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Everything about the state of the Mac (mjtsai.com)
166 points by golanggeek on Oct 30, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 129 comments

I think the smartest thing anyone has said about the new MacBook was A16Z's Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky on their podcast[1] where they said (to paraphrase) "There's no point building more powerful PCs (and Macs)".

The personal computer market is now in the "sustaining innovation" phase. There will be minor changes (USB-C. Touch bar thing. etc) but there is no point doing major changes.

Basically if you - like me - need more RAM, or faster graphics, or more CPU in your MPB then you aren't going to get it, except as gradual changes that are easy for Apple to drop in.

My maxed out MPB is currently using 97.5% CPU, 14.7GB RAM (out of 16BM) and I had to delete stuff this morning because my SSD filled up.

The thing is - I know perfectly well that fixing this isn't just more CPU and more memory. It's a completely different way of working.

I should be working on a mobile terminal device (like a Chromebook.. or an iPad Pro) and using my 400 core cluster with 1.5TB of RAM. Sometime I do things that way, but it isn't as convenient.

This "isn't as convenient" things are the things that Apple are trying to fix, NOT "my MBP doesn't have enough RAM".

[1] https://soundcloud.com/a16z/pc-devices-architectures-ecosyst...

Huh. They could offer better specs. It just seems they focussed all their energy on making the laptop thinner, as if this in any way a meaningful/useful attribute for a laptop (compared to say, weight).

This focus may also be the reason they're so 'brave' to provide a small set of ports which is completely disjoint from the previous model? Thinness is probably also the reason they're not offering 32GB of ram?

In a way, Apple doesn't seem to agree with you that innovation has plateaued. I'd like them to improve the specs, maybe make the laptop fanless, reduce the reflectivity -- i.e., evolve the platform to make it better and remove issues. Instead they are trying so hard to revolutionize (touch bar...) that they don't bother improving the laptop.

The ram is more that skylake doesn't support the right lpddr3 ram thus maxed out at 16gb.

Thinness is part of it, but only due to energy use and chipset support.


If its lpddr3, all we'll ever get is 16gb. I think the kaby lake mobiles will do lpddr4 which will allow for 32.

Not entirely true. The fact is they could have used SODIMM DDR4 which is 1.2v and has a power usage close to LPDDR3 (also 1.2v). But they would have to redesign and they would lose a very few mm in thinness.

DDR4 uses about 30% more energy in general though, hence the thickness bit as to get a 10 hour lifetime means more battery.

Presumably Apple means that lpddr is the only choice they care about for a laptop. Which while I would love more ram, understand. And that explains why if you see laptops with more than 16g of ram they generally have giant batteries and are using desktop ram.

I'd like to see improvement too, but the problem is everytime Apple tries to improve a product, everyone talks how Apple have lost their way and haven't put out any revolutionary products in X years (admittedly, sometimes Apple's marketing department doesn't help).

Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

So the alternative is to ship gimmicks? Honestly all I wanted was a mbp with 64gb ram. I would have settled for 32gb but now I'll just continue waiting. Can't justify that money for old limited tech.

But try to put yourself in Apple's shoes - they know exactly who their customers are and what products sell how well. I'd argue that >90% of MBP sold never even come close to being fully utilized.

I can't imagine the market of people needings 64gb RAM being significant enough to warrant its own product category.

The only way to offer this would be the f1 racing / supercar comparison made in a different article's comments on HN today. I think the new Mac Pro was an attempt at that and apparently failed.

I think it is dangerous to look at sales only as the driving value of their brand. Apple became what it is today because they made amazing tools for artists and creators in general. This has a major impact on how their brand is perceived. By ignoring the product categories that cater to their core minority they risk destroying their whole brand. So what if their mac pros and their top tier macbook pros only sell a few million? It's a worthwhile investment to ensure that they remain the makers choice and by proxy remain perceived as not only superficially trendy but also actually top notch. The situation reminds me a little of neighborhoods made trendy by artists who are then pushed out by gentrification.

Apple don't need to offer 64GB of RAM - especially not at their RAM prices.

But they should at least offer the option of 64GB RAM. Or 32GB as a minimum.

Basic specs are going to convince a lot more people than a mm or two of thinness. 16GB means a lot of work literally can't be done on that machine.

As for the Mac Pro - Apple made the usual mistake of building a form-over-function machine.

Mac Pro users actually need a tower with PCI slots, so that it's possible to swap in specialised hardware for DSP, graphics, machine learning, and so on. The only way to do this on the Black Bin Pro is to buy a PCI expansion cage that costs more than some of the Mac Pro models do.

The Mac Pro format would have been brilliant as a new Mac Mini, but it doesn't fit the needs of a significant number of pro users at all.

Its a design problem, as they intentionally made their "Pro" machines non-upgradable.

In the race towards ultimate and unnecessary thinness, the elimination of sockets for RAM and SSD dictate separate SKUs for every configuration they want to sell.

No I think you're right, they shouldn't ship gimmicks (though personally I think the Touch Bar is interesting) - they should improve the damn specs. However, I still think they'd receive the same level of criticism if that's what they did (hence, damned if you do...).

The touch bar is hardly revolutionary. As others have pointed out there have been plenty of (barely working) implementations before.

Really the touch bar is a UI element (a toolbar) made available elsewhere. I like it, but..

This is kind of the point: sustaining innovation over radical change. Incremental improvements will continue.

>The touch bar is hardly revolutionary.


>there have been plenty of (barely working) implementations before.

...but that's the key point, isn't it? That the existing implementations don't really work. Just like there were plenty of "non-lame" MP3 players and plenty of smart phones and plenty of tablets...that all didn't really do the job.

Making something work great that already kinda exists, that people have tried and failed to really make great, isn't that exactly Apple's MO?

I certainly have an immediate application for the TouchBar for interactions that (a) have the potential to be really valuable but (b) have so far been too fiddly to do well. And that was only the immediately obvious one, my guess there are a lot more.

So while I had the same immediate reaction (yawn, gimmicky, ...), I have revised that opinion. I think it has the potential of being more useful than a full touch screen would be, in a laptop setting, and that's despite the fact that I think a touch screen might be useful in addition, for example swipe for "casual" scrolling.

In terms of hardware being not that amazingly more powerful (a point made elsewhere). Yes. That's what the end of Moore's Law looks like. What faster Intel CPUs was Apple to have used? Kaby Lake? Apparently not available yet in the configurations/quantities required, and also not really all that much faster And yes, the geek in me is always m/sad about the 13" not having a nice high-perf GPU to play with, but the actual user in me has never really needed it.

Instead of seeking to be saved by faster hardware, we now have a lot more to gain from optimising the software side, and we're currently leaving that on the table. Hmm..."leaving on the table" is not really strong enough, more like pushing away with maximum force.

As a small example the Swift compiler is tremendously slower than the clang based Objective-C/C compiler is. And that in turn is a lot slower than it should be, with a big part being LLVM (see Jonathan Blow's video on Jai compiler performance[1]).

His goal is to compile a medium sized program in well under a second, and a larger one in a couple of seconds. Sound ridiculous? Really the only thing that's ridiculous is that we don't have that level of performance generally available, our machines are fast enough for it. For example, I tried tcc[2], and it compiled a (synthetic) 300KLOC C program in 0.269 seconds. Swift took 96.6 seconds, for a factor 359 difference. And that was purposely avoiding the various constructs that make the Swift compiler run into the weeds.

In my upcoming book [3] I talk about various simple examples that get order(s) of magnitude difference from a bit of tuning love. One example went from 20 minutes using the "standard" accepted techniques to slightly under 1 second...all without any heroic optimisations, just straightforward tuning.

So coming back to the MacBook Pros: yes, they're probably not going to get appreciably faster, that's the new reality. But maybe they don't really need to get appreciably faster, we just have to get off our collective derrieres.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ7-j1nK9gk

[2] http://bellard.org/tcc/

[3] http://www.pearsoned.co.nz/9780321842848

...but that's the key point, isn't it? That the existing implementations don't really work. Just like there were plenty of "non-lame" MP3 players and plenty of smart phones and plenty of tablets...that all didn't really do the job.

Making something work great that already kinda exists, that people have tried and failed to really make great, isn't that exactly Apple's MO?

I think we agree entirely. Incremental innovation - fixing things that are broken.

The performance of Swift doesn't matter much to Apple. Swift is a demand-pull thing: Developers care about iOS, and will pay the horrible performance tax. The developer experience for iOS developers has always been horrible but it has one thing that matters more than that: users.

>Incremental innovation - fixing things that are broken.

Yes and no. Yes in that it is incremental in a way. No in that all of Apple's "revolutionary innovations" have been of this sort, not that I am saying the Touch Bar is necessarily of that scope.

> The developer experience for iOS developers has always been horrible

Do you think there might be a point in making it less horrible?

>Instead of seeking to be saved by faster hardware

We're moving into the era of data led computing and software. More ram and cuda support is a necessity for any ambitious dev

We're moving into a post-code world.

Development ten years from now will be all about training ML/AI systems and chaining them together in interesting ways.

That's going to need lots and lots of cycles and RAM. If Apple can't see that and wants to carry on selling jewellery with a keyboard and screen, Apple is going to be steamrollered by competitors who can.

> The touch bar is hardly revolutionary

But Apple claims it is

Did you expect them to come out and say "The Touchbar is just ok. You might like it" ?

No. If you go further up int he discussion, you'll not that I expected Apple to improve specs and evolve their 'pro' computer, instead they're trying desperately to appear like they're revolutionizing.

>This focus may also be the reason they're so 'brave' to provide a small set of ports which is completely disjoint from the previous model?

By the time USB C is widely used they will move on to a different standard which means the hassle of dealing with adapters has been for nothing. USB D will probably out by then. I look forward to the day I can power a kettle with a laptop. Since the MBP only supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3 users will be fed up with being constrained to only 8 4k displays. Heck, even if they keep USB C for the next MPB and support display port 1.4 it can only drive a 8k display at 60hz per port. But what about the power users with their 16k display? Sure, they could get away with using all 4 ports but that is a hacky solution. Apple is clearly not thinking ahead.

I don't see the problem with dealing with adapters. In the current status quo you already have to deal with adapters. The only way is to add a native port which is going to make the device larger and it still may have the wrong port. There are only three choices. Support all ports (DVI, VGA, HDM, DP) or support only port X with an active adapter to the other ports. The former is clearly not desirable and the latter is what is already happening anyway. USB C with Thunderbolt 3 and DP 1.4 is probably going to be the last physical port we will ever need unless we suddenly have a need to go beyond 8k.

"I look forward to the day I can power a kettle with a laptop"

Unless you cheat physics, I don't see that happening ever. Your average kettle(in EU) is 2500-3000W. Even at 220V, that's about 10-15Amps, which requires a seriously thick cable. Now I don't know about you, but I can't imagine portable devices having ports that can support 10 or more amps, purely because such ports would be very heavy and completely unnecessary. Not to mention having a power supply that could provide that much power, or a battery which can discharge that quickly without overheating and/or damaging itself.

The kettle part was a joke I guess, however USB Power Delivery already does 5A @ 20V. Now increasing either with that kind of connector would not be practical and/or safe, so I guess (the order of) 100W will be the max we will get on that kind of plug.

You can get less amps if you go high voltage ;)

Well, yes, you could go for 3000V and 1amp I guess, but I wouldn't want to stand anywhere close that cable ;-)

By the time USB C is widely used they will move on to a different standard

This appears to be an argument for never adopting any new connector, ever. You think we should have stuck with RS232?

They are going to get to a point where it will be laptop will be useful for chefs to cut onions or for developers living in rough areas to use them as a weapon.

I should be working on a mobile terminal device (like a Chromebook.. or an iPad Pro) and using my 400 core cluster with 1.5TB of RAM.

The cloud just isn't all that useful for pro users because it's in a datacenter far, far away and shared with an unknown number of other simultaneous users.

What good is 1.5TB of working memory when my data is local, for example video? At typical network speeds, it would take me months just to upload that 1.5TB of data.

I am exactly that professional user (not that video use case, but I deal with multi-TB datasets frequently).

Professional use is all about sharing stuff. Cloud video editing is a better model than local.

Yes, latency and bandwidth both suck, but downsampling video for scrubbing works, and caching small amounts of high-res locally works too.

It's not here for everyone yet, but it's clearly coming. Non-pro tools already work that way, and thing like the Avid Cloud Composer show pro tools are moving that way too.

I'm not a video editor, but I do work a lot with big files. The suckiness depends on your internet connection. If you've got a steady 50Mbps upload speed, it's just about OK. If you've got < 2Mbps, it's totally unworkable.

And sometimes your internet connection is not under your control - if you travel a lot, you're contracting in an office without good internet, etc. Even frequent uploads of small files make for a painful experience when internet is bad.

Right. This is an even better argument for what I'm saying.

Work is clearly moving towards a place where files are kept online by default, and where software is optimized for working with them there, instead of moving them up and down.

It still feels like it's years away. Earlier this year, I worked in an office that couldn't hold a steady internet connection for more than an hour. Even if it was only submitting deltas, the frequency of failures made working on a remote server unfeasible.

Sure. But I bet you weren't doing pro video work from there. Reliable internet is already required in that work.

I work with 5 TB of data over 3 millions files, half a million of those are media files that need processing. That's a tiny minor internal application, bigger applications have at least 1 order of magnitude more data, 2 order for our flagship products.

The data is best left in the datacenter, moving it even within the datacenter require careful consideration.

There is "that kind" of professional too. My need for memory and speed actually went down over the years since the cloud become more and more practical. As a professional machine the MBP is actually ok, except USB-C is a bit annoying, but just a bit since the world is full of dongle already.

As a personal machine I'm a bit nervous to be stuck for 5-6 years (at least) with only 16GB. However, USB-C each with TB3 is actually quite a future proof move.

I agree with the idea that using a client device as a window into a cloud machine with an arbitrary level of resources on demand is something we will and should move toward.

I strongly disagree with any suggestion that there is no point currently in building a more powerful Mac. Gamers are the best illustration of the phenomenon I'm referring to. Serious gaming is a large market of people who are poorly served by the Mac market and well served by the Windows market, and the difference is NOT that Windows (OS) is inherently better for gaming than Mac (OS) but entirely due to the fact that Apple won't build hardware configured to meet the needs of serious gamers and, worse, refuses to allow anyone else to build good gaming Macs, either. You can get bulky Windows laptops that are much better for gamers (yet no more expensive) than fashionably anorexic Mac laptops, and you can get even better gaming machines for no more money if you buy even bulkier (less-compact) desktops instead of laptops. Relaxing the tight size constraints allows you to provide much more power for the same price. Some people would rather pay for the power than the thinness.

Many developers are in an analogous situation: MacOS itself meets our needs better than alternatives, and Apple can clearly deliver high-end hardware build quality worth paying extra for, but they build hardware optimized for things that don't matter as much to many of us (thinness, elimination of unsightly "lines", minimal connectors, etc.) at the expense of things that matter a lot more. If they doubled the thickness, for example, they could give us more battery life and would have more room for less-compact, cheaper, previous-generation components, giving us more RAM and SSD for the same price.

I believe that thinness is extremely important for some products, such as a tablet (should be large enough for easy reading yet light enough to hand hold for long reading sessions), and a type of laptop for working on the go with a laptop always at your fingertips (frequent business travelers, college students). A MacBook (with more connectors!) would be great for that.

BUT, thinness above all else does not have to be the design ethos for EVERY product line. The MacBook PRO line could use the same OS, high-quality screens, battery mgt., wifi, etc., but be optimized for how much screen (offer a 17" again), battery (replaceable), RAM and SSD (large and upgradeable), and so on, while still being "thin enough". Although various business objectives (ex: wanting to be associated with wealthy, fashionable partiers, not workaday drudges) may make it not useful for Apple, the general idea that there is "no point" in machines optimized for power instead of thinness is wrong.

Why would Apple put resources into gaming on MacOS, when instead they could put those resources towards gaming on iOS?

If they chose, improving gaming on iOS/AppleTV could be a big win for them. But there is no evidence that Apple cares about gaming at all.

I'm addressing the argument that there is no point making more powerful Macs--presumably there is no good use for them as long as we have better cloud viewers. I'm not suggesting Apple get more into gaming, I'm using the situation with gaming as a demonstration there there exist sizable markets for which 1) MacOS is fine (maybe even best in some cases), 2) Apple's refusal to build these "pointless" more powerful Macs is the only cause of the problem, and 3) better iCloud service would not solve it for the next few years, but more powerful hardware would. (Whether they WANT to solve it or don't care about it enough to solve it is a different question.)

Therefore, there IS a point in building more powerful Macs: serving markets that are only unserved because the hardware isn't powerful enough.

Gaming isn't the point. My interest is in developer machines, but illustrating that more powerful hardware is NOT pointless is more easily done with the gaming market example.

However this developer label is too broad.

For those developers that only care about WWDC, and their main income is programming macOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS applications, the only requirement is being fast enough to handle XCode.

For those scenarios most Macs are already quite good and these are the developers Apple wants to keep happy, not those that buy Macs as an UNIX with a pretty GUI.

Oh, right. We agree then.

Apple doesn't want to serve these markets. There will always be some people who can find a use for more power, but they aren't Apple's market. For one thing they usually care about price/performance, and Apple refuses to play that game.

This is the "toner-head" argument that Steve Jobs railed against as the reason that Xerox never successfully marketed a GUI based machine.


No, no no!!

The toner-head argument is basically that decisions are being made by sales and financial teams who don't understand what they are selling.

I'm making multiple arguments here, but none are the toner-head argument:

Argument 1: iOS is a better platform to move into gaming on.

Argument 2: The compromises needed to make Macs good gaming machines are completely different to the direction Apple thinks is good for the Mac.

Argument 3: Apple has never cared about gaming.

While Apple hasn't made gaming a priority on MacOS in a long time, the original Apple machines were the place a lot of very big titles got their start and it took Windows a long time to catch up with them in that department.

Really, this is a very long and complex discussion, but I just wanted to point out that Argument 3 was not really accurate.

> were the place a lot of very big titles got their start and it took Windows a long time to catch up with them in that department.

Other than Prince of Persian, I don't remember a single one.

Then again, in Portugal outside the university campus there were no Macs to be seen.

Yet we had Amigas, Ataris and PC everywhere.

> The thing is - I know perfectly well that fixing this isn't just more CPU and more memory

Just because Apple choose not release a version with gen 7cpu /32GB/1TB at this time?

Will you "know perfectly well" otherwise if such a machine does become available in say six months? What if it turns out (just a thought experiment here) that you can upgrade the memory and ssd yourself?

Personally I think if you're doing heavy-duty work you should get a desktop machine; laptops are fine (and I use one for my day-to-day work), and they should be strong enough for most applications (so far they are). But for heavy-duty work - which in my case was iOS development, since the Swift compiler could make the thing sweat, and for others is stuff like rendering - you'd be better off with a fixed machine where size and energy usage isn't a constraint.

Which is why I'm a bit disappointed that Apple yet again didn't announce an update to the Mac Pro. They could do a lot more with that. Volumes are probably way too low for it to be viable though.

I've asked my boss if I could get a Mac Pro or iMac instead, but, no dice. I'd like the 17 inch Macbook to make a return too, but also not likely to happen. Alas.

There's no point in buying them then either?

Much the flak that's been posted about the new MacBook Pros implies there are better offerings from PC manufacturers, and certainly there are plenty if your priorities are very different from Apple's (e.g. you care more about upgradeability than sleekness). My personal priorities are pretty similar to Apple's, but not quite the same: I'm skeptical about anything that reduces key travel. So I browsed around to try to find something that could compete with the new 15" MacBook Pro for my next purchase. To my surprise, I couldn't find a single model from the major vendors that had all of the following:

- 15" or close

- In the general "thin and light" category (ideally at least as thin as my 2012 rMBP at 1.8 cm; latest is 1.55cm)

- Higher than 1080p screen resolution (old and new MBP are both 2880x1800)

- At least 7 hours of battery life (advertised battery life of my 2012 rMBP; latest advertises 10 hours)

It seemed to generally come down to 1080p and good battery life, or high resolution (usually higher than the MBP) and crappy battery life. I think the Surface Book was most tempting, but it has a significantly smaller screen.

If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them. But for now my plan is to suck up the reduced key travel and buy a new MacBook Pro...

This is the thing. I was as bored by the new MBPs as everyone else, but they really do still seem to have a combination of power, screen quality, portability, and battery life that isn't matched elsewhere (not to mention the more intangible benefits e.g. great touchpads). Every time someone tells me about a PC laptop that supposedly beats the Apple equivalent, the PC ends up either not being a reasonable equivalent or falls flat in at least one of the areas I mentioned.

Maybe if the price is right then making sacrifices is fine, but that's up to the individual buyer. Speaking for myself, a boring computer that's quietly excellent is exactly what I want. My biggest problem with the new MBPs is that i think the Touch Bar is a gimmick and losing the physical escape key is a real bummer.

> great touchpads

That's it. I could live without most of what Apple laptops offer, but the touchpads are the selling point for me. I just love them. They actually WORK. I haven't found a single Windows laptop that have an equally great touchpad. The Dell touchpads certainly don't, they are very sensitive to "palm" presses. Are there any good ones out there?

Touchpads of Thinkpads is OK, although a little buggy (they insist in breaking your middle button being the middle click, unless you restore some registry key to historical values, but then this now unsupported function seems to degrade with time and mandatory driver updates...) and using remote desktop sometimes break two finger scrolling for 5 minutes... (I would really want to know what happens technically, this seems only a truly horrible design would yield that behavior...)

I just tested palm rejection (I don't need it 99.99% of the time) and out of 2 tries it failed once and produced zooms commands.

So yeah, it's probably worse than a mac, but stays usable enough for me.

(Warning: I'm more specifically talking about a T530, some Thinkpad like T440/T540 have extremely terrible touchpads, and I don't now much about the very last models)

For the recent laptops maybe precision touchpads are good, but IIRC sadly not every vendor are shipping in that mode.

On my side I'm extremely annoyed by the current tendency of most 15.6" to have a keyboard with a numeric keypad. That shifts your default position to the left, which is not ok for my taste on a 15.6" (would be ok on a 17"). When looking at powerful recent laptops around 15", I only found the MBP (but I don't like the last one for various reasons), the XPS15 / Precision 5510 and the HP ZBook Studio G3. But the last one seems to have heat problems, and XPS15 have had QC issues. OTOH at least with PC you still sometimes have the option for matte screens.

So yeah choosing a laptop is kind of difficult, especially if you have criteria on lots of point. I doubt I'll ever get the one I really want (ex: I found 16:9 aspect ratio idiotic, but I don't like glossy screens...). I can live with my T530 for a few more years, given it has 16GB of RAM and a SSD.

For what it's worth, my 2012 MBA touchpad is glitchy as shit. I don't really consider this a computer I control, so much as I make gesture suggestions and then wait to see what the computer thinks it should do.

That said, if you have a good one, I do agree Apple touchpads are great.

This 100%. I use a Razer laptop on the regular and as good as the trackpad is (and it's better than a lot of PC trackpads) I still regularly encounter issues with it or just notice little shortcomings everywhere.

>> I was as bored by the new MBPs as everyone else, but they really do still seem to have a combination of power, screen quality, portability, and battery life that isn't matched elsewhere

A laptop is a tool. Does a carpenter want the newest saw even though his works fine? Does an auto mechanic want a new wrench just because?

Do those people also spend the rest of their time using those things for personal use? Probably not.

And while metaphors are nice, you can't really compare a laptop to a piece of metal attached to a handle.

I've been using a 2015 Razer Blade and it's a great machine. 14" 3200x1800 screen, 16GB RAM, decent battery life, very thin, great trackpad with click buttons, which I like. Excellent Linux support; I run Ubuntu on it as my daily OS. However it's expensive, and has a pretty tacky color scheme. Parts are proprietary and repairs are expensive, though compared to Apple that's a wash.

At the time I bought it they were for sale in Microsoft stores, so you could try it out in person too.

How many hours is "decent battery life"?


I haven't really seen this before. But this looks like a decent MacBook Pro alternative. Except maybe battery-life. And not sure about longevity / overall quality.

It would be hard to consider that really "portable" at 7.8 lbs, it's almost 2x as heavy as the MBP. You do get a lot of power for that though.

The pro is 17". They also have a 14", which weights 1.89kg.

I use Lenovo P50 - 64GB RAM, 4K display, nice keyboard, card reader, Ethernet port(!), and Quadro M2000. Especially nice thing about is that it supports 2 SSDs + 2.5" harddrive (all easily removable and upgradable). This means I can keep my Linux installation completely separate from Windows on separate drive without having to partition anything. All these at a fraction of price. I can keep old MBP around for iOS stuff but these days much of the computer vision and deep learning development happens in Linux so configuration like about works great as main machine.

XPS15 has 1080 to 4k display, up to 32GB RAM and is 17mm thin (in the base, the screen adds up a couple mm). Battery is rated at 17 hours on the 1080, and this is a number that I've actually confirmed while working with a friend who owns one. The 4k should get you to 10 without big problems.

Also, you do know that you are limited to 1200p scaling on the 15" MBP, don't you?

Anandtech's review[1] measures 7.5 hours on their lightest test with the higher-resolution model. That's certainly not bad, and in fact is over my stated 7 hour cutoff - I think the number I found yesterday was a bit lower. And of course I get considerably more pixels in exchange. But when Apple advertises 10 hours, and reviews in the past have typically found their advertised battery figures pretty much on the mark (sometimes even an underestimate), that's still a significant difference.

Maybe I shouldn't worry about this too much, because as a developer I tend to feed a lot of battery to the CPU anyway, draining it much faster: the increased battery drain from a higher resolution screen stays constant, so it becomes less significant as a fraction of a larger overall drain. On the other hand, for the same reason, I'd like all the battery life I can get.

And yes, I'm aware of how the Mac resolution scaling works.

[1] http://www.anandtech.com/show/10116/the-dell-xps-15-9550-rev...

On my three-year-old macbook the battery is dead, it lasts maybe half an hour. Replacement costs 350$ or so, ouch. Maybe the bigger question is whether the better can be replacement relatively cheaply, not whether it lasts 10 or 7 hours.

I heard that the 4k versions get 5, 6 hours at best of battery life, which is what's stopping me from buying one. Have you had a better experience? This is doing dev work.

At least go try out the latest Dell XPS and HP Spectre, possibly at a Microsoft Store if you can.

To be fair, I probably should have got a Macbook as my last laptop upgrade.

The laptop before that was the Lenovo X1 Carbon - slow, memory constrained and expensive to repair.

I've got a Dell XPS 9350 at the moment, and it was more expensive than the top end Macbook at the time (!). It's quite good, but I can't recommend it against the last gen MacBook - there's still a coil whine issue that Dell refuse to really fix (or can't), there's issues with Broadcom wifi cards, and then there's this fun issue: https://www.reddit.com/r/Dell/comments/3v6tvp/dell_xps_15_ra...

It gets ~6 hours of battery life in power saving mode, but closer to 4 if I'm doing dev work.

It could be so good, but it's just not there yet. For $3000AUD I expect utter perfection.

Am i the only one that cares about 16GB ram? HP Spectre doesn't have 16gb ram. The xps only has it in offering with their QHD touch screen which has less battery than the FHD screen, which I guess is fine because apparently the FHD screen is crap.

Macbooks have significantly better thermal zone than the dell alternatives(e.g. the 7370 is significantly slower than the macbook 12" even though it has the same specs + 16gb) and don't get me started on the touchpad. There's so many threads on reddit about who seemingly fixed the touchpad issue.

Bash on windows by the way is nice, but it's no way near production usable.They use a custom file system that resides in your AppData. Until recent insider builds you could neither use inotify(which means most node apps would have some sort of issue) nor would it keep your Ubuntu when during an update. Now the system is somewhat usable, but I've spent so much time whitelisting different folders so that random windows tools don't eat up CPU and I/O that make this 2016 device feel like something from 2011 that I wonder what the hell microsoft is thinking. The recent windows insider build also fixed an issue with windows defender eating up all CPU.

You can forget about the surfacebook if you want a decent terminal running on it. WsL isn't there yet and linux support is flakey.

So yeah the only contender if you care about both battery AND performance AND a proper terminal right now is the dell xps. The thinkpad x260 is nice, but they don't have nvme, only supports sata express(and i'm not sure i wanna gamble on the intel dc 3500 drives to get me the performance).

>The recent windows insider build also fixed an issue with windows defender eating up all CPU.

Were you getting this on the Anniversary build? It's driving me insane - between that and Windows Search Indexing my machine becomes unusable.

> Am i the only one that cares about 16GB ram?

XCode and Visual Studio are pretty happy "just" with 8GB.

16 is great, but 32 would be perfect if I wanted a few more VMs running.

That is the thing, I don't run any VMs on my computers besides the iOS and Android emulators.

I'd run VMs more often if I weren't in a constant disk space crunch, even with a 512GB SSD. VMs not only take up space for the OS, they have the annoying property that free space in the virtual disk still takes up space on the real disk once initially dirtied. Especially annoying since in theory, TRIM/discard should be exactly what's needed for the virtual OS to inform the VM software what parts of the virtual disk file it can throw away... yet as far as I can tell, VMware Fusion doesn't support this at all, and VirtualBox only with a hidden, possibly-broken flag.

In fact, I've been looking into NixOS partly because in theory I should be able to wipe the entire system partition whenever I haven't used it for a while, then regenerate it from a handful of config files. Neat - but NixOS partly "compensates" for this by being rather disk hungry when it is in use.

I suppose I should be more diligent about cleaning out junk in general. But these days at least, half the time I have more free RAM than free disk. My next laptop will have 1TB, even with Apple's ransom-level pricing for disk upgrades.

"I'd run VMs more often if I weren't in a constant disk space crunch, even with a 512GB SSD

"I suppose I should be more diligent about cleaning out junk in general."*

You and me both. I generally "reclaim" space when I do a clean install during OS upgrades. Looking at mine, the three biggest chunks are music, videos, and email, most of which I could get away without if I were satisfied with relying on an internet connection.

What do you find takes up the most space on your system?

A variety of things; taking inventory now, the biggest chunks include:

80GB - Boot Camp partition I almost never use but is too useful to get rid of

48GB - /usr/src (hmm, I can probably cut this down, but it includes >700 source trees and I don't remember which of them I care about); biggest individual offenders are:

-> 2.5GB - linux source tree

-> 15GB - chromium source tree

25GB - /Applications

20GB - ~/Music

20GB - anime

20GB - Windows VM (XP!)

9GB - /usr/local, mostly Homebrew

8GB - ~/Pictures, and that's with the Photos app's option to only store thumbnails and stick the rest in iCloud. (Though the preference says: "Originals will also be stored on this Mac if you have enough storage space." Annoying that this isn't more customizable.)

Is there any option to store the source trees in a compressed filesystem? It won't help with the .git directory but on my ZFS NAS I get a 20% saving on that kind of content.

The newly refreshed HP Spectre x360 13" convertible has a 16GB option.

Consider upgrading to Dell XPS 15 when it releases with Kaby Lake (expected December). The Dell XPS 13 went from 12 hours to 14 hours battery life in the Kaby Lake update.

The problem is also we don't know the quality we will get with a new model... I would be more than annoyed by a laptop that has coil whine, screen flicker, and sleep issues, especially an high end laptop with that kind of price tag...

Unfortunately I don't have that kind of cash. I also wonder how anyone was getting close to 12 hours with the 13.

That's the most frustrating thing about the situation is they have no actual competitors. We know they can ship a better mbp but they have zero incentive

The Thinkpad T560 [1]

-Slightly thicker at 22.4mm

-With the largest battery you should get 16-20hrs of real world battery life

-Available with a 2880 x 1620 screen


I am in the same boat. Right now I am looking into

1. Asus Zenbook Pro UX501VW

2. HP Spectre x360

3. Dell XPS (but I really really don't like the webcam position)

I cannot recommend the Spectre:

- touchpad requires a third party driver, has really bad recognition and the driver needs to be reset from time to time because it stops recognizing multitouch gestures (there's even a button for reseting the driver in the control panel), this is on Windows10

- keyboard is really mushy and when typing fast, keys sometimes register twice or not at all (first laptop where I ever had such a problem)

- the WIFI didn't connect out of the box with my router, I had to revert to a one year old driver (Windows 10)

I have now a Zenbook UX330 which doesn't have most of these problems (it also needs a third-party touchpad driver though), but has an Optimus NVIDIA/Intel GPU setup which at least on Linux is basically useless.

Can't comment on the Dell XPS :)

[edit: typos]

> there's even a button for reseting the driver in the control panel

thank you for once again reminding me why I've never looked back after switching to Mac hardware back in 2006. I'd much rather "cope" with hardware that isn't absolutely top-of-the-line spec-wise than dealing with buttons to reset a f'ing input device driver.

I think our perception of the Mac slowly losing its "it just works" status is somewhat shifted as we're forgetting how bad the alternatives were and obviously still are.

I use a 2013 MBPro and own a 2015 Mac Mini, but wanted something portable to play video games. I had all of the main requirements you had too, with the added requirement that it could power a 2k monitor on Fallout 4 at the highest setting.

The only thing I found that let me configure it online, and met the requirements (would have preferred more than 16GB of RAM though), was the HP Omen.

Edit: It comes with a 4k screen, which I downgraded to 1080p (Mostly used on monitor), but also wish it had a 2k downgrade option. Mac's Retina resolution is just about perfect, and not really a fan of 4k yet, also on a 15 inch screen it seems a waste.

Everyone seems to be saying the specs are bad, but what exactly is everyone upset about? (Genuine question) You can configure it with the Radeon 460, which seems like a top-end chip [1]. Apple's slideshow shows it being 1.8X faster than then 450. You can configure it with a 2.9 GHz, quad-core i7 with boost up to 3.8 GHz, which seems pretty top-end for a mobile chip, and it's not like 2.9/3.5 GHz is that bad. So it's last-year's generation, it's not like the one released last month is a huge leap ahead. Besides, as a developer, I'm rarely CPU constrained even on my 2009 laptop, unless I'm doing Swift in Xcode or RAW photo editing. You can get 1TB or even 2TB SSD. The only thing you can't get is over 16 GB of RAM, and mitchty's post suggests it is because of CPU/chipset limitations.

So what more does everyone (not just HN) think Apple should be offering?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_AMD_graphics_processin...

>Radeon 460

AMD GPU. Inefficient / power-hungry. This means that battery life will be destroyed. Also, have fun with those endless driver issues.

Also, the configuration you quote costs around £2,500+, which is a total rip-off. You could get a laptop with better components from basically any company that exists (even Razer!), and still have enough money left over to buy a second-hand car or a medium/top-of-the-range desktop.

They've shot themselves in the foot.

I was going to contest that, saying that you can't find a more powerful laptop with that kind of weight, but holy fuck, Razer Blade actually packs a full quad-core CPU and GTX1060 into a 14" laptop that weights just 1.89kg.

Even Razer?

Razer are one of the best companies out there for well designed high end Windows laptops.

I was talking about price as another comment said. Although Razer are well built, you do pay the price. Personally I think their products are worth it, some don't however.

Apple though...they bring poor value to a new level. A new dimension. A new universe not thought possible in the realm for expensive polished turds.

I don't know anything about that company, but I think he was talking about price.

A keyboard that doesn't feel like typing on an iPad ?! I am struggling to understand how mbp owners are planning to code or write documents on that keyboard.

while this is butterfly-v2, not v1, reviewers seems to agree that it's still a "butterfly" keyboard with extremely little travel space.

also, nice to have: sd reader, hdmi, esc-button.

"Feels like typing on an iPad" is so far from the truth it's laughable. Maybe try actually using one (and for more than 30 seconds) before spouting off about it.

I'm typing this on a "butterfly-v1" right now. I (subjectively, I know) prefer it to the old MBP/Air keyboard. The travel is less but it has a very crisp and positive feel. It's not bad at all.

I spent three days trying to type on a MacBook before my hands hurt too much to continue. I returned the computer.

"Typing on an iPad" is an accurate description of how that keyboard felt to me.

Clearly some people like this keyboard design, while others do not. It's not helpful to dismiss opinions about it out of hand.

And what really stings is that the iPad Pro keyboard cover is actually a better keyboard with more travel than the ones on the new Macbooks.

I was referring to the poster I replied to, who had (it seemed, though reading again I might be wrong) not actually used one but was parroting hyperbole they had heard elsewhere.

We have a general problem right now of an echochamber of loud and uninformed opinions on something almost nobody has actually even seen or touched.

I touch-type, and my touch sense replaces my eyes when my fingers are navigating the keyboard. E.g. to find the Cmd button, place your thumb on the Space bar and move it sideways until you cross the gap to the next button. That would be Cmd. But the keys on the new keyboard are so flat that I can't sense the gap by touch alone. This is akin to blinding me.

Also, the inverted-T arrow keys are gone. I used the feeling of aluminum as a hint to position my right hand over the arrow keys. No more aluminum space, so I can't tell between right-Alt and left-arrow by touch anymore, so now I mix between them.

These two were the reasons why I hated the new Magic Keyboard and threw it away after a month of non-stop cursing.

Having said that, I don't care about the amount of travel.

I write almost everything on a 12" MacBook these days. Coming from a previous 15" MBP it was jarring at first, but I got used to it very quickly (a day later I wasn't thinking about it at all).

What made you switch to the macbook? What kind of work do you use it for? Do you have another machine? I'm curious as to who uses these apart from people with very basic computing needs. They seem to be very limited machines (though admittedly I've never used one).

I found myself needing to buy a new Mac laptop around May/June, and getting a Pro model at that point time seemed like a waste of money when the update was around the corner. So I decided to get a maxed-out MacBook instead, with the best CPU and SSD options available.

I do have an iMac as well, but I've been traveling a lot in recent months, so the MacBook has become my main computer. It's simultaneously brilliant and incredibly frustrating...

The CPU is a Core m7 that does "TurboBoost" up to 3.1 GHz, but the base frequency is only 1.3 GHz. Because the computer doesn't have a fan, it throttles very rapidly. Encoding video is hopeless, as it can keep up the max speed for maybe half a second and then performance just collapses. Most other tasks are fine -- that burst of 3.1 GHz performance goes surprisingly far in practice.

The portability is incredible, and the dongles suck. The HDMI+USB adapter is ridiculously expensive and absolutely necessary; it's an ugly piece of plastic; worse, after just 4 months the HDMI port is already flaking out.

I'm probably going to get a new MacBook Pro to replace this pink little weirdo, but it has been an interesting experiment.

I think of myself as a pretty regular software developer, and the new MBP sounds like it matches my priorities pretty well.

    # Thinner and lighter
    # Good specs
    # Able to drive 5K monitors (QHD retina)
    # Touch ID
    # I love a large track-pad
Also I don't seem hit by the claimed negatives.

    # I don't realistically use more than 16GB RAM in daily work
    # I don't use function keys
    # I don't use VI :). I do use ESC for modals though.
The price is a bit high, but I can wait a refresh-cycle for lower prices.

Also in the plus column is the significantly faster NVMe SSD. I suspect that a good portion of the people who use esc already have it mapped to another key like capslock using Karabiner.

I think the conversation about this model being flawed would be entirely changed if the iPhone 8 had dropped Lightning for a USB C connector. USB C/Thunderbolt ports on the new MacBook Pro are a huge step in the goal of getting away from the endless collection of adapters with an unpleasant transition. For example I haven't had a laptop charger in the car for 10 years, but now the USB phone charger will give it at least a slow charge.

Does your debugger not use the f keys for step\into\out of?

Possibly. I don't really use debuggers often enough to use keys ...

For me the saddest thing is that all this outrage didn't come out when Apple started making their laptops unrepairable (soldered RAM, glued battery, etc.), instead it explodes now mostly for performance reasons.

I insure my machines. If my MBP breaks, I get a replacement within 48 hours (and I provision all my machines with Chef so rebuilding my machines is trivial). I functionally don't have a reason to care about repairability, so long as I can retrieve my data.

I care about performance because that actually impacts my day-to-day.

When apple moved to sealed black boxes they introduced a social contract with their users. The deal was no more user upgrades, but in exchange apple would make better systems. Apple hasn't held up their end of the bargain nearly enough. They haven't iterated any of the lines nearly enough, and since you can't make small improvements yourself any more that lack of dedication is even more apparent. I think the outrage really is stemming from the unrepairability, it's just the rage underneath people have struggled to articulate.

They didn't enter a social contract with users. They decided to trade off modifiability for thinness because fully integrated systems are more easily/cheaply made thin and with better/more predictable power characteristics.

One of the most frustrating things about discussions like this, especially wrt Apple, is the amount of projection and handwaving about concerns beyond "Apple makes it; you choose to buy it or not". It's taken almost five days for someone to make the obvious point in the linked article, that the new MBP will be more than sufficient for most developers and so it'll continue to be a strong seller to that segment, especially in light of the comment elsewhere in the thread where someone asks for a drop-in alternative and no one can offer one--every one fails on some major test of either weight, cost, or battery life.

This. I own a mid 2012 non-retina MBP as that's the only MacBook that I could justify buying. It's actually a serviceable and upgradable computer and not just an appliance. It's sad to think that for this reason it will most likely be my last Mac, as I genuinely like macOS and the trackpad alone beats any other laptop in usability on-the-go.

In 2010 I bought a MacBook Air 13 that I considered to be about perfect. It's reasonably cheap (barely more than $1000) and is small and light without making too many compromises (I'm looking at you, 12" MacBook).for years I've been waiting for Apple to release one with 16GB of RAM and a Retina display. They of course have not. About 2-3 years ago it became clear that that was a choice rather than a technical limitation.

When the 12" MacBook came out I went to the local Apple Store and tried it. Hate the keyboard. Performance is too much of a compromise. You can charge it or use peripherals (or carry a dongle everywhere) and of course I knew th Air was now doomed (Apple tends to limit their SKUs).

The new Macs have now lost me completely.

- 2/4 C ports is shocking. 1/2 of these should be As. It's way too soon for all Cs. I read a comment the other day: it used to be that if it fit it worked. Now everything fits and nothing works. Apple might be imagining a universal port but they're ignoring the cables. There are still active/passive cables, USB 2 vs 3 A-to-C cables and so on. Apple used to only adopt technologies once they were mature.

- loved the old keyboard. Hate the new. Saving 0.5mm for a shitty keyboard is too much compromise.

- I use the escape key and function keys Asia like IDEs in particular. It was already jarring having different key bindings in OSX vs Windows/Linux (the latter two being relatively consistent within Jetbrains IDEs at least).

- Loss of MagSafe.

Recently I bought a refurb Dell XPS 15 with minimal specs for $900that I spent $450 upgrading to 32GB of RAM and a Samsung 950 Pro 512GB SSD. It has a respectable GPU (960M). It's trackpad isn't as good as a Mac's but where PC trackpads were once woefully bad (embarrassingly so), it's not bad. The gap is livable.

Come December there'll be an update and likely you can upgrade one to 32GB with a Samsung Pro 512GB/1TB/2TB which. With a GTX 1060 will be a pretty versatile machine.

Will we be waiting another 2 years for the next Mac update? Will some lines flounder without updates after much fanfare like the Mac Pro?

See this is the real problem: I no longer have faith that this is a sector Apple gives a shit about. I realize laptops and desktops are "trucks" (to quote Steve Jobs) but he understood you still need tucks. Post-Jobs Apple seems to not understand and/or care about this.

I'm underwhelmed by the newly-announced MacBook Pros, but this is just kind of where we're at.

There isn't much more CPU performance to be had. Intel doesn't really sell anything faster. A peek at current Thinkpads tells me you can drop $3,000-$4,000 on a 7.5lb luggable with a Xeon-branded CPU, which would have been cool to see in a Mac, but.... yeah.

Aside from the 16GB RAM limitation, Apple's not really holding out on us here. We've hit Moore's Law pretty hard.

I don't think most people are complaining about the new MacBook Pro's CPU. There are many other design choices that are problematic for a lot of professionals.

Has anyone tried the Razer Blades? They were linked on that page and I must say they look very nice.

Yes, I commented above. I have a 2015 model and I frequently recommend it. The color scheme is tacky but the machine is basically unbeatable in the non-Apple category. Excellent Linux support, which is something Apple makes very difficult, is the icing on the cake.

It looks truly excellent in all areas - and I may have to go hunt one down. The website is somewhat confusing, however :)

It's also 17.3" and 3.5kg

Not sure what the battery is like, but that thing is huge.

The homepage lists 3 models, a 12", a 14" and a 17" one.

Some review sites I checked list "Below average battery life" as a con, which is a deal-breaker for me.

Is there some good reason why Apple doesn't ship an LTE modem in the MacBook Pro? Every device they ship has a cell modem. Why not the laptop?

Despite the bad reviews from most well-known experts, the AAPL stock didn't vary. There was a 1% fall on Oct 26, but it seems due to a technical change, not a trader evaluation.

Proof that either the Macbook Pro isn't bad enough, either it won't hurt their bottom line at all. Proof that the MBP is here to stay. Proof that 2017 could be the year of Linux on the desktop ;)

Would I be wrong to suggest that the majority of people who buy the Mac Pro (or who have them assigned to them at work) are neither creative professionals or unix-centric developers?

I would say for these people that sleek design, high battery life and low weight are the three somewhat superficial attributes that stand out the most - or are the most important in making a purchasing choice.

I understand all the dissapointment. However, I think if you analyse Apple's decisions, it probably does make sense from a marketing perspective. They seem to be aiming at the premium aesthetic market that has emerged in the last 5 years within the Mac fanbase. Only thing I dont understand and seems kind of cheeky to me is the price hike.

btw - I am a developer, I use a Macbook Pro at work and a Dell XPS 15 at home - so I am somewhat aware of the price/spec/value differences.

Anecdotally, among people who are neither creative professionals or developers, the MacBook and MacBook Air completely dominate, and these laptops outnumber MBPs in the wild at least 10:1 unless I'm at a developer meetup.

> Understanding history is important – to a point. But Apple’s obsessive naval gazing in the Mac event today speaks volumes. This is a company with no real vision for what its most creative users actually do with their most advanced machines. So, instead, they look into the past.

That was also my impression. The funny thing is that this is not the first time in their history, and they used this "our laptops of the past" thing to showcase some of the horrible examples of the 90s, which were just adding bloat and uglyness rather than innovating. Then they present the new model with a bloaty new feature.

I thought what Apple did a few years ago with Finalcut was the signal that Apple didn't really care about the professional user thought.

Looks like the trend continues.

Maybe they just decided that the prosumer market is larger than the pro one and they can charge the same prices. They don't build many models so they're placing theirs in the larger market and leaving the smaller one.

As someone said, there is always outrage, just never the same amount of it as this time.

That seems to be the case.

It's not possible to develop for IOS on Linux, Windows, or IOS itself. So not only is Apple hurting future app development on IOS with this move, they're also hurting their internal developers of IOS. Their cash cow -- IOS -- cannot survive without strong pro-caliber Macs. I find it shocking that Apple doesn't understand this.

What hardware are developers at Apple using? It's hard to imagine they are using the currently available Mac Pro or one of the new MacBook Pros. Do they have some special hardware build that Apple doesn't sell to the public?

I've been wondering the same thing about Apple's server infrastructure ever since they quit selling the Xserve.

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