The new MacBook Pro lineup is seriously disappointing

Presented literally just now, the new laptops will likely face an outrage from all sides, because of their controversial changes across the board.

Apple silicon on steroids

Let's get the most major change out of the way quickly - Apple has fed their M1 SoC with steroids for the past 6 months and the results are . . actually impressive. Low package power, much higher performance and great scaling with both CPU and GPU core counts. Credit where credit is due!

The two variants can easily claim bragging rights in terms of specs, especially considering those sweet 64 gigs of unified memory. Unified being the key word, as the full amount of memory is available for the GPU to use as well as the CPU. And the memory bandwidths are seriously impressive. But here's where things are starting to take a turn...

As you can see from the picture above, the unified memory is not so unified anymore. It's not stacked vertically on the chip's die, like the basic M1 SoC used to be, but rather is sitting next to it. This has been made for one reason only - heat! Compared to the barely believable 5-10 watts, this monster consumes between 30 and 40 watts, which is more in-line with the current Intel/AMD mobile lineup and on paper is not that big of a deal. But it requires two fans and some hefty heat pipes, which would certainly raise the noise levels.

I won't go in-depth to discuss the numbers without having the machine for a proper review yet, but Apple were as always vague with their X times better performance than a powerful Windows laptop, without mentioning the exact hardware they were comparing. They are usually pretty accurate with those numbers, but I would love to have some clarity in the presentation itself.

Display, size and . . notch?

The rumours were true and there are two sizes available - 14 and 16 inches. Well, 14.2" and 16.2" if I have to be technical. The resolution has increased, the refresh rate is now variable between 24 and 120 hertz, which is a nice addition, but the big news is called mini-LED backlit. This means 1000 nits of sustained brightness and 1600 nits of peak brightness, which is insane on a laptop! Naturally the dynamic contrast gets a huge bump, the colour gamut has been wider than ever and HDR content from any variety is a go.

What's not immediately visible is the presence of a notch! No, your eyes are not deceiving you - there is now a massive notch on this MacBook Pro screen! Apple tried to get around it with the addition to their new 1080p camera, with bigger sensor and wider lens aperture, but no - there is no Face ID there. And this is a real bummer, because a simple web camera is just stealing your screen's real estate for no reason. Stupid move, Apple. But not as stupid as the next one!

Ports are back, but no USB

With the controversial Touch Bar now buried and forgotten, the ports are now back, sort of. Since Apple's "new" design is similar to the older MacBook Pro's design (it's a laptop, but aluminium), the new machines are thicker and bulkier, so there's plenty of space for ports. And just when people got used to charge their laptop from both sides with the USB type C - the MagSafe is back!

So charging only from the left side is now back to ruin that convenience. In fairness, Apple did mention that you can still use the type C port for charging, but that cable is not bundled in the box. Talking about e-waste... The SD card slot is a welcomed addition, so is the full-size HDMI, although Apple didn't specify neither standard or supported resolutions. So there's clearly enough space for some full-size USB-A ports, but Apple "bravely" left those behind, so the #DongleLife continues...

Other improvements

I'll just throw those out there as they are mostly incremental. Better speakers, better microphones, better SSD speeds, native hardware ProRes encode/decode, better machine learning, enhanced hardware security, up to 8 TB of storage, better battery life. The last one is actually big enough to mention, since Apple have been nailing those numbers consistently.

Naturally they would've included larger batteries in those thicker chassis, but they've also bumped the charging capabilities. The 14 inch MacBook Pro gets a 96 watts power brick, while the 16 inch goes all the way to 140 watts. More importantly - both laptops support fast charging, from 0 to 50 percent in 30 minutes, which is nice.

Summary

Covering the event, I got the impression that Apple is going back to their roots with the MacBook Pro lineup, offering the benefits of a capable package to creative professionals in a portable form-factor. And they were adamant about the performance being sustained without the need of plugging in the charger! This has been made possible in no small part to their own M1 SoC lineup, which is literally changing our perception for performance-per-watt, but sometimes all is in the details.

And this is where Apple is gonna take the major heat from Mac users like me. The notch with no Face ID, the missing USB-A ports, the proprietary and obsolete MagSafe . . even the "new" old design. And the price, which is double to what I payed for my fully specced Intel MacBook Pro 13" just three years ago.

The 14" is priced at $5899 with all the bells and whistles, while the 16" goes all the way to $6099. To their credit, you can spec the smaller size identically, but those prices are insane, even for Apple. All I can say in an early conclusion for now is that the approach is right, but the execution is poor. Expect a full review when I can get my hands on one.

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Comments (53)

  • $6000 for THAT? I could buy a nice used car for that price. no thank you…Apple is only going to price themselves out of existence at this point

      1 month ago
  • As an Apple user, this is just plain stupid. Nobody actually needs all this. OK, a few do, but most do not. You buy into the world of Apple for the integration it brings with it. That's pretty much it. This daft thing is ludicrously over priced. It's just taking the piss and cannot be justified by any reasonable metric. FFS, just get back to supplying what people want, not what it's possible to concoct... at any price. This is plainly just pure greed and has no place for a staple product in the brand's lineup. It begs the question, does Apple have a plan for their future, or are they just wringing the last drop of blood from the stone before we all get fed up with them? Businesses come and go, and present wealth is no indicator of future wealth as history has taught us. Very disappointing.

      1 month ago
  • Nice to see the return of MagSafe and the HDMI and SD ports save adapters. Not bothered by lack of USB-B - that feels like like old dead tech now. Sounds like big improvement in performance and screen, but nothing very revolutionary. FaceID would have been good. I was just watching a friend with a touch screen Windows PC and made wish my Mac had a touch screen for some things.

      1 month ago
    • Can't be bothered with a touch screen and to be honest, the Touch Bar was somewhat useful for me, for scrubbing through the timeline in FinalCut, but that notch is a nonsense. I don't mind the idea of a notch, but only if it would contain the Face...

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        1 month ago
    • You've put down everything I was going to say. HDMI and SD card ports are vital to my photography and videography work. I'm used to the USB-C at this point and love the neither way up nature of it. More grunt for processing wouldn't go amiss....

      Read more
        1 month ago
  • It’s always been awful, do what I do:

    Modify the crap out of an old-school Netbook (any laptop from that era will do really) and install Linux on it. Get yourself an old-school beige Model M style keyboard and an old USB mouse, chuck it all in a backpack and you’ll be good to go! No need for tons of money, antivirus (free ClamAV is good to have though), the Genius Bar or any of that crap.

      1 month ago
    • My knowledge in Linux is limited, unless it's for testing network security. What makes me use Apple devices is stability (nothing ha ever crashed on me) and integration/interaction. Everything communicate with everything else...

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        1 month ago
    • Not anymore, by 1992 standards you’re correct, but now we have a serious one up on Windows and Mac OS X:

      Security - Better

      Windows Compatibility - Almost perfect with WINE and Steam Proton

      Read more
        1 month ago
  • Disappointing. I have two MBPros ago and just turned my 08 over for recycling. The one I have is the one with the bar. It has no ports. I hate the dongle. It's a very poor solution. I've been wanting to see the ports make a return but for the price of two used cars they can go fly another kite. This is disappointing. No USB? What gives? That's a half-fast(see what I did there?) solution. So are they shooting for sales of a high prices stop-gap so people also buy the next one that will have USB ports? The games Apple is playing is going to cost them at some point.

      1 month ago
    • All correct there, it the same with MS, it’s why I dualboot Linux and DOS now, you could actually have ports and get shit done with the β€˜90s/β€˜00s computer design paradigm, the industry has taken such a wrong turn in the last decade or so.

        1 month ago
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