I’ve been using, and loving, my MacBook Pro since 2013. So when I went to replace it a few months ago, I didn’t even bother to go into the Apple store—I just ordered the 2018 version online.
I thought it would be much like the Pro I was replacing, except lighter and without a CD drive.
I was wrong.
So, so wrong.
Which leads me to ask: WTF is Apple doing?
The decision to upgrade
My 6-year-old MBP (13-inch, mid-2012 model) still works almost perfectly. I spilled coffee on it two years ago, and ever since then it’s had the unfortunate tendency to turn itself off without warning when I pick it up or press down on the area around the trackpad, but as long as I remember to save my work frequently it’s not a problem.
The main reason I had to replace it is because at 4.5 lbs, it made it almost impossible to meet the 15-lb carry-on baggage weight limit for my upcoming backpacking trip.
So I went on the hunt for a lighter laptop. And after being horrified by what I saw with the new MacBook models, I ended up buying a Chromebook (the 2017 Google Pixelbook, to be precise) instead.
To Apple, I can only say: I was one of your biggest fans! After I switched from my old Windows laptop to my first MacBook in 2013, I declared that I would never again buy any other laptop! So what could you have done to make me change my mind? Let’s review.
The 2018 MBP I bought cost me CAD 2,530 (USD 1,868). By contrast, my 2013 MBP cost me less than CAD 1,400 (USD 1,070) (I can’t remember the exact number, but I still have the receipt somewhere, and I’ll update this if/when I find it).
Meanwhile, the Pixelbook only cost me CAD 1,187 (USD 900) (it was on sale for $200 off when I got it).
At that price difference, you’d expect the 2018 MBP to have much better specs. But does it? Nooooo.
(All prices include tax, paid in Ontario.)
2018 MBP (13-inch):
- 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.8 GHz)
- 8 GB RAM
- 512 GB storage
- 3.02 pounds (1.37 kg)
2012 MBP (13-inch):
- 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.1 GHz)
- 4 GB RAM (which I upgraded later to 8 GB at a cost of $100 and 5 minutes of my brother’s labor in helping me)
- 500 GB storage
- 4.5 pounds (2.06 kg)
2017 Pixelbook (12-inch):
- 1.6-GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (3.4-GHz with Max Turbo)
- 8 GB RAM
- 128 GB storage
- 2.45 lbs (1.11 kg)
The Pixelbook processor is obviously far less powerful than the Macs’, but the Chrome operating system is so lightweight (compared to Mac OS) that it doesn’t make a difference when using it.
With Chromebooks, you simply can’t use computationally intensive software like Photoshop. So since everything I’m doing with it is computationally lightweight (browsing the web, editing in Google Docs, watching a movie), the lower-grade processor isn’t noticeable.
Note, however, that I was only able to switch from Mac to Chrome OS because I no longer need to use the Adobe suite and Microsoft Office for work (I’ve successfully gotten all my clients to accept the Google suite).
Mac OS remains the top choice for design work—but given its recent terrible hardware choices, I suspect its stronghold in software may not last long either.
I would go back to Mac if/when I need to use more advanced software, but I would not be happy about it (unlike in the past, when I felt ecstatic about every aspect of my MBP).
(I don’t like Windows in general, although I would buy a Windows laptop if most of my work involved spreadsheets. The Excel shortcuts on a Windows machine are so much more efficient than on a Mac, it’s ridiculous.)
The trackpad on the new MBPs feels different. On my old MacBook it’s cool and smooth to the touch.
On the new ones it feels warmer and somehow glassy. It feels as if you were trying to slide your fingertips across a mirror, except they wouldn’t slide smoothly because they kept catching from the oils on your fingers.
It’s a tiny thing, but the trackpad was soooo perfect before, and now it’s not. 🙁
The new MacBooks only have two ports each! Unless you pay for the TouchBar-enabled versions, which are awful (see below). And these ports are both USB-C.
It’s the same on the Pixelbook, but at least there I feel like I’m getting what I paid for.
For some reason Apple replaced the function keys with a TouchBar, which is the dumbest thing ever.
Who is this for?! Children and retirees who don’t know how to use computers?! Professionals, who need to do more than type up bakesale flyers in Microsoft Word, like to use keyboard-only shortcuts. Shortcuts require function keys. I don’t understand how Apple could have missed the memo on this.
(You can get a MBP without the touch bar, but then you have to sacrifice storage space and processing speed, and you only get two USB-C ports. And since the whole point, for me, of having a MBP is to be able to use computationally intensive software like Adobe suite—and since you can no longer upgrade the hardware components yourself—this puts users like me in an impossible situation!! Screw you, Apple.)
The new keyboard has less travel distance, which makes it super easy to hit the wrong keys by accident. It also feels clacky, not smooth like on my old laptop.
The old MacBooks has the most perfect keyboards ever!! Why did you ruin them?
The new MacBooks have unibody construction, which means you can’t take them apart to upgrade your hardware after purchase. So if you want to get more RAM or storage space, you have to pay Apple’s hopelessly inflated prices at the time of purchase. This decision seems incredibly short-sighted to me. Apple, you’re screwing over your own users (which is what Windows fans have been saying for years—only now you’ve given us a reason to agree with them).
Google is no better—the Pixelbook also has unibody construction—but again, for the price I don’t feel like I’m being actively screwed over!
Is the Pixelbook as good as my beloved old MacBook? No, but it doesn’t need to be. At less than half the price, I’d be satisfied if it were merely functional.