A Non-Prosumers Review of the new MacBook Pro 15"

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by cmbstnrctn, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. cmbstnrctn, Dec 12, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016

    cmbstnrctn macrumors newbie

    cmbstnrctn

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2016
    #1
    I know there's been a ton of these but just thought I'd weigh in with my 2 cents after this forum had kept me going during the long weeks of waiting for my Macbook Pro to arrive!

    I wasn’t in the first batch of people to receive their MacBook Pro. In fact, thanks to a week-long holiday in London at the tail-end of November, I missed the delivery of my new Apple notebook and ended up having to wait until I got back just a week ago to unwrap my new $3400 gadget. I’ve now had a good amount of time to play around with the new Pro and thought I’d compile a list of my thoughts here. This list is by no means exhaustive as it’s fair to say I haven’t used the new MacBook Pro extensively at this stage, but I’ll continue to update this as the weeks and months go by.

    First off, I should note that I purchased the MacBook Pro 15″ base configuration (2.6 GHz i7) and upgraded the GPU to the Radeon Pro 460. This means I’m rocking a 256GB SSD, which for my needs is actually plenty. And of course, my use case for the new Pro is almost certainly different from others. I’m not a developer, a coder or a photographer and so really don’t fall under the ‘pro’ consumer that Apple has historically targeted with this notebook. I blog, I surf the web, I game (lightly), but otherwise I’m not putting my machine under incredibly intensive loads a lot of the time. Now that’s out the way…

    THE BUILD

    I’m really just adding to comments that have been made previously, but the new Pro is a gorgeous machine. It’s incredibly thin, especially when you consider how much they’ve crammed in to it. The overall size feels not too much bigger than my company-owned 13″ MacBook Air and the weight isn’t too substantial either. Sure, it’s probably not the kind of device you would want to carry round for hours on end and I’m yet to test it on the tray table of an aircraft, but I’m really impressed by how svelte Apple have made this notebook. I’m actually coming from a 12″ MacBook (and, prior to that, a 13″ MacBook Pro) and so was a little concerned that the 15″ would be too big and unwieldy. In real-world use, that’s just not been the case. I actually really appreciate the extra screen real-estate and after a few days, I pretty much forgot about the footprint of the laptop in comparison to my previously owned smaller notebooks. That’s not to say this isn’t a ‘large’ laptop. It is. We are still talking about a device carrying a 15″ display and for many that’s just not going to be portable enough. I’ll just make the point that for all the concerns I had going in about the size and weight of this laptop, they have melted away as I’ve realised just how little I require a device that has a smaller footprint.

    I’m rocking the silver MacBook Pro and it’s a real stunner. Whilst the Space Grey looks great as well, I’m one of those people who likes to have all their devices colour-co-0rdinated. I have a white iPhone, a white iPad and silver Bose QC35 headphones, so the silver Pro just went better with my existing setup.

    THE KEYBOARD & TRACKPAD

    Let me start by saying the new Pro keyboard is fantastic. For me, it took little-to-no getting used to. Yes, I was coming from a 12″ MacBook and so, perhaps, adjusted easier to the new butterfly key caps on the Pro. But I actually find this keyboard to be far nicer and easier to type on than the MacBook. The keys seem to have more travel and, to me, they do a great job of recreating those pillow-like keys from the Air and the previous MacBook Pros. I’ve found that I’m typing at the exact same clip as I do on my Air and also have had no issues with keys not registering or getting stuck (as I had on my MacBook).

    As great as the new keyboard is, I’m really unhappy with the new trackpad. For one, it’s unnecessarily large, particularly on the 15″ model. I really don’t understand why anyone would want a trackpad this big, it certainly wasn’t an oft-requested feature from the media or consumers and it actually causes a lot more problems than it remedies. For one, the palm rejection is buggy. Now again, this may just be my use case, but when I use my Pro, I tend to do so with my index finger pointed on the left of the trackpad and my middle finger hovering above the right. I have the right corner of the trackpad set up to right click but because of the increased size of the trackpad, found that the Pro was constantly interpreting my clicks as right clicks. Every. Single. Time. For the last few days, every time I’ve wanted to perform a regular ol’ left click on something, I’ve had to look down at the trackpad and make sure my finger was moved over to the far-left of it. This eventually got so irritating that I gave up on having the right click registered to the right corner of the trackpad and, instead, now use the two finger method. As someone who has been so used to the right corner, right click method for so long, this has been infuriating and I can only assume that it’s because of a combination of the increased size of the trackpad and Apple’s palm rejection not quite doing its thing. I’m guessing Apple can wrinkle this out with software updates but I’m still left questioning why they ever increased the size of the trackpad in the first place (at least to the size they have done).

    THE TOUCHBAR

    You know, I’m actually not going to spend too long talking about the Touchbar. 1. Because every single review that I’ve seen spent a majority of the time talking about it when, to me, it hasn’t really been that much of a game-changer. And 2. Because I haven’t really spent enough time with it to deliver a verdict.

    From my limited use with it I will say that whilst it’s a cool idea and there could be some really interesting work done with it, right now it actually adds complexity to my usual routine. What used to take one-click on my MacBook 12″ to change things like the brightness of the screen or the volume of the speakers now takes two (well, technically one click and a ‘scrub’). I haven’t really found the relocation of the Escape button to the Touchbar to be an issue and, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve hit the Esc button once since unboxing the Pro. As I’ve said, apart from that, my interaction with the Touchbar has been pretty low and so I’ll reserve judgment on it until I’ve had some more time to tinker.

    MISCELLANEOUS

    I’ve not really used the speakers too much but I’ve found them to be plenty loud and clear, even at higher volumes. They’re definitely a step up from anything Apple has produced before. The screen is beautiful, it’s not a huge improvement from Apple’s previous retina screens but the colours do seem to pop a lot more on this panel.

    I also have no complaints about USB C. Again, my 12″ MacBook probably made this transition easier for me, as did the purchase of a couple of USB C cables – namely, a USB C to Displayport Cable and a USB C to Lightning cable. USB C is the future and Apple had that in mind when designing the Pro. Yes, it’s going to be a hassle for some for the next few months, but in a year or two, no one is going to be complaining about the absence of USB A ports. I will join them, however, in lambasting the removal of a Magsafe port. I really can’t understand why Apple couldn’t or didn’t develop a USB C type Magsafe port and whilst I haven’t had any near-misses with the standard cable yet, the knowledge that it could happen and that my $3000+ machine could be seriously damaged is frustrating. Even worse, there are no third party solutions currently available to replace the Magsafe cable for the 15″ Pro. The Griffin Breaksafe I had lying around is incompatible as it doesn’t provide enough power. In a completely unrelated issue, it’s also begun to lose its magnetic grip which is something Apple’s own solution never had a problem with.

    As for the battery, I’m definitely not getting 10 hours out of it, but I wouldn’t say there’s anything concerning about it either. My usage of the Pro has been entirely restricted to the living room of my flat, however, and so the USB C charger has never been far out of reach. Another quick observation: this thing charges really quickly. Perhaps no real surprise when you consider the size of the power brick!

    PERFORMANCE

    This was something I was truly excited about whilst waiting for my new MacBook Pro to be delivered. As I’ve said previously, my habits over the last few months have changed considerably and my MacBook 12″ was no longer up to the task. For starters, gaming on the MacBook was basically out of the question, even on the lowest settings. In this regard, the MacBook Pro is a significant step up. On Football Manager, admittedly one of the least demanding games I play, the Pro ensured everything ran smoothly, even on the highest settings. It was also extremely fast, with screens loading quickly. I was even able to add a few more leagues to the game, without suffering any performance hit.

    Civ 6 was also a huge improvement. On the medium settings I was getting a smooth frame rate, even towards the latter stages of the game and there were no signs of slow down. However, it was on Civ 6 that I started to see some bugs, likely relating to the new discrete graphics cards that Apple has gone for. Tiles featuring water seem to cause the biggest problems. They frequently don’t appear, and when they do, there’s a severe stitching issue going on. I’m unsure whether this is actually the graphics cards causing this, or just as a result of Civ 6 not being properly optimised for the Mac, but I experienced no such issues with graphics when playing Civ 6 on my MacBook 12″.

    I also briefly tested gaming in Boot Camp though its perhaps a little too early to draw any conclusions here. I had a quick play through of Planet Coaster and it looked great and played smoothly. However, I had only added a couple of coasters to my park at this point and so it remains to be seen how it performs over the long run.

    Back on the MacOS side of things, I’ve had a constant issue with my MacBook restarting whenever I don’t exit a game before shutting the lid. Luckily I save my games frequently, but it seems that an open game is causing the MacBook issues with its sleep cycle and eventually leading to a reboot.

    Outside of gaming, I’m also seeing a handful of bugs that need to be dealt with by Apple. One of the most annoying is in Safari, with the MacBook Pro failing to register a click and then deactivating the force touch trackpad within the app itself. This requires me to back out to the Desktop and force quit Safari, before relaunching it again and praying that the trackpad functionality had been reactivated.

    IN SUMMARY

    All-in-all I’m loving the new MacBook Pro. The build quality is second-to-none, it’s an incredibly small, thin and light device and I feel I made the right choice by stepping up to the 15″ model with all the upgrades that Apple was able to fit in with the larger model. Gaming has largely been a success on the new Pro and I believe as Apple continues to refine the software on their new notebook, we’ll see a lot of the bugs I’ve noticed ironed out.

    As good as things have been, I remain infuriated by the larger trackpad Apple has included here. It’s unnecessarily large and is actually a step back from the beautiful trackpads that Apple have included on their notebooks for many years. The removal of the Magsafe adapter is another big blow and I’ll be eagerly awaiting a third party solution to remedy this injustice.

    If you’ve been sitting on the fence, debating whether to get the new MacBook Pro, my advice would be to go-ahead, as long as you have the money. The smaller footprint and increased portability alone make it a step up from the 2015 model and the internals feel powerful enough to last the next few years and beyond. In my opinion, the hysteria around #donglelife has been overblown and I highly doubt it’s going to be something people are talking about at all this time next year. The 2016 MacBook Pro doesn’t get everything right, but what it does ensures its the best Mac notebook Apple has ever produced and one that is set to stick around for a long time to come.

    This post originally appeared on my blog - Combustion Reaction - yesterday.
     
  2. cmbstnrctn thread starter macrumors newbie

    cmbstnrctn

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2016
    #2
    *corrected the review to fix a ton of grammar and spelling errors. Serves me right for typing this whilst recovering from jet lag!
     
  3. CaptRB macrumors 6502a

    CaptRB

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    LA, California
    #3
    Enjoy your new toy!

    I'm a pro user and I have a pair 13" Touch Bar units (only one is for work) and they're stunning. There's very little not to like...so far.

    Next year, after they pump up some specs, I'll likely go for the 15" as well, but I'm really impressed with how many upgrades have been made to these machines.


    R.
     
  4. cmbstnrctn thread starter macrumors newbie

    cmbstnrctn

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2016
    #4
    Agreed! I thought long and hard about going for the 13" over the 15" but in the end the extra power and dedicated graphics card, combined with what I saw as a relatively
    minor increase in dimensions (at least from my Air) swung me in favour of the 15".

    Glad you're enjoying both your 13" MacBook Pros also!
     

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