Apple is more and more about compromises
My 13-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2013) is still working just fine, but it´s not the champ it used to be. I am thinking about buying a new one. But the price and a lot of compromises make me stick with my current machine.
As a tech savvy person I am pretty demanding when it comes to buying and using a new computer. You could say, there are many options on the market, but when you are looking for a laptop with great build quality, terrific display, and enough power for demanding tasks, long battery life and low weight, the circle starts getting smaller. You end up with choosing from MacBooks and a few premium Windows devices, like Microsoft´s Surface line.
For the last more than five years I get used to macOS so much, that buying a Windows machine isn´t currently an option for me. I prefer macOS and I don´t want to buy same software again which is necessity when switching to Windows. So that left me with two options – Macbook Air and Macbook Pro.
The Air feels a little underpowered so Pro seems to be the one. Easy. Or maybe not. The compromises coming with a hefty price tag are hard to swallow.
Two or four ports?
From time to time I travel with my laptop and 13” version suits better my needs. But deciding is not over. There is a version without Touch Bar no more, but still two types of Macbook Pro 13″ exists. Both of them are now equipped with the Touch Bar, but they have their differences. They looks almost identical but price will tell you that cheaper one must come with a few compromises.
The base Macbook Pro which starts at 1299 $ or 1499 € has only two USB-C ports, while the more expensive (1799 $ or 1999 €) Macbook Pro offers twice as much (two on both sides). It´s hard to swallow, especially when the two Macbooks looks basically the same, with same dimensions. There is no reason to do that, other than to lure customers to more expensive model, if they want richer port selection.
Other differentiator is power, of course. The base version finally comes with four cores, but only working on 1,4 GHz, which is slower than 2,4 GHz on more expensive sibling. The difference in speed is not that big of a deal, unless you are doing power hungry tasks on daily basics. I am still not decided in which category I belong, but I guess the base version would suit me just fine.
Although the base Macbook Pro looks significantly cheaper than four-port version, it’s not entirely true. The above mention 1299$ machine comes only with a 128 GBs SSD which I consider totally unacceptable in a Pro machine which costs well above thousand dollars. If I want at least 256 GB I’ll need to shell out a couple hundreds more and then the difference in price between two models start to shrink. And decisioning becomes harder.
Is priced justified?
I can´t shake the feeling, the price is either too high, or it offers too little for the price. In my country, the more expensive version 13” Macbook Pro starts at 1 999 € (which is roughly 2 250 USD according to current exchange rate, but in US this model cost 1799 USD. Why it´s significantly more expesive in Europe is still mystery to me.) and offers quad core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage. I have no problem with processor, but I don´t understand why I am only getting 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. My more than six year old machine offers the same.
Sure, the newest model has much faster SSD and RAM operates at higher frequency, but still, after all those years for that kind of money I would expected to base model starts with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage. You can get high end Windows laptops for less money with i7 processors, 16 GB memory and 512 SSD. Why is it not possible on machine at two thousands level price?
This is my main problem with justification of buying new Macbook. I am feeling that I am getting not enough progress after all these years with that expensive price tag. On the other hand, you can object if these specs number matter that much. Maybe not. I would probably get fast machine which suits my needs perfectly. But how nice would it be to have double the storage I am currently having, but not overpaying for it.
Reliability? Not so much
My complaints doesn´t end with specs and price. Macbooks had been known for a long time as a reliable machines which could operate for years without any major problems. Now, it is a different story. After redesign in 2016 users start reporting faulty keyboards. Even a little grain of sand could break some keys. Apple acknowledges the issue and started a replacement program. They also made some tweaks in newer models to make keyboards less prone to defects. But it is still questionable if they will be better now and will handle years of heavy usage.
Another issue was “flexgate” display problem which cause stage light effect at the bottom of the screen. It was caused by a design flaw and Apple later quietly fixed it. Some source of concern is also inconsistent battery life. Older model used to lasts for 10 hours with no problem. In case of new models many users and reviewers reported that battery life is often not even close to ten hours and is drained after five or six hours, sometimes even in less time.
So should I pay a huge amount of money for a machine which have so many potential flaws, concerns and possibly not specs it deserves? Well, I guess, I can still wait one more year. New redesign should be on the way and maybe it will be less painful decision to make.