It’s really easy to get excited about the new MacBook Pro. It’s got those sweet new Ivy Bridge processors, it’s adopting solid-state drives lightyears before most other computer manufacturers will, and loooooooooordy is it thin.
Despite all that, however, Apple seems to have once again given us a product that is an absolute game-changer, but still falls short in certain key areas.
If you recall, the first two generations of the iPhone did not support multimedia messaging out of the box, something my Motorola RAZR could handle about four years prior. It wasn’t until the third edition of the iOS operating system that I could send pictures to my friends on the fly.
Look deeper and you’ll find more examples: the first generation of the iconic white MacBook shipped with faulty logic boards, causing problems for many early adopters. Apple still replaces those laptops with defects for free.
Just about every time Apple ships a new iPad, iPhone, or a new version of iOS to go with it, there are complaints from millions of customers about performance and battery life issues.
Oh, and remember that entire year when Steve Jobs told us on a daily basis that we were all holding our iPhones the wrong way? Yeah, that was a party.
With the new MacBook Pro, Apple seems to once again have fallen into its own trap. There is no doubt that the MacBook Pro is one of the most impressive machines to trot out the doors of 1 Infinite Loop. However, it may be too early to elevate it to Skynet status. It may not be more than just another Dreamcast.
(Author’s Note: If you read my earlier post about why the new MacBook Pro is super-duper-mondo-awesome, thanks! You’re the best. Now bear with me while I pretend to be an entirely different person. Three cheers for journalistic accountability!)
ANY PORT IN A STORM
Where did my ports go? I get that technology like FireWire and ethernet may be slowly fading into the realm of legacy technology, but they’re not gone yet. Plenty of external devices like hard drives still run on FireWire, and they run darn well, to boot. It’s as easy as adapting the connections to USB or something, but it’s a matter of principle.
Even if FireWire is old enough to be done away with by the company that championed it so many moons ago, it’s downright nonsensical to get rid of a basic RJ45 ethernet port. To many users who are constantly in different places, working out of hotel rooms or convention centers or coffee shops, sometimes there is no choice but to hook up to a physical internet connection.
WiFi is gaining prevalence, that’s a fact. But it will take another year or two until it’s so pervasive and just plain “everywhere” that there won’t be a need for an ethernet port on a laptop. It’s not enough to say, “oh, there’s free WiFi at every Starbucks and McDonalds,” and write off ethernet as the weak kid and leave him off the kickball team. Some people still need ethernet, especially the type of professional users that Apple is gunning for with their new MacBook Pro.
Quick, show of hands. Who has a single device that runs exclusively over Thunderbolt?
Only about 10% of you. Good! Now, here are two Thunderbolt ports. Not one, two. Enjoy!
Thunderbolt is incredibly fast, reliable, and is the spiritual successor to FireWire. Intel’s new infrastructure takes advantage of this new tech and puts it to work in the new MacBook Pro. We’re beginning to see it pop up on certain motherboards as well. But let’s be honest with ourselves, is Thunderbolt anywhere close to widespread adoption?
As far as I can tell, the only company that’s fully embracing Thunderbolt for their new peripherals, displays, and other compatible devices is…you guessed it, Apple.
Most of Apple’s new line of cinema displays will run on some sort of Thunderbolt connection, and if you need a traditional video connection like DVI or VGA, you have to adapt it via Thunderbolt or HDMI. Those extra purchases are the kind of thing that keeps people from upgrading to newer hardware.
If your workstation is set up to work on a number of different, older connections, and suddenly those things are abandoned, you have two choices: upgrade to the new MacBook Pro, and buy a bunch of adapters or completely new peripherals so everything works the way it used to, or you go the cheaper route of buying a different MacBook or not upgrading at all.
For many users, the latter option seems to make a lot more sense right now.
YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY
This is one that’s bound to get a lot of different opinions. Personally, I haven’t used an optical drive for making something other than a mix CD in about three years. My personal laptop, an HP DM1, doesn’t have an optical drive. I haven’t missed it.
But again, think about the sort of high-end power users that Apple is trying to pitch the new MacBook Pro to. Many of these people, whether it’s out of personal preference or out of necessity due to their jobs, still need some sort of optical drive.
CDs are now an antiquated form of technology, as most download their music via online stores like iTunes or through piracy channels like BitTorrent. Most program installers are downloadable, removing the need for one to install a program using a disc.
However, many enterprise IT users still need discs on a daily basis, be it for simple, user-friendly data sharing, for program installations, or because they haven’t scratched their Bee Gees “One Night Only” CD since they bought it fifteen years ago and they insist on bumping it in their cubicle every day.
Apple might be justified in ditching the optical drive, but some may find it a bit premature.
IT’S NOT THE BEST MAC FOR THE PRICE
When I first found out about the new MacBook Pro, I decided to sit down and see if it would be worth my dollar, considering I’m on the market for a new laptop. What I found was interesting, to say the least.
I decided to compare the new, base-model MacBook Pro to the laptop I had my eye on, the 13″ advanced-model MacBook Pro.
The new MacBook Pro, base model:
CPU: 2.7 GHz Core i7
Size: .71 in. thick
RAM: 8 GB
Hard Drive: 768 GB Solid-State Drive
The 13″ MacBook Pro, advanced model:
CPU: 2.9 GHz Core i7
Size: .95 in. thick
Hard Drive: 750 GB 5400-RPM Hard Drive
The only differences: .24 inches and $600, as well as the difference between the hard drive and solid state drive and the addition of the retina display. If that all is worth $600 to you, be our guest and go with the new MacBook Pro. Considering the economy is still poor, is it worth it to the average consumer? Doubtfully.
WHY APPLE STILL WINS
However many people may have been discouraged from upgrading to the new MacBook Pro, I’d be plum surprised if those people weren’t already dead-set on buying a MacBook over any other laptop.
And considering that Apple still makes the same MacBook Pro as before, which still has an optical drive, all those still-useful ports, and benefited from the new Ivy Bridge processors, huge spec bumps, and are still super sleek and sexy…well…there’s nothing stopping people from just buying one of those instead.
So in that sense, Apple still wins because they’re still selling a high-end laptop at a pretty simliar price. Of course, many know that this has been the mothership’s secret all along: once you pin down a user base, create products that attract outsiders and makes those people Apple diehards as well.
So maybe the Mothership is smarter than we thought.
And maybe I still want one.
Don’t judge me.