Now that it's been updated, is Apple's MacBook Pro finally worth buying again?

The most important update is one that Apple is not talking about, the 3rd gen Butterfly keys.

For better or worse, Apple always sets the benchmark in every industry it has a stake in. Be it the iPhone, iPad or even the Apple Watch, Apple’s ability to redefine the segment is without doubt. The one area where Apple has failed, and rather spectacularly at that, is with its MacBook lineup.

Starting in 2015, with the introduction of the 12-inch MacBook, Apple simply lost the plot. Subsequent updates in 2016 and 2017, instead of making things better, only made everything worse.

Why? First, they introduced a 12-inch MacBook. It was thin and incredibly light, but also very expensive, horrendously underpowered and came with only one USB-C port. To make matters worse, the butterfly keyboard was terrible, and as it later turns out, also defective.

In 2016 and 2017, instead of fixing the mistakes that were made, Apple doubled down on them. They introduced the MacBook Pro 13, and 15 models, replaced perfectly functional keys with a Touch Bar and stuck to a keyboard design that was defective.

Only the Touch Bar MacBook Pros have been updated.

Only the Touch Bar MacBook Pros have been updated.

The horrors of Apple’s own non-existent USB-C ecosystem aside (#DongleLife?), the keyboard was the true terror. The first-generation keyboard, used in the 2015 and 2016 models, was defective and lacked any form of acceptable feedback. In 2017, Apple “fixed” this by introducing a new design that made noise and was only slightly less easily prone to failure. If that wasn’t bad enough, Apple’s keyboard design meant that rather than just replace offending keys or the keyboard, a repair necessitated a $700 repair involving the battery, entire upper panel and maybe even some circuitry.

Several class-action lawsuits later, Apple had to admit that it made a mistake and announce an extended repair program. As per the program, all affected devices would be eligible for 4 years of free support for any keyboard-related issues.

Worse still, while the world shifted towards PCs with 8th generation Intel CPUs, Apple stuck to the slower 7th gen chips. While a generation’s gap is normally not that significant, Intel’s 8th gen CPUs are a whopping 40-60 percent faster than the 7th gen ones. That’s a performance deficit that’s simply too large to ignore. What’s more, these chips have been popping up in Windows PCs since November last year.

Oh, and did we mention that the MacBooks have been restricted to 16 GB RAM since the time they launched?

The solution? New MacBooks!

Finally, after what would seem like aeons to Apple fans, Apple has announced the launch of a revamped MacBook line.

The MacBooks both support 8th gen Intel CPUs

The MacBooks both support 8th gen Intel CPUs

Apple has only seen fit to update the Touch Bar MacBooks so far, and hopefully, the rest of the lineup will receive updates soon enough.

In total, Apple is introducing two new 13-inch MacBook Pros and two 15-inch MacBook Pros. These can obviously be customised as needed.

Here are the rest of the highlights:

13-inch MacBook Pro:
Quad-core, 8th gen Intel i5 and i7 CPU
Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 with 128 MB eDRAM
Up to 2 TB of storage
TrueTone display
Apple T2 chip

15-inch MacBook Pro:
6-core, 8th gen Intel i7 and i9 CPUs
Radeon Pro 555X or 560X GPUs with 4 GB GDDR5 memory
Up to 32 GB of RAM (Yay!)
Up to 4 TB of storage
Apple T2 chip

It’s not ideal, but it’s way more than I was expecting. There’s still no USB-A port to save us from #DongleHell and the Touch Bar shows no signs of disappearing. However, the True Tone display is indeed a welcome surprise, as is the inclusion of the Apple T2 chip, which should provide enhanced, hardware-level security, and support for the “Hey Siri” voice trigger.

The enhanced Iris Plus 655 graphics chips are also more powerful than they were last year, and the option of 32 GB RAM on the 15-inch MacBook Pro will be welcomed by those who've so desperately been yearning for them.

The most important update is one that Apple is still not talking about, the third-generation Butterfly keys. According to The Verge, who got a chance to speak to Apple execs, the new keyboards are only designed to be quieter. The key travel is the same and, unfortunately, the keyboard defect that made them so prone to dust still remains.

Prices?

It’s a MacBook, what do you think the prices are like? The cheapest model, which has a quad-core i5, 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage and 13-inch display will sell for Rs 1,49,900. The base 13-inch model with 6-core i7, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB of storage will sell for Rs 1,99,990.

Obviously, both devices are selling at a significant premium here. The base models in the US sell for $1,799 and $2,399.

Also announced were a bunch of leather covers for the new MacBooks.

Are they worth it?

It's hard to define the worth of Apple's MacBooks to anyone who doesn't need them or has never used them. If you're a developer, Apple's UNIX-based OS is very appealing. If you're invested in the Apple ecosystem, there's hardly anything that can drag you away.

Apple still hasn't fixed, and probably will never fix the #DongleLife problem, and that pesky Touch Bar, but hey, they've at least addressed the power disadvantage. Failing to address the keyboard issue is a very big oversight, however, and the number one reason for people to be worried about buying a new MacBook.

Windows laptops like the Dell XPS 13, Lenovo Yoga 920 and ThinkPad X1 Carbon are still notably more powerful than Apple's MacBooks, but with the update, Apple's new devices are now at least competitive. The elephant in the room is still the keyboard though, and try as we might, it's an issue that's not easy to overlook.





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