MacBook Pro

Apple have released a new MacBook Pro. It sports a new 16” screen, but is basically an evolution of the current design – with two important improvements. Otherwise, there are the latest Intel notebook processors, and the latest AMD graphics processors for portables. Same ports. Nothing to write home about.

One of the improvements is – the keyboard. Believe it or not, these new machines have keyboards that don’t suck. Let me explain. In 2015, I believe, Apple introduced a new super-flat keyboard mechanism that was, one, strange to type on, and two, more importantly, that broke for many users after some time. One can get used to type on basically anything, so the first point was, while not great, not an essential issue. But a keyboard that caused problems for so many users was, or became, untenable. Now they have replaced that bad design with a keyboard that is, reading the first reports, close to the current “Magic Keyboard”, both as regards the mechanism as well as the typing experience. So, it took Apple three years to go back to a good keyboard, one they have been selling as stand-alone product all the time. Le sigh.

So I guess, in this light, this first improvement is actually an “improvement”. I have never owned one of these problematic models, simply as I was waiting for the second improvement – which actually is one: thermals.

I have written before on these pages how my ancient 2013 MacBook Pro’s thermal design is flawed, especially if the task at hand taxes both the CPU and the GPU, thus producing more than the average heat you get from writing blog posts or programs, or fiddling with an Excel spreadsheet – say, with photo and video work.

Granted, more recent models had received some improvements, but then again, also more powerful and hotter processors. There was never a substantial overhaul of the cooling system. Consequently, no new MacBook for me, simply as there was none to purchase: Apple didn’t offer one with a substantially better thermal design.

Since the iMac Pro was introduced – about two years ago, if memory serves – I had hoped that Apple would, to improve the situation, apply an analogous design approach to a new top-end notebook computer as for the iMac: keep the visual design, but beef up the internals. And that’s exactly what Apple seem to have done now for the new notebook, at least as regards the cooling system. There would be more areas where Apple could have made the MacBook Pro a, well, real pro machine, but let’s stay realistic.

Obviously, the jury is out on the effectiveness of this improvement, we’ll have to wait for reviews and test results. The right tests should quickly show if, or how, the new models still throttle processor performance to keep the thermal conditions within viable limits.

All good then, will I purchase one of these, in case all looks good? No. Or, not sure. Remember that I had to replace the batteries twice since I arrived here, as they became bloated? Aaaand, while I was using my really ancient 2011 model for the duration the 2013 one was in the repair shop, guess what happened? Its battery got bloated. Great.

So, bottom line, the essential question arises: is a MacBook Pro even the right Mac for the climate here, and my kind of work, new thermals notwithstanding? You know, plunking down some serious money for a beefy new Mac notebook, only to find its batteries bloat within a few months, would, hm, shall we say, royally suck.

Thinking out of the box – to use one of the many stupid phrases people with MBAs tend to wield in boardrooms –, Apple’s Ax ARM processors, used in iOS devices, have become so powerful that they smoke the Intel processors used in even the latest Macs, running single-threaded tasks. I know, I know, apple and oranges and all that, but this nonetheless points to the incredible performance of these processors, and all in mobile devices with their limited cooling possibilities. This, in fact, is mind-boggling, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole right now.

So if I could do my on-the-go photo management and editing on an iPad, I might get by without a notebook computer. I am looking into the related possibilities, products, and offerings, current and announced, and there are solutions suitable for my workflow. More on that in future post.

An iMac would then be the suitable complement for my desktop work. But that’s fodder for thought for another day.