Considering MacBooks

March 15, 2015 by Gabe | [mmd] |

It's been quiet around here because I don't care that much about watches. But one thing that I've been thinking about since the Apple tech parade was the introduction of the new MacBook design.

First thing's, first: I love the idea of a single connection laptop. I hate cables. My current setup is a Retina MacBook Pro and a Thunderbolt monitor. The rMBP has a power cord and a Thunderbolt cable connected. Everything else is connected to a Thunderbolt dock and the monitor. I release my laptop from its desktop prison at least once a day, and the fewer cables to disconnect, the better.

The USB-C connection seems like a nice evolution. It's symmetrical so it's easy to connect. It also carries power both directions so it could be used to charge a device from the MacBook or it could charge the MacBook from another device. USB-C also carries high density data. There's enough there to drive an external 4K display and Ethernet. It's a solid option with a lot of potential, even if it provides lower bandwidth than Thunderbolt 2.

Which brings me to my biggest point of confusion. Why not incorporate the USB-C connection into the Retina MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air? I'm skittish at investing any more in Thunderbolt while Apple tips its hat toward a new connection standard. Thunderbolt was going to be my single connection. I don't have a strong opinion about Thunderbolt, good or bad. I just don't want to be caught between two competing formats.

The portability of the new MacBook is the showcase feature. For me, the new MacBook is the iPad Pro. It has long battery life, is super portable and is intended to be used without a power cable. I love the idea, I just don't think it fits what I need.

The update to the Retina MacBook Pro was modest but it still stands out as the overall best combination of features for me. The rMBP gets 10-12 hours of battery life, which is longer than the MacBook. It has the gorgeous Retina display and the new haptic feedback mouse (which I doubt is going to woo me much). But it's a solid package. The only major price difference is 1.4 lbs. The Retina MacBook Pro is heavier and slightly larger than the MacBook for the same price. But the rMBP includes USB3 connections, Thunderbolt, SD card reader and separate power connection that doesn't require a dongle.

As pointed out on Twitter, the new rMBP can drive multiple 4K displays too.

I'm somewhat happy with the updates but disappointed in a few areas. I anticipated the arrival of TouchID to the MacBook line. Given the enormous growth of online shopping (we named a day of the year "Cyber Monday" because of it) I had expected to see Apple pioneer TouchID as an easier way to make purchase from Target.

I also expected greater touch sensitive surface area. The new ForceTouch is a modest first step but I hoped to see more of the rest area of the MacBook models to accept touch input. We're approaching the transition between old-world computing and new world touch input. I anticipated that this year's models would begin that transition.

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. The MacBook Air line is the awkward middle child.

Is September going to see further updates to the MacBook line? I doubt it. I think this is the big change for 2015. I'd be pleasantly surprised if they proved me wrong.