ctrl key to Caps Lock so that I can use the Mac’s Emacs shortcuts for cursor movement easily. I might map the Esc key to the ± key though, which I never use.

  24. My God yes.

    Shahid, i have worked with Apple as a Service Provider for a couple of years, and back then, there wasn’t a day pass, that i was not amazed by some new cool design decision that i discovered. 64bit EFI on a 32bit MacPro 1,1. FW800 ports, the gap between trackpad and keyboard where your fingers would rest, on the first unibody machines (ergonomy at it’s best), Mighty Mouse trackball, trackpads that work and feel exactly as they should. Extremely clever disassembly process, ESD protection, easily accesible electricity discharge points for G4 CRT’s, standardized and replaceable parts (flat cables, sata, 204pin). Old Disk Utility might just be one of the best pieces of software i have ever used – new not so. iPhones the size of a human palm. RAM heatsinks in 2008 Mac Pros, HDD hinges on Mac Pro 2006. No screw openers for new and old mac minis. PCI slots for my BlackMagic cards and Infiniband RAIDs.

    The whole philosophy that the keyboard experience must be the same and natural to a user, on every apple computer is very much Jobsian, but is also very much common sense. Back then, i would look at a PowerBook keyboard and trackpad, and then look at a HP or Toshiba, and wonder do these people even have a QA team. Not so anymore. As the time goes by, i feel more and more of the exact same pressure that made me switch from Windows in the first place. I have had to reinstall 2 of my systems in the past year because of software update issues. This has not happened in the past 5. When i was an ACMT, i would always convince the customers that they should update always and as soon as possible, 2016/17 is the first time in the past 10 years that i started sporadically telling people not to update the OS until at least a few weeks pass by.

    Let’s admit it, Apple did not create always-perfect products. Remember the dust in iMac screens, the hockeypuck mouse, the houckeypuck G2 charger with it’s cable on the bottom (reminds me of the new mouse), The dying hinge on beautiful iMac G4, ATI Radion 8400 on MBP 2007/8. The massively failing SATA cables on 2008-2011 MBP’s, video card switching replacement program on MBP 2010. On, remember the Apple printers? Or the magsafe chargers that were made so that the cable fails after two years? Heh, even iPhone cables to this day fall apart after two years. The swolen batteries on white MacBook’s, iPods and MBPs. MBP 2012 display coating? All of these were nuisances for the user, and in most cases, Apple did the right thing and made a Replacement/trade-in program. In other cases like the SATA cable case, or chargers, yeah, you could simply replace the thing for some relatively small amount of cash. Anyways, you could forgive most of these, as they are errors, not made by malicious design decisions. Design mistakes were always forgivable, malicious design is not.

    On the local User Group forums, old pros are always talking about better times (“during the war…”) when Apple was smart and took great care of it’s users, and they reason that Apple stopped doing that either because of iPhone sales, or because Jobs died. I think that is just silly. First of all, Jobs did not sit in a room and pulled always-perfect products out of his third eye – instead, the company held Pros, and their user experience to the highest standards, it was the culture that created these good products we have come to love. Secondly, the iPhone itself seems to be slowly becoming obsolete, as more and more decisions are made with the goal of thinner and thinner phones, instead of better devices. This is especially visible in the software releases.

    Furthermore, Apple created some pretty unfriendly products over the years, but they always had the common sense to look back, and say “ok we fucked this up, lets not make it anymore, or try to learn from our mistakes”. And i feel that this is what is missing today. Yes, they did say that exact same thing about the Mac Pro, but we still have to see some results. And my expectation is that the result will be a brand new not-really-thought-out computer, like they did last time. The feeling that you sit down and take this machine, and feel that someone spent sleepless nights thinking about how to make it better and more useful for you – is gone.

    First PowerBooks were the products that made me fall in love with Apple and feel for their design decisions. And as i write this from a 2016 MacBook Pro, the newest one of my MacBooks, i question this belief, as go back to my 2012 Pro, whenever i am able to. Instead of always being my companion, over time, i have come to realize that gradually, i leave the 2016 Pro at work more and more – almost every day, and carry and use the 2012 all the time. This is the reality of the changes they are making.

    A pro user with at least 4-5 active Apple computers finds it more comfortable to use 2011 imac and 2012 mbp…

    Still, i believe, this comment (and your post), are not a “rip apple” discussion but attempts at cry for help. I want to believe that someone in Cupertino is in fact reading this, and thinking about it…

    1. This is the best comment I’ve ever read. I don’t want to “rip Apple” at all. I love Apple products so deeply. I switched from PC in 2001 with great trepidation, and never had cause for regret, not even with the occasional misstep, until this MacBook Pro. It’s not a _bad_ machine, but it’s not a _Pro_ machine either.

  25. I agree to nearly anything you said. I got a late 13 13″ to replace my late 12 15″ machine last august…

    Other portable pro machines already offer 32GB’s of RAM Apple doesn’t… And my 15″ grew with me from 4GB of RAM to 16 and from 250GB HDD to 1TB SSD. But now even the maxed out 13″ 17 would be at 90% after migrating my data… And I’m neither willing to carry a 15″ machine nor to pay 5k€ for a maxed out 15″ with 2TB SSD…

    Hope the next Pro’s will be bit more like the old’s otherwise I might have to consider going hackintosh or Linux

  26. Hah, looks like we have the same problem with our B key. It’s hella frustrating. From what I gathered online, there’s dust in there. Holding my MBP at a whatever degree angle to spray compressed air around the key does not work. It’s annoying as hell. The issue is masked when I’m at my desk because I use a Das Keyboard but when I’m on the go? UGGGGGH.

  27. Designer here. Makes me gag a little every time I head someone talk about how great Apple is at design. They were until some point half a decade or so ago. Now, everything just doesn’t work. Everything feels clunky or half thought out. Apple is the single biggest frustration in my work flow (closely followed by adobe *shudder*).

    I’m using on an iMac. The neck snapped after about 12 months. Every restart (multiple times a day) causes the sound to default to only one speaker. Sometimes on restart it decides to autofill the password – not my actual password, just gibberish. The only way around that is, yup, another restart. If I do something simple like watch a movie, it freezes a couple times a minute. Typing an email … yup, spinning wheel. I’ve reformatted the drive multiple times and contacted support. Sadly enough, it can’t even handle the diagnostics software they supply without crashing. Apple doesn’t care. Their joke of a solution is the iMac Pro.

    “You just got a lemon” everyone tells me. But my iPhone 7 is just as bad. It’s 18 months old but was buggy after only a month or two. Every action has a two second delay. It can’t play music without skipping randomly between songs. It duplicates every playlist every time I charge it. Have you seen the design flow for trying to delete a playlist? One wrong click and you delete your entire library. Apple’s design problems go freaking deep.

    I’m loathe to buy another iMac but the MacBook Pros are less than compelling at that price. God how I wish for a true alternative.

    Anyway, all that to say, good article. Thanks for writing it. I feel your pain.

  28. Spot on for most of my annoyances, but really, for me the MBP is a fairly static computer because it sits on my desk connected to a monitor.

    I’ve tried using a standard external keyboard, but because it’s touch id, all the software detects it and asks to use that, so it adds extra clicks and delays to skip the touch id prompts.

    Most of my keyboard and track pad complaints would go away if they made an external keyboard with touch id.

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