The MacBook Pro Touch Bar: A year later

December 14th 2017

The MacBook Pro Touch Bar: A year later

In 2014, I replaced the 5400 RPM hard drive that came with my MacBook Pro bought in 2012 with a Samsung Pro SSD. It gave my machine a second life. Until last year. When I spilled my coffee on it... So I decided to buy the MacBook Pro Touch Bar that just came out. I have been using that new machine on a daily basis. It has some good points. And some very bad ones. Here are a few thoughts.

The Best : Design

To be honest, the MacBook Pro Touch Bar probably is the most beautiful laptop Apple has ever made. A few years ago, I fell in love with the Dell XPS 13, but this one looks even better. Apple just nailed it with the "Space Grey" color.

I wasn't sure how this laptop could be smaller than my previous one but it really is. Granted, my former MacBook Pro had a DVD drive so... I skipped a generation in-between. It is not only thinner, it's also smaller and lighter. By the way, here is how I transformed the former MacBook Pro into a server.

The Touch Bar ? Well, I clearly don't use it like a pro and I mostly do for brigtness and sound controls. It can be quite convenient, on Pixelmator for instance. But to be honest, I can't say that I have integrated its use into my daily routine.

Now that I am writing this, I think I should actually start to use it more often. It's quite clever when you think about it. And it does give the laptop a sleak design. I have to see how developers managed to hack it.

The Good : performances

I have chosen the 2.9 GHz Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM. I was expecting some kind of performances downgrade compared the old Core i7 but to be honest I'm not seeing too many beach balls. I'm not going to detail hard core benchmarks, first because it has already be done elsewhere, and then because it does not reflect your own usage (those data only make sense when compared to others.)

On a general basis I don't have much apps opened at the same time but I did happen to have Photoshop running alonside Safari, Illustrator, Pixelmator, Yummy FTP and a few other applications. The beach ball appeared quickly. In those circumstances, I did experience a couple off crashes. Though, I can't be sure whether it came from the lack of performances or from the fact I was running a beta version of macOS High Sierra...

The Neutral : Dongle life

I'm not too much into peripherals and so far I haven't known a dongle-life even though I did buy a few of those. I also bought a 64-GB Kingston USB-A / USB-C flash drive as a transition tool, that is, until all computers have USB Type-C built-in. I actually never have to plug my iPhone or iPad to my Mac and rarely have to plug others' USB type-A flash drive. I do understand, however, that it might be annoying if you are into photos or videos editing and have to regularly plug some peripherals.

One thing that I missed right from the beginning was MagSafe. I had just spilled coffee on my former laptop, I did not want an unfortunate accident happening to this brand new machine! So I decided to back up Snapnator on Kickstarter. Well, trust me, that was a bad idea. This thing is actually quite dangerous. Long story short : it burnt my charging cable. You can learn more about it here. Now, I probably tripped over that USB Type-C charging cable a couple times and it unplugged by itself without any problems. I don't know whether Apple did test it or not but it actually seems to do the job out of the box.

The Bad : Battery life

If I chose a Core i5, that's for battery lifetime. And I'm glad I did it! Clearly I wasn't stunned at all by the battery cycle. And it took me at least a month before realizing that the 2016 MacBook Pro Touch Bar screen is actually 67 percent brighter than its predecessor's. Hence the battery drain. So whenever the laptop is unplugged I force myself to dim the screen to preserve battery life.

It does the trick. But it's quite annoying. I'm used to binch-watching TV shows on this laptop and I regularly put the brightness to its maximum, so going dimmer is not always easy at first.

The Worst: Keyboard

It's has been said a number of times that the new generation MacBook keyboard is bad. Well it is. I guess I have gotten used to it. But I wasn't expecting something just "good enough". When Apple mentionned a second generation "butterfly keyboard" I was waiting for something as good as, say, the slowly deprecating MacBook Air keyboard. It's quite far from that.

Sometimes, I just don't feel the key stroke. It happens specifically on the directional arrows. Sometimes, I have to press quite hard on the key for it to work. Lately, this has been happening on the "0".

I'm not the kind of person that will be super careful with his stuff but I don't eat on my computer either. I pay attention to every single crumb on my keyboard and quickly blow them away. I usually use window product to clean everything on a regular basis, even with cotton buds. But it's not a question of dust: the keyboard is just bad. And there is nothing you can do about it. Unless, like me, you get the wireless Magic Keyboard before they put their stupid butterfly mechanism in it. That's what I use anyway whenever working all day long.

Conclusion

The 2016 MacBook Pro Touch Bar is my fourth MacBook Pro since I bought the first one in 2007. It's clearly the most beautiful machine I have ever had and it works great. I just really wish Apple had stuck to the other keyboard. I sort of got used to that new crappy one but I surely will think twice about that whenever comes the time to change this laptop. And I know I'm not alone here.