There should be little question that Apple has grown somewhat conservative under CEO Tim Cook’s stewardship. While Steve Jobs’ successor has managed to squeeze enormous profits from Apple’s product line, the company seems more afraid than ever to make a mistake.
Jobs made mistakes. That’s what pushing the technology envelope will do. Last week Apple introduced new Macs. No, not a new Mac mini, or a Mac Pro, or even a MacBook or an iMac. Three high end MacBook Pro models; all drool worthy, and all evolutionary, all incremental improvements. Here are the two best and two worst features I found in Apple’s new MacBook Pro.
It remains to be seen whether pro-level Mac customers will continue to gush and drool over the Touch Bar after using it a year, but I suspect that it will be like Touch ID and 3D Touch on the iPhone and iPad, and must like Force Touch trackpad on last year’s MacBook and MacBook Pro models. It’ll grow on you because more apps will support Touch Bar in the future.
Touch Bar itself isn’t so much genius– Microsoft’s Surface line uses a full touch screen which plays well on TV commercials if not so well in day to day use– as it is one of those useful new features with plenty of promise, plenty of sizzle, but nominal initial use. Touch Bar needs apps to take functionality and put it where the archaic Function keys once were (and still are, but customizable now). Allow me to lump one of my favorite new MBP features into Touch Bar. Touch ID. Not only does it let you unlock your Mac the same way as iPhone and iPad, but it also allows for instant fast user switching from one account to another on Macs with multiple users. That’s just way cool.
Thunderbolt – Mac users complained about the single USB-C port on the MacBook when it was introduced last year. Maybe Apple was listening but for more money you can get a MacBook Pro which has four such ports. And not just any port in the storm. These are full on Thunderbolt 3 ports which use the same connector as USB-C ports so they’re backwards compatible with USB if you have the right cables.
Wait. There’s more.
These Thunderbolt ports are smart and any of the four can be used for Charging the MBP, running an extra display using a compatible DisplayPort cable, or use it for standard USB peripherals, or use it as a Thunderbolt digital video output port for HDMI or VGA (again, with more adapters). There’s a new LG display that can charge the MBP using the Thunderbolt cable while acting as an external display.
Everything else about the two high end MacBook Pro models is drool-worthy, too. Lighter, thinner, faster, better sound output with more dynamic range, multiple microphones, the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a larger Force Touch trackpad, Apple’s new keyboard mechanism, larger trackpad, and improved Retina display with 500 nits brightness, P3 wide color gamut, and 227 PPI.
What’s not to like?
Compare And Contrast
Apple has always been good about migrating customers from one device at one price to another model at a higher price. That’s where the gross margins are, and relative to competitors in the Windows PC world, Apple’s profit margins are just that.
Note the differences between the entry-level MacBook Pro and the entry-level MacBook. Either on is too expensive, or the other is too priced too low.
Entry Level MBP – $300 less than the $1,799 you’ll pay for the base MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar and integrated Touch ID fingerprint sensor is the least expensive MBP. If you’re not dazzled by the digital smoke and mirrors in the Touch Bar, then you can save some cash and go entry level. You won’t get the same CPU options, fewer microphones, less graphics, a different keyboard (back to the 12 standard function keys), a slightly larger battery but the same so-called all day battery life (about 10 hours), slower RAM, and only two Thunderbolt 3 ports for USB, HDMI, et al.
MacBook vs. MBP – maybe the laws of physics have entered the equation but Apple still prefers all the power in a 15-inch MacBook Pro vs. the smaller 13-inch model which yours truly considers to be the perfect notebook form factor. The 15-inch model gets all the basics of the high end models with a much heftier price tag. Faster Intel Core i7 CPUs, larger SSD storage options (up to 2GB SSD), 16GB of RAM, and because this is the professional level machine, a couple of 2GB Radeon Pro graphic cards to choose from. The 15-inch models can handle two 5k Retina external displays, but even though the battery is much larger and requires a heftier USB-C power adapter, still gets 10 hours of battery life.
With all the luxury features tacked on to the high end model the price tag almost touches $4,299; nearly three times the entry level MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar, a model which retails for a mere $200 more than the entry-level MacBook, but which screams power by comparison. That means there isn’t much separation between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro models in price, but there is in power.
Still, there is plenty to like, and now that Apple has launched the MacBook Pro line shall we hope and pray the same engineers are turning their attention to the Mac mini, the Mac Pro, and the iMac line?