My history with portable Macs has been all over the place. I started in 2005 with a 15 inch PowerBook G4. In 2007 I upgraded to the ridiculously large 17 inch MacBook Pro. It weighed 6.8 pounds. Yeah. In 2010, in an effort to atone for my sins against gravity, I “downgraded” to a 13 inch “unibody” MacBook Pro (only 4.5 pounds!). In 2012, I got a 13 inch MacBook Air (3 pounds). But way before that, in 2009, I got a Mac Pro tower. A dual quad-core beast of a machine. And I upgraded the heck out of it. I upgraded the video card, upgraded to dual SSDs in RAID-0, upgraded to a PCI-e internally-RAID-0 SSD card, added a Blu-ray drive, bought a 30-inch screen in addition to the 24 I had. I went nuts on this thing. But at six years old, it’s starting to feel its age. It destroys at multithreaded tasks like video encoding, with 16 v-cores. But for single threaded stuff, the GHz weren’t measuring up. The MacBook Air wasn’t really improvement in that regard… it was just massively mobile.
So, last month I decided to upgrade my portable, to a 2015 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
I’ve enjoyed several of my previous Mac portables, but none so intensely as this.
The form factor
I’ve gone up half a pound from the MacBook Air I was using. And I’ve gained some fractions of an inch in thickness. These haven’t mattered at all. I actually found the knife-sharp front-edge of the MacBook Air to be annoying. Reclining on a couch, it would stab into my stomach, leaving a lovely red line below my belly button. The MacBook Pro has a thicker front edge that feels more comfortable in any position.
The extra weight is only really noticed when I’m carrying the machine around by a corner. In a backpack or a bag, I notice no difference. I wouldn’t call either machine “light” — not in the iPad sense — but neither is either heavy.
The build quality on the MacBook Pro is better than the Air. First, the screen is glass instead of plastic, and the bezel is flush with the screen, whereas it is recessed on the MacBook Air. The recessed screen not the MacBook Air was massively annoying to me, as it collected lots of dust and dirt and lint. The MacBook Pro is easy to keep clean.
The battery life is unreal. Apple quotes it as 10 hours. I’ve gotten that. I’ve also gotten more (on a long flight, with Wi-Fi off). I take it places and don’t even consider bringing a power cord. Even if I know I’m going to be using it all day, for serious work. I want Apple to look at the compromises they made for this machine (more weight and more thickness for more battery) and apply them to the iPhone. Let us arrest the tyranny of “thinner, lighter” and actually get devices that last a day.
The SSD on this beast is incredible. It reads and writes at 1.2GB per second. The processor (I went for the 2.7GHz i5, not even the fastest) is quite speedy. I went with the standard 8GB instead of 16GB. It’s plenty, even with running VMs.
This was the first Mac to get the new “Force Touch” trackpad. First know that the previous mechanical MacBook trackpad was probably the best trackpad in the industry. Second, know that the “Force Touch” trackpad absolutely blows the previous one out of the water. The “haptic” click sensation is uncanny. You cannot convince yourself that the pad isn’t clicking. In the Apple store, they showed me two machines, next to each other. One was off, the other on. The off one’s trackpad was a rigid object. The other seemed to bend and delightfully click at my touch. But of course each was moving the same amount (which is to say, almost not at all).
The ability to click anywhere on the trackpad is game-changing. No more lifting your finger and reaching down, or relying on your thumb to rest in a “click-friendly” zone. Glide your finger, and click where ever you end up.
Lastly, the screen on the 13 inch MacBook Pro is phenomenal. Bright, colorful, and super high resolution. You can choose between resolutions. Normally, I choose the 1280×800-equivalent Retina resolution, with perfect pixel doubling. Sometimes, if I need more room for something, I’ll jump into a 1680×1050 mode. Using the fullscreen capabilities most OS X apps now have, I rarely feel cramped.
This is my favorite Mac yet. I find myself taking it everywhere, and I’ve been a lot more productive on it. Don’t be fooled by the outward appearance that seems the same as machines 3 or 4 years old. This is a beast, and it is an absolute delight to use. Highly recommended.