Last week, Apple launched the next generation of MacBook Pro laptops; the first update in over four years. Many fans who had been eagerly anticipating the new range were left bitterly disappointed. It seems Apple forgot what the "Pro" in the product name stands for. A lot of the hardware 'improvements' have drawn criticism from the professional crowd; from programmers and developers to designers and photographers. Which leaves us all wondering, who is Apple trying to sell the MacBook Pro to?
So, why all the hate for the new MacBook Pro? For one, MacBook Pro loyalists have been waiting for an upgrade to their aging devices for a very long time. While the four-year wait has generated some pent up demand, it also made the disappointment all the more poignant.
The MacBook Pro is Apple's premium laptop line and there was a lot of reasons why it became popular with the professional crowd. The guts of the laptop were exceptionally powerful and user-customisable to some extent. Creative professionals could get a lot of their compute intensive tasks, such as rendering and video editing, done. Programmers and developers also liked the UNIX-like graphical user-interface. All of this was packaged up in a beautifully designed product, something Apple was famous for.
The MacBook Pro 2016 is prettier and thinner than its predecessors. But appearance isn't everything and no matter how you look at it, this new release isn't really a MacBook Pro; its more like a 'MacBook Deluxe'. It also bears a premium price tag with the 15-inch version starting at $3599. If you max out all the specs, that price goes up to $6649.
The function keys and Esc button have been replaced by a Touch Bar that changes dynamically depending on what programs you're running. I'll admit, the Touch Bar does look kind of cool and I can see a lot of uses for it. But for developers and programmers, the function and Esc keys are critical. They are often used hundreds of times per day and provides time saving shortcuts for developers to do their jobs.
In integrated development environments (IDEs) like Visual Studio, function keys are used for actions including debug, build and pause. Yes, you can re-map those keys, but it's a hassle and it will take time for people to get used to new key locations.
Then there's the RAM, which is capped at 16GB. That's the same RAM cap as the older MacBook Pro series. Maybe you were thinking about upgrading the RAM yourself. Provided that the chipset supports it, you might be able to give it a boost… if you're a master at desoldering. Apple has soldered the RAM on. Good luck trying to get that out. That's not the only customisation limitation in the new MacBook Pro, which we already discussed in a previous article.
Alexey Semeney said it best on the DevTeamSpace blog:
"These days it's easy to find a Windows or Linux machine comparable to the MacBook Pro for US$1000 to US$1500. You don’t need to go far to find them, notable brands like Lenovo, HP, Asus, Samsung, and Dell all offer them. And for those who aren’t fans of Windows, Linux is always an option. "With more resources poured into Microsoft developers ecosystem and Linux distributions, developers may soon have a wide range of great operating systems that can run on pretty cheap laptops."
The RAM cap is also a problem for creative professionals. Their compute intensive tasks demand more and more memory. Apple may have made the decision to cap the RAM in order to make the laptops thinner, but 16GB just doesn't cut it these days.
For Photographers, the Touch Bar could be useful for quick access to image editing tools. Apple demonstrated this in one of its marketing videos and it does seem impressive. But the problem for photographers is that Apple has removed the SD card slot, which means they can't easily transfer the digital photos they have taken onto the laptop. In fact, Apple has removed all the input ports and replaced them with four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Want to plug an SD card in? Get an adaptor. Want to plug anything in? Get a dongle. This tweet summed it up nicely:
Apple's fastest growing product category. pic.twitter.com/d1sel4N5Yc
— Drew Breunig (@dbreunig) October 28, 2016
At least Apple haskept the 3.5mm headphone jack.
With so much criticism aimed at the 2016 MacBook Pro series, is there really an audience for the new notebooks? Apparently so.
According to Apple executive Phil Schiller, the Apple online store "has had more orders for the new MacBook Pro than any other pro notebook before". It does have an improved Retina display and a larger trackpad that gives you a bigger working surface. It's not a bad laptop -- far from it. But is it really a MacBook Pro? We'd be inclined to say 'no'.
The Apple MacBook Pro may have found a new audience, but it may have done so at the expense of its older fan base.
We'll leave you with this parody video for the Apple MacBook Pro 2016:
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