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On the road with the 13-inch MacBook Pro (sixcolors.com)
48 points by grzm on Nov 6, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

I bought the same model last weekend, and am very happy with it. Of course, it replaced my old 13" MacBook Air, not a Pro.

I was worried about the keyboard but have grown to love it (I couldn't stand the MacBook one, but this is much better). And the P3 Retina display is gorgeous. The colors and brightness are truly stunning, and the audio is surprisingly clear and "present".

Still, I miss MagSafe. It was metallic and elegant and had the perfect little charging light. This plug is white and plastic and cheap-looking and no light... it's a shame.

I mean, I get standardizing on USB-C only for peripherals, but I don't get it for power. You've always got to carry the power brick anyways, so the connector doesn't have to be standard -- or do we expect that someday USB-C charging cables will be so ubiquitous you don't need to take it with you?

>Still, I miss MagSafe. It was metallic and elegant and had the perfect little charging light. This plug is white and plastic and cheap-looking and no light... it's a shame.

I think part of this transition is Apple subtly suggesting that people don't need to have their laptops plugged in as a default any longer. The Magsafe is so easy to attach, most people I know have one in their usual work spot and just snap it on every time they sit down there, even if it's just for 10 minutes to check email. The comparative inconvenience of the USB connector means they will likely be a little more intentional about plugging it in...but the incredible battery life of these devices now means you really don't need to. There's no need to snake a power cable to your table at the coffee shop when your laptop gets 10+ hours of battery life. You don't even need to plug it in on your desk at home, or working in your bed, on the couch...if you're just plugging it in on a side table when you close it up for the night now, the whole tripping hazard becomes a pretty moot point.

Edit: ah, I see jakobegger has beat me to this comment below ;)

So removing MagSafe is a feature? Laptops have diferent power profiles when they are plugged in than on battery.

Again, this: "You don't need to plug in your laptop all the time" works for the regular MacBook, but we are talking about the 'Pro' line here, MagSafe should be standard.

I don't read him as arguing that removing MagSafe is a feature. Just that the tradeoff is more understandable now given battery life than it would have been earlier. It's definitely fair to disagree with the tradeoff. I'm pretty ambivalent about it, myself. I'd like to see something like the Griffin BreakSafe supplied by Apple.

> when your laptop gets 10+ hours of battery life

I have a 2014 13" MacBook Air which had the same claims, and yes I could get 12 hours if I didn't do anything on it.

My battery is now about 80% of its original health, and if I'm lucky will last 4-5 hours while coding (terminal + browser + music). I expect it would be a lot shorter if I'm doing photo / video / music editing. Watching videos it can just about last 3 hours.

Ok it's better than 1-2 hours when MagSafe was introduced, but it's still a long way from all-day battery life when you only need to charge overnight.

An alternate interpretation: you can easily find cheap USB power supplies to put everywhere. While the long life per charge is great, the battery will be in a lot better shape three years down the line if it is almost always plugged into some 12W power supply regardless of where you're using your computer. Buying multiple MagSafe-equipped 65W or 85W chargers to put in every room where you use your laptop gets expensive quickly.

There's a trivial test to check whether your theory is correct or not: plug a new Macbook Pro, with a closed lid, into an external monitor but don't plug it into power. Current models require power to display on an external monitor with the lid closed; if the new model doesn't, it would all but confirm your theory.

> I mean, I get standardizing on USB-C only for peripherals, but I don't get it for power.

* A dedicated power port takes up space; now you can use it for data too.

* If a USB-C cable breaks, it's a lot cheaper to replace than an entire power brick.

* There are ports on both sides of the laptop, so you can now charge from either side – this reduces cable strain.

* And, as you say, it's a standard. As USB-C cords become ubiquitous, you'll be able to charge anywhere (or from a battery pack even).

It seems like a good decision all told, though I'll miss MagSafe too.

MagSafe is a product from a different era. It was invented at a time when you needed to be connected to power all the time because batteries didn't last long enough, laptops where mostly made from plastic, heavy, fragile, had spinning hard drives, and would immediately break when dropped.

Today, I only charge my Macbook Pro at my desk, where there's no danger of accidental cable-yanking. A full charge easily lasts all day, so when I'm out it's never actually connected to anything.

The aluminium unibody construction and solid state drives also make it a lot more sturdy. So when it does drop, chances are good it wont actually break.

For these reasons, I don't think that Magsafe chargers are necessary anymore. And considering how expensive replacement Apple chargers are, I'm happy they're moving to an open standard!

Laptops are still fragile. I dropped my work MacBook pro about two months ago from a height of three feet, maybe less. It was onto a hard tile floor with the lid closed.

It killed it. The screen didn't break, not a scratch in sight, but it went dead all the same. The screen would not cut on. Plugging in an external monitor worked with heavy artifacts; I suspect some GPU damage.

I could not log in (it locked up after the fall when logging in with the external screen) and my work replaced it.

Freak accident but falls still kill MacBooks.


Also, without a charger, IntelliJ slurps up enough power I can't last more than a couple hours of dev time. Even that is generous.

I can last maybe 3 - 4 hours on my 2014 MBPr in low power mode at least when writing Scala, longer potentially if it's just Java for some reason. You may also want to try resetting your SMC and see if that helps battery life in general, I know it works for me often enough.

As for reliability, I've dropped this same laptop from about 4 feet off the ground on the corner pretty much flattening the rounded edge and it's been fine.

Doesn't help that MacBooks are so slippery. It's the single reason that I bought a Dell instead. Too easy to drop or slide off my lap, and it's not really feasible to put it in a rubber case like I do with my phone.

It also misses the point that laptops throttle more when on battery. I plug mine in at home to get less throttling when doing something intensive.

Yet another way that Apple don't care about people that use their stuff, and why i'm buying a Chromebook to replace my Macbook Pro where i'll SSH to servers instead of compiling locally.

I'm curious about the comment that Apple doesn't care about people that use their stuff. Isn't it possible that they do care deeply, and that they have carefully designed a laptop that is optimum for most users? Of course, that means some users don't fit this profile, but it doesn't mean that Apple doesn't care.

Good point - so Apple care about some users, but not others. Even my partner, not a geek at all, keeps hers charged to support her 30+ tab Chrome habit. The collateral damage is all over, and won't be apparent until the next generation where the 'normal' users find out.

"Today, I only charge my Macbook at my desk, where there's no danger of accidental cable-yanking. A full charge easily lasts all day, so when I'm out it's never actually connected to anything."

This is a good take. I hadn't thought of this argument before. It makes sense.

I know I'm in the habit of keeping my laptop plugged in as much as possible for those times when I do need to rely on the battery. I generally get only half a day with my MBA (13" early 2015) running multiple JVMs, Mail, and Safari with lots of tabs. I do find I get better performance when I turn off WiFi and dim the screen.

According to the tech specs, my laptop should get "Up to 12 hours wireless web". The 13" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar specs at "Up to 10 hours wireless web". I wonder if this means I'll get less unplugged time with the MBP.

> I know I'm in the habit of keeping my laptop plugged in as much as possible for those times when I do need to rely on the battery.

I do this too. But also for another reason, I try to reduce battery usage to increase the lifetime of the battery. I should probably research whether this is something I should actually be concerned about (anyone any ideas?)

I've heard rumors that keeping the battery topped off (plugged in) also decreases battery life :) If someone would like to google that for me, much appreciated!

I've killed my battery in a year by repeatedly running it down more or less completely every day

Which kinda sucks if you have glued in batteries...

Apple's power management is smart enough that when you reach 100%, it will let the battery drain a bit before charging again:


I'm surprised about people who get so much mileage out of their MacBooks. Is the 13'' that much better, or are people just doing a lot of light work?

I usually work from a café these days, and I go from 100% to 0% in about 4 hours (15'' Retina, Mid 2015). I mostly run VSCode, Vagrant, Safari, Slack, Spotify and Terminal. Of these, Spotify, Terminal, Slack and Safari are easily the most energy-sucking apps.

That sounds like poor battery performance to me. I have a mid-2012 MacBook Pro 13" non-Retina (bought new in 2015) and I get 7 hours battery in cafes, though I don't usually run Spotify and it will dip to maybe 5.5 if I run Parallels Desktop. Usually I do 4 hours with 50% left before heading home.

I mostly use Safari, Postbox, Sublime Text, Coda, Cathode, Tower, Parallels (rarely on battery) and Xojo. I wonder if Sublime is more power efficient than VS Code.

Griffin is already selling a usb-c cable with a MagSafe type feature: https://griffintechnology.com/us/products/cables/usb-c-cable...

That's great from Griffin, kudos to them for doing this. And shame on Apple for dropping the ball.

It's too bad we'll never know what would have happened under Jobs.

What annoys me is that for example Lenovo has 30 notebook models... so how much effort would it have been for Apple to release a laptop that accommodates real professional users a little bit, with, say: a 5th laptop option?

Apple's assumption (which is probably backed up by usage studies) seems to be that "real professional users" use their laptops portably, and use lots of weird ports, but almost never at the same time. So the laptop itself can be lighter to encourage that portability, while the ports can live on a dock at a desk (e.g. the Cinema Display, an older iMac, or that multi-port USB-C dongle that will probably just hang permanently off all the cables it's been joined to.)

For those exceptions to the "almost" never—mostly IT people doing field support—they make a litany of adapters. Adapters make sense for this use-case: the target type of user already carries many in a "toolbox", and this is just adding on a few more.

And don't forget the Mac Pro. Apple's own internal "real professional users" are, as far as I know, more likely to use a Mac Pro at their desks and then a MacBook for mobile portability—but they won't bother to try to do work with the MacBook that'd be better done on the Mac Pro. Which includes plugging strange peripherals into it.

it'd be pretty helpful then to have an updated Mac Pro

I don't think it's a question of effort: it's a decision on the part of Apple to keep a minimal product line.

That's cool, but it's rated to 60W and I believe the 15" MBPs are 87W.

The 87W product is slated for February

IMO improved battery life and standby time have reduced the need for a feature like MagSafe. When you're charging less often it's easier to avoid charging in hostile conditions. The break away adapter seems like a good solution for the people who still need it.

Yes. I bought the same model to replace my mid-2011 Macbook Air. Coming from an ancient one, this Macbook Pro is a reveleation.

Your experience echo mine. I love the new keyboard very much, no problem typing on it. It even has a pleasing sound when i am typing on them. It invokes ASMR. It doesn't feel too heavy, I can bring it around on one hand just fine. The build quality is amazing. Performance is good. From fully charged I can use it all day without charging. I am very much satisfied.

>do we expect that someday USB-C charging cables will be so ubiquitous you don't need to take it with you?

Yes. I don't have a new MacBook but I have a USB C phone, and the prospect of not having to have different chargers (and the ability to get another one without paying ~$90) is super attractive. I'm not sure if iPhone will ever move past Lightning, but I can imagine everything else low voltage moving to USB-C.

For phones I can certainly see it happening. It's already pretty easy to go out and assume that somewhere you'll be able to find either a micro-USB or Lightning cable which covers virtually all smartphones, and you can charge them quickly enough on virtually any USB port or charger. But for laptops, I don't think 50+ watt chargers are going to be ubiquitous, regardless of the charging cable. You're still going to need to carry the actual charger.

At least the USB-C MacBook (not pro) happily charges from phone chargers, battery packs, etc.

Sure, it is slower than the charger that came with the device, but if you only charge overnight, it doesn't matter much

But you will easily be able to buy (if in need of a replacement) a non-Apple charger at a much lower price.

There's talk of USB replacing household electrical outlets, or at least heavily accompanying them. http://gizmodo.com/why-usb-ports-could-be-the-power-outlets-...

On the power charging thing, the 15" draws 85W and the 13" 60W, I believe this is at 20V, so we're talking over 4A, the USB-C charging cable they come with is rated for 5A.

My point is that most phone chargers will give you less than 1A, that means they would charge one of these laptops very slowly, maybe not even providing enough power to keep the laptop running if the battery is low.

You're still going to want to bring the laptop charging brick wherever you go.

At the very least, not having to bring separate laptop and phone chargers and cables is a convenience even if we had to err on the side of the bulkier of the two. Heck, there seems to be enough of a market that products like this from Twelve South exist https://www.twelvesouth.com/product/plugbug-world

I forgot my power brick the other day, and used co-worker's USB-C phone charger. Someday has arrived.

By using a USB-C connector for power, you add a free port whenever you're not charging.

I've stopped carrying a charger since I got a >10hour laptop, Not planned, it just happened. There are USB chargers everywhere already provided you have an A-C cable, they just aren't fast.

I have to agree with your comment in regard to MagSafe. I have a 2013 Macbook Air and I still find the power connector to be one of my favorite things about it.

Being able to use USB-C battery packs is a huge benefit.

> but I don't get it for power.

Spot on. The move towards USB-C is for the better since it's one port to do it all, but charging via USB-C seems going backwards. I wonder how much of a technical challenge it would have been to let users do it both ways.

> I find the lack of response in the keys unpleasant, but I can still type at full speed and accuracy when I use it.

I'm not worried about losing speed, I'm worried about developing hand and wrist pain over time, which seems, at least for me, to be an issue with using low travel keyboards. Maybe I just need to learn to type with a lighter touch.

> Maybe I just need to learn to type with a lighter touch.

This. Typing fast doesn't require you to beat the keys into submission.

I've been fortunate enough not to have any type of chronic RSI pain associated with typing. Am I reading you correctly that your pain is due to striking the keys and slamming into the keyboard when the key bottoms out?

That has been my experience. I have noticed that my mechanical keyboard is much gentler and less likely to induce RSI relate pain because I almost never have hard impacts due to bottoming the keys out. On my MacBook (2013 15" rMBP) it's a different story.

For what it's worth, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports (this one) gets a hair over 16 hours of battery life in Ars' Wifi Browsing Test. Unfortunately, this benchmark did not contain a measurement for the 13" MacBook Air, its spiritual predecessor. The old 13" Pro got 14 hours.


> trains zipping through the Irish countryside.

Calling bullshit on his performance claims. None of our trains ever "zip" here.

This is a questionable review, bordering on dishonest.

It makes no mention that the new machines provide almost no performance improvement over last year's models, despite the significant price hike: http://www.digitaltrends.com/apple/apples-newest-macbook-pro...

Edit: If the folks downvoting me would like to dispute the benchmarks, please feel free to contribute some new data to the conversation.

I get the impression from the review that the reviewer is reporting his experience with using the MacBook under real-world conditions. He's not performing benchmarks. Whether or not there's a performance improvement wouldn't really need to be included in that, would it? Indeed, he specifically mentions that he didn't have the opportunity to perform speed tests:

"Being on the road, I haven’t been able to do methodical speed or battery tests, but I can say that the battery life on this laptop seems to be a lot more than on the MacBook Air. It also handled some more intense work—editing multi-track audio in Logic Pro and removing noise from audio with iZotope RX 5—with aplomb. Some of that may be the result of the faster SSD in this model, but some of it is at least the responsibility of the processor."

Do you get the impression that he's trying to hide something? Do you have other criticisms besides this point?

It's hard to tell if he's ignorant or deceptive, but he claims some of the speed-up is from the processor. Real benchmarks show otherwise.

It certainly feels like he's trying to promote the product rather than give an objective review. It's fine for him to have his opinion, but I just want to point out that this is not a trustworthy review.

SSD and GPU are quite a bit faster, the CPU isn't, but it got more power efficient and is more of an Intel problem at the moment as they are focusing on that.

There are already PC laptops shipping with a newer generation chip 15W chip than the one in the low end Macbook Pro, so I consider this more of an Apple problem.

If they had somehow packed what was in 15" model into a 13" model, then it would be a great machine. This, it's not appealing to me the way it is.

He is listing the size of the new MBP vs the 13" Macbook Air as a pro, but in fact even the previous MBP had a slightly smaller footprint than the 13" Air, this is even smaller though. The Air is in fact a pretty large 13" laptop in terms of footprint.

Those are the most elongated escape keys I've ever seen!

It seems appropriate given the reviews to start calling these new machines the MacBook Pro Air as it seems that it's Apples goal to increase prices and reduce functionality to fit into a smaller frame.

Macbook Prair?

There is very little information in this post.

The only question I had after reading this was: how does one become become a blogger that gets a Macbook Pro from Apple to review?

The blogger in question, Jason Snell, used to be editorial director of Macworld, an extremely popular Mac magazine going back long before Apple's current successful period: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Snell

Jason Snell was previously an editor at MacWorld, and has been writing about Apple for a long time.

One path is to be a former editor-in-chief of Macworld magazine.

Jason Snell is the former Editor of Macworld; Six Colors is the project he started after the print version shut down.

Jason Snell used to be the editor of MacWorld.

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