Not saying goodbye to Apple, forever.

Remember this post from 2017? https://owenthe.dev/2017/05/saying-goodbye-apple-forever/

(if you do end up reading that post, just know that I’ve changed a lot since then, so don’t take it too seriously)

It was when I broke up with Apple, and why I hated Apple so much.

That same person just got a 16-inch MacBook Pro. Let me explain why.

 

Back in 2016-2017, Apple had a bit of a “slump”, in my view. Their iPad lineup was just the iPad Pro and the normal iPad. The Mac lineup was just the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. The loss of the headphone jack was being lamented like there was no tomorrow. I also had a 4-year-old MacBook Air that was ready for upgrade, and I was pumped to get not a MacBook.

 

Once mid-2017 rolled around, I got a Dell XPS 13. It was the perfect machine for my mindset back then. Not Apple, could run Linux, was pretty repairable, you get the point. And boy did I love my XPS 13, and I even got around to running Linux on it too!

But, at the same time that I had my XPS, I kept my eye on what Apple was up to in the background. Over the next few years, Apple started becoming the Apple that I knew from when I was a kid. The MacBook Air was back and packing a punch. The iPad lineup was finally fixed – with the mini, normal iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. I even bought an iPad Air 3 in mid 2019 to replace my aging iPad Air 1.

On the Mac side, something amazing happened. Apple dropped the butterfly keyboard on the 16 inch MBP – the thing that was keeping me from upgrading to a Mac (also physical escape key? Hell yeah!).

As 2020 came around, I found that my XPS 13 wasn’t meeting my needs anymore. My developer hobby was turning into something pretty serious, and I needed a serious machine to do serious development. I also needed access to Apple’s development tools, because Safari is gonna be Safari, and Safari is gonna have weird glitches.

So, what’s this serious machine that I wanted? The MBP 16 inch. The $2800 one, for some boneheaded reason (listen guys, I want power!!). And so, with the coronavirus looming overhead, I decided to pull the trigger on a machine that would mark my return back to Apple, because I finally have a level-headed brain now.

 

And you know what, I’m pretty damn happy I came back to the Mac! Switching back was a pretty painless job, as I decided to keep my MBP pretty light during the initial install. All the tools I worked with on Linux work just as well on macOS. I’m yet to install Xcode, but I can’t wait to have native iOS emulators on my laptop.

There’s only a few pain points that I have with the 16 inch MBP as a developer.

First issue – lack of fine-tune display scaling. Right now, I’m using the normal display scaling that’s ever so slightly larger than that on my XPS. However, the more detail scaling level is much too tiny and basically unreadable from a normal distance. I wish Apple put in some more fine-tuning scaling options.

Second issue – I love the new keyboard, except it has not a ton of travel. It’s miles better than what I’ve tried with the butterfly switches, but my XPS still had better travel and key feedback. Dell’s keyboard engineers know how to make a damn good keyboard.

Third issue – USB-C is now more ubiquitous, but I’m still going to have to head to Amazon and buy some dongles and some new cables. We’re inching closer to a totally USB-C world, but we’re not there yet.

Fourth issue – It is incredibly, very, stupidly hard to get fingerprints off of the display. Even with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Apple, please do something. Every retina mac since 2012 has had this issue.

Fifth issue – Apple, please upgrade the webcam. It looks straight out of 2011.

 

Even with all the negativity, there’s lots I love about the 16 inch MBP.

First amazing thing – No butterfly keyboard! And a physical Escape key! This is what made me switch back.

Second amazing thing – Big beautiful display at a 16:10 aspect ratio! Going from 13 to 16 inch is obviously a huge jump, but going from 16:9 to 16:10 is quite the difference. Of course, since it’s an Apple laptop, the display is super accurate, high resolution, and very pretty.

Third amazing thing – The speakers on the MBP are really, really, really good. Like, hats off to the audio engineers at Apple. Bass is good but not overpowering, and mids and highs come through pretty clearly. Obviously a set of IEMs or something like the Galaxy Buds will go a lot further than the built-in speakers, but it’s still really good.

Fourth mostly amazing thing – The trackpad! Coming from a normal trackpad, I’m impressed how far Apple has gone with their trackpads to mimic normal hinge trackpads. I can barely tell the difference. Two months in, and I’ve come to enjoy having the larger trackpad size compared to every other laptop. However, the palm rejection works about 85% of the time, and generally I’ve had to teach myself to slightly arch up my hands.

Fifth amazing thing – Sidecar! I use Sidecar wired to my iPad Air 3, and it’s great having a second monitor in a pinch for certain situations that require expanding onto a second monitor. There’s no latency over wired, and barely any latency on wireless. My only complaint is that Night Shift doesn’t sync with the iPad.

Sixth amazing thing – Touch ID! It’s just plain awesome, and the tight integration with the system is what seals the deal.

Seventh pretty cool thing – Touch Bar, actually. At first, I wasn’t a fan of the Touch Bar, but now I actually like it. As an expanded control strip, I enjoy how I can have quick access to screenshot & spotlight search on the keyboard. I also like how it’s separate from the keyboard, and how it has a different tactile feel compared to the rest of the keyboard. This makes it so I know that I’m in the control area of the keyboard. Only pain point is that I have had a few accidental touches of the touch bar so far.

 

So, I haven’t said goodbye to Apple forever. I’m still planning to stick to Android for my phone needs, as I find it allows me to be more productive on the go, and can really act like a mobile powerhouse. Even though Apple pulls some weird shit with their hardware (T2 chip is no fun with repair), I’m pleased with the general hardware direction Apple has been going in with their Macs and iPads, and returning themselves to what they were in the early 2010s. There are some things I don’t like (T2 chip as mentioned earlier, awful repairability, and generally trying to lock down macOS to a similar level to iOS with Catalina notorization), but it’s an improvement none-the-less.


May 2020 edit: I’ve now had my MBP 16″ for the past two months, and have been really enjoying it. However, I need to stress something…

Don’t buy a MacBook Pro 16″ UNLESS you have to.

The $2800 price mentioned includes an Intel Core i9 9800H, 1 TB of storage, 16 GB of RAM, and a Radeon Pro 5500M that is comparable to a GTX 1060. This is not worth $2800!

If you’re looking for a high-end 15-17 inch laptop, please look at the XPS/Inspiron line from Dell, the Razor Blade line from Razor, whatever HP is doing, and if you need a lot of gaming power, maybe a Asus machine is good for you. You can get the same specs mentioned above for about a thousand dollars less than a 16 inch MBP.

Yes, the MBP has its advantages. If you’re a macOS fan (or deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem), then you’ll obviously gravitate towards Apple. If you like good build quality, then Apple machines are fine. If you hate the planet and do not give two shits about repairing stuff, Apple machines are for you. If you have to do iOS development or do web development, you’ll need a Mac. If you do more professional production stuff and are used to Final Cut or other Apple-related tools, you’ll need a Mac.

There are plenty of other good alternatives to the Mac, look at those! Not everybody needs a Mac. I was able to justify it because I’m a developer, and Macs are generally well regarded for development (you get the Apple-specific tools, and you’ve got CLI tools + package managers like homebrew).

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