Living with the new MacBook Pro and TouchBar

Hey folks!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. August through October is the busiest time of the year for me at VMware (2 VMworlds + 3 Product launches!), and I had some weirdness happen with my website that I had to manage. Joy!

Anyway, now that we’re back up I figured I’d take a swing at sharing my experiences with my new MacBook Pro.

My New MacBook Pro

I’m used to a 15″, so this time I wanted something a little more travel friendly since I ended up with a MacPro for my desk machine.

Here are my specs:

My Spex

I wasn’t convinced that the CPU spec bump was as worth it as having more storage was, so I went with that upgrade rather than both. The bigger upgrade of the CPU would still only have left me with 2 physical cores to work with, so considering I have many VMs adding more storage was a no-brainer.

Body

Opening it up out of the box I was immediately impressed with how light and yet solid the device feels. The Space Gray also looks fantastic!

They did something slightly different with the hinge, and it feels much more stable and yet easier to move now. I couldn’t get a picture with enough detail to really show that off, but if you’re familiar with the hinge design over the past few revisions you’ll once a nice subtle difference here.

Gray aluminum.... FROOOMMMM SPAAAAAAACCCEEEEE
Gray aluminum…. FROOOMMMM SPAAAAAAACCCEEEEE

Display

Man it’s pretty. It’s incredibly bright and side-by-side it has a much nicer looking contrast and colour palate than my late 2015 15″ MBP. By far it’s the best display on a Mac notebook to date. Using the TouchBar to adjust the brightness is easy, intuitive and feels very natural.

Keyboard

This took some getting used to. I was really not a fan of the updated stand-alone keyboards and the keyboard of the 12″ MacBook (which to me should have been the new ‘Air’, but alas…). At first I found it weird to type, but I was sort of fighting with it. The larger surface area of the keys made me feel like I had to spread my fingers out more. After a few minutes of intense writing/typing, I sort of just ‘let go’ and typed as fast as I could using my normal style, figuring I’d make a ton of mistakes. Turns out everything just sort of kept working, and it became very natural very quickly.

One thing I definitely do NOT like is the directional buttons. They did this on the 12″ MB so it’s not new, but since I never used that machine for long I now find it annoying on my daily-use machine. The left and right arrows on the older models are the same size as the up and down… this made it easy to find without looking down because you could feel the aluminum in the gap between ‘Left’ and ‘?/’ and ‘Right’ and ‘Shift’ buttons, respectively. Now that they’re the same size they feel just like every other key so it’s harder to get there without looking.

Ports

USB-C you say? This is where things start to get weird… I have 0 USB-C devices, cables or adapters. I haven’t been able to plug anything into this Mac since I got it besides the power/data cable that came with it. I ended up doing my user account migration via WiFi, which took about an hour for roughly 300GB of data to transfer.

I am REALLY sad not to have a MagSafe. This is a decision that I just can not understand. I suppose there are tons of arguments to me made both for and against this, but the MagSafe was really one of my favourite Apple innovations. Seems simple, but it’s saved more than 1 Mac from almost certain destruction due to unexpected power cable tugs. Now there’s a risk of the port itself getting jammed up with a half-busted-off USB port stuck in there, or worse pulling the whole Mac off the table. I guess I just need to be more carful now.

The inclusion of an analog headphone port is weird and vexing to me as well. I have an iPhone 7, but I now have to carry 2 sets of headphones around with me, or remember to carry around (and not loose!) the little adapter which comes with the phone. Tough life, right?

Trackpad

Ugh…. so much good, yet not without it’s issues.

My what a big trackpad you have there
My what a big trackpad you have there

Firstly, it’s YUUUUGE. Bigger than an iPhone 7 Plus, and much bigger than the trackpads that came before it.  In my opinion, it’s too almost big.

My problem with it is that while it’s a joy to use, and the click sounds and feels better than on any other Mac (truly, it feels much more solid and responsive), I find myself accidentally hitting the corners with my thumbs. ALL. THE. TIME.

I’ll have a window open in the background and typing on Messages in the foreground… then I’m instantly, without warning, typing into the wrong window because I tapped where the mouse cursor was.

Or in a word document… (or a blog!) I’ll accidentally be typing way further up on the page in the middle of another sentence. Ooops!.

It’s pretty good about not recognizing my wrists or palms, but my thumbs do end up triggering it very often.

Touch Bar

Let the magic begin! This thing really is a treat. Quick shortcuts to commonly used features that you can get to without moving your hands far at all. It’s great, really. Instantly hit up the address/search bar in Safari and get to your most used pages that much faster. Open new tabs with the slight motion of your right index finger. The surface of the bar is not super shiny, so you don’t get ‘stuck’ on it as if it were an iPhone screen. It’s smooth, and not shiny.  The buttons light up just the right amount for me, but it’d be nice to be able to control the brightness of the bar itself.

so many emoji at my fingertips!

I find myself using the bar quite a bit. The word suggestions, emoji, and app-features are fantastic. Really looking forward to what app developers (like us at VMware!) are going to do with it.

Touch ID

This changes the game.

Don't mind if I do...
Don’t mind if I do…

I use this all day, and it’s fantastic. I never have to type my Mac password in anymore… I just tap the user to log in, touch the sensor for the quickest of moments, and in a blink the desktop is up. Iss wickit smaht. Looking forward to this being integrated in other apps too. (I’m looking at you, 1Password!)

 

So, overall let’s review the pros and cons:

Pro

  • Hardware is more solid, stable feeling
  • Space Gray is my new spirit colour.
  • New keyboard is nice once you get used to it.
  • SSD is FAAAAAAAAST… I maxed out BlackMagic disk speed test at 2GBps reads!
  • USB-C is Fast… probably, but I wouldn’t know since my dongles are all still on order ????
  • Trackpad is yuuuuge, easy to drag and drop from one end of the screen to another. Just don’t mis-tap it
  • Display is the best on a Mac notebook at this point, IMHO.
  • TouchBar is a delight to use, even if it’s not yet mature with ecosystem support
  • Touch ID is a game changer.

Cons

  • Expensive AF… My model spec’d out to $2599! For a dual core machine with only 4 USB-C ports! Pro’s might not consider this very ‘pro-friendly’
  • Could use more beef: Maxes out at 2 CPU cores and 16GB of RAM. Sure sure, battery life, etc… but maybe let that be our choice to make if we want to take the trade off and add 32GB of RAM and 8+ cores.
  • Ports – I mean, dongles… so… many… dongles
  • No MagSafe… my heart bleeds over this one. I have so many spare power adapters that are now useless ????

So, How does VMware Fusion run you ask?

All of transferred VMs and newly made VMs worked fine with 8.5.3. Resumes and suspends are faster than on my MacPro on a count of the faster storage. Lacking the CPU cores limits me to what I can demo on this machine, but for my day-to-day work everything just works swimmingly. I’ll get more into testing with USB-C passing into Windows, but from the QA team’s testing with this and the previous MacBook 12″ model we’ve not had any issues.

 

All in all I’m a big fan of the new machine. It’s got its hangups, no doubts there. Some of it will be ‘you have to get used to it’, some of it might be non-starters for some folks. You’ll have to weigh your own requirements against the pros and cons, but for me who is doing web dev, marketing with powerpoint and office stuff and social media, web browsing, Photoshop, VMware Fusion (1 maybe 2 VM’s at a time temporarily), it’s a heck of a road warrior. It’s not going to replace the iMac in my music studio any time soon tho 😉

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