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Apple missed another chance to make the MacBook Pro great again

Raymond Wong

Apple finally updated its MacBook Pros after over a year (a lifetime in the computer world) without changes.

But as attractive as some of the new features are — faster processors, more RAM and storage configurations, and, err, a quieter keyboard — none of them really leap off Apple's website and make me want to yell, "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!"

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This isn't a full review of the new MacBook Pros — I haven't seen or used them in person and we'll have one soon enough — but my honest opinion on what Apple's announced. See, although I review consumer tech for a living, I'm still a consumer and vote with my own money.

My own personal laptop is a maxed-out 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. It was one of the last of this particular model to come with a full suite of ports (full-sized USB, SD card, MagSafe, etc.) before Apple redesigned its notebook lineup in 2016, dropping all ports in favor of USB-C.

The fully loaded laptop, which I bought with a sizable discount from B&H, has served me well over the years. But, five years on, it's on its last legs. 

Some of the keys on the keyboard are cracked after suffering who knows how many thousands of words on Mashable. The Intel processor and integrated graphics are too slow for crunching 4K-resolution videos and chokes hard for streaming 4K videos on YouTube. The MiniDisplay Ports constantly can't maintain a stable connection to the two old Apple Cinema Displays I have (the displays work fine with a Windows 10 laptop). And the Retina display's anti-reflective coating has started to wear off, but I've been too lazy to bring it to Apple for what could be a free repair.

In short: I need a new laptop, and although I like what the updated MacBook Pros offer, I don't love them. For my specific case, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is off the table; it's simply too large for my needs.

But let's go down the list of reasons why I'm not pulling out my credit card without hesitation.

1. It's really expensive

RIP your wallet.

Image: giphy

The updated 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with Intel 8th-generation Core i5 or i7 chips, a maximum configuration of up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 2TB of SSD storage.

These are much-needed and respectable spec bumps, but holy moly, is it pricey. The base configuration with an Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD costs $1,800. Tick off the checkboxes for all the highest configurations and it balloons up to an I'm-gonna-cry $3,700.

Now, I'm aware MacBook Pros have always commanded a premium, especially with the upgraded configurations. But like damn, even the entry-level model is too much. I've got other ridiculously priced things (like New York City rent) to pay, man.

Apple's site shows the 13-inch MacBook Pro still starts at $1,300 for the non-Touch Bar model, but that's for the old model with slower processor. The new $1,800 model isn't replacing the 2017 models at all. 

Which brings me to my next point...

2. You're stuck with the Touch Bar

Practical!

Image: giphy

If you want to blame the $1,800 price on anything, blame it it on the Touch Bar because the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro doesn't come in a version with the regular function row.

Nearly two years since its debut, I can now confidently say the Touch Bar is not very good. Not only does it take extra taps to change settings like the volume and brightness, but few developers have really programmed anything extraordinary for it. 

Heck, Apple didn't even show off any new uses for it at WWDC this year. And if Apple can't come up with new compelling uses for the Touch Bar, then nobody will.

Fact is, the Touch Bar is an overpriced extra that nobody really needs, and few people are willing to pay more for. Apple not selling a version of its new MacBook Pros with regular function rows has me worried that model is on its way out for good.

I don't think I'm alone in wanting to save a few hundred bucks (maybe put it towards Final Cut Pro X or something) for a non-Touch Bar model. 

3. The keyboard's still worrisome

Based on all the reports from reporters who got hands-on time with the new MacBook Pros, it appears Apple hasn't redesigned the controversial flat keyboards so that they don't break from specks of dust.

Apple's stance is the keyboard problems only affect a small number of devices, but I'm doubtful of the claims. Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal has been using a 15-inch MacBook Pro loaner for just a few weeks and he's already experienced an unresponsive key.

The third-gen "butterfly-switch" keyboard isn't devoid of improvements. The keys are supposed to feel different — more like the keys on pre-2016 MacBook Pro redesign. But I'll believe it when I get to try the new keyboard myself. 

The keyboard's also quieter, but is that really a change many people were asking for? While I personally appreciate a quieter keyboard (yes, I hear my colleagues pounding extra hard on their MBPs), I think I'm in the minority.

Most people just want a reliable keyboard with more travel. I'm concerned we'll have to wait until at least the next update or refresh to get both.

4. Still missing an SD card slot

Apple still hates the the SD card.

Image: OBY SESSIONS/MACFORMAT MAGAZINE/GETTY IMAGES

It's 2018 and dongle hell is very much still a thing. I could complain about it and how USB-C hasn't become the catch-all port we were promised years ago, but I'd sound like a broken record.

I'll concede full-sized USB ports aren't coming back. Neither is HDMI or Mini DisplayPort or MagSafe.

But why, oh why, couldn't Apple add the SD card slot back? If the MacBook Pros are indeed machines for pros – people who need to do "real" heavy-duty work, then the port needs to return.

I'm all for shooting with my iPhone in most situations. But there are still many times where I need my mirrorless or DSLR. As working professional who shoots both photos and videos, the port is essential. It's comical the unloved MacBook Air is the only laptop Apple now sells with an SD card slot.

Handful of other concerns

Next time, maybe.

Image: lili sams/mashable

These are my biggest concerns for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. However, I have a few others. 

True Tone, which changes the color temperature of the display, is now built into the new laptops. It's a nice feature on iPhones, but I'm not sure if it's a must-have on a laptop. I'd much rather have a display that covers more of Adobe's color space, like the Razer Blade 15.

The 13-inch is only configurable with up to 16GB of RAM. There's no 32GB of RAM option, which exclusive to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. It's understandable adding a 32GB of RAM option for the 13-incher would have meant including a larger battery like on the 15-inch, but it still would have been nice to have the choice. Why not let consumers decide if they're willing to deal with an extra pound or less of weight in exchange for more memory? Other computer makers do.

Touch ID also feels like it's gonna be outdated quickly with Face ID just waiting to make the leap to the Mac. After bringing Touch ID to the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, logic suggests Face ID will probably make land on the laptops in the future, too. Having used Windows Hello on Windows 10 laptops, I can confidently say signing in with your face is a convenience worth paying for.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable. As my computer turns five, I'm exactly the target buyer who's looking for a new machine. If I, a power user, feels like Apple could have went just a little further to make the MacBook Pro better, then I can't even imagine what someone who's not as demanding is thinking right now. 

They have to be seriously considering a rock-solid alternative like the Huawei MateBook X Pro. Because I know I am. 

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