Is the Macbook Good in Theory, Bad in Practice? Some Thoughts on Reviews

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by palpatine, Jan 2, 2016.

  1. palpatine, Jan 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016

    palpatine macrumors 68040

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    #1
    Caitlin at Macworld had this to say about the Macbook: good in theory, bad in reality. What do you think?

    "... combines technologies that aren’t yet standard, but could be one day. The Force Touch trackpad, super thin keyboard with reduced key travel, and lone USB-C port make the new MacBook a truly next-generation laptop, which is awesome in theory. In reality, the keyboard isn’t the easiest to type on, and the USB-C connector makes the new MacBook incompatible with basically every other device you own... people who drop $1300 on the 12-inch MacBook will face struggles that buyers of other MacBook models don’t, at least for awhile longer."
    http://www.macworld.com/article/301...ggest-wins-fails-and-wtf-moments-of-2015.html

    I think it's actually bad in reviews (like this), but good in the hands of actual owners. There were a few high quality reviews (Anandtech, for example: "I hesitate to call the MacBook a niche product since niche implies highly specialized when in fact the MacBook isn’t quite that specialized – it’s just small"). But, most of the reviews seemed to copy/paste the same complaints, especially in the early days of lazy reviewing and tight deadlines.

    Trackpad
    The trackpad non-standard criticism seems odd to me, because it is also found on the 13" MBP, but I do recall a few reports in the early days of anti-trackpad sentiment, though I've never understood that -- besides being more accurate and consistent, I couldn't even tell the difference between the old and new one.

    Keyboard
    The keyboard, like any keyboard change, is going to bug some people. I prefer the external keyboard to the iPad's virtual one, and the MBP to the Air keyboard, but if I had to choose one, I'd go with the rMB. It's actually larger than the Air's. I understand that everyone has their preference, but it seems to be fine for people who use it long enough to get used to it. I think Caitlin is regurgitating what she read in reviews, not what she knows through personal experience or learns from owner feedback.

    Connector
    Yes, it is an annoyance, but hardly a deal breaker. I've got to get new connectors for every new Apple device / update anyhow, so it's more of the same. Struggling? No. I don't think about it much, because it is a non-issue for me. She seems to be regurgitating stuff said by stationary users, who obviously will be annoyed when peripherals aren't easily connected, rather than consider the needs of mobile users, who want to make the trade-off for a smaller, lighter device.

    Performance
    Weirdly, she didn't even touch on this directly -- just threw out the price as if it was too much for too little, which is the complaint I sometimes hear when comparing it to other, larger computers in the lineup. It's the same you hear for just about every computer lineup, though -- they get more expensive as they get smaller. I've found the performance / price ratio to be acceptable. I remember the original Air struck me as way too much. I'll never complain about a price cut, but this seems about right.

    The reason this drew my attention is that we are many months out and we are still seeing the same stuff being churned out by reviewers. I suspect early reviews got it wrong, and the problem with perceptions is that they are based on a few minutes of early use by people who were mainly comparing it to the 13" Airs. It's interesting to see how much of an impact these early reviewers (who form their opinions in seconds or minutes) have on long-term perceptions, something that is probably negatively affecting Pro and Watch sales as well.
     
  2. username: macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Weirdly, negative review of Apple products get way more hits for websites than positive ones. If you see a positive headline about Apple products then you will likely just skip it by, but if you see a negative headline you will likely read it. Just click bait and trying to find problems that barely exist, as the products are so much better than the competition.
     
  3. KPOM macrumors G5

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    #3
    I have a 12" rMB and an iPad Pro. The rMB is more portable than the iPad Pro, and for me, the lack of ports isn't really an issue (more and more adapters are coming out now - even Dell is in the game now that the XPS 12 and XPS 13 sport Thunderbolt 3 ports). This isn't intended for people who connect lots of peripherals. My scanner is wireless. My printer is wireless. Obviously so is my router. We've needed adapters for most external monitors for a while now, and Apple's adapters have a USB-A port.
     
  4. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

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    #4
    It's probably true that negative reviews generate more hits, but it seems that in this case that even sites with a favorable outlook on Apple products (Macworld) are evaluating it rather harshly. Jason Snell at Macworld had an April review that was a mixed bag, but regarding the points raised above: the trackpad is great, the keyboard is terrible ("if you’re someone who is particular about your keyboards and spends a whole lot of time typing"), the connector / single port is a problem, and performance is poor (2010 performance).
    http://www.macworld.com/article/290...macbook-is-a-laptop-without-an-ecosystem.html

    There seems to be an underlying expectation that shiny new stuff will tick all of the boxes: faster, thinner, lighter, more RAM, better displays, etc. Of course, these are often nice things. And, it hits some of these marks. But, I think maybe the problem is how people are evaluating it. I used to have the same thinking, and after reading his review (along with others) I assumed this computer was kind of like the original Air -- another interesting experiment by Apple that might work out well in the future (it did), but was too expensive, limited, and problematic to work for the "average" user. Maybe that was true for the original Air (I certainly felt that way until the Sandy Bridge processors), but the Macbook really surprised me, and this is one of the few purchases where I felt like the reviewers keep getting it wrong.

    It doesn't feel like a niche product at all -- unless, of course, I am in the niche and can't clearly see the world around me :)
     
  5. Z3man macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    I absolutely love everything about my 12" MB, the screen, the keyboard, the size, the weight, the build quality, the excellent speakers, the battery life, i cant fault it. And having only one port is not a problem for me, i have only ever used the USB port on all my laptops for many years. This is the future and thanks to Apple it is here now.
     
  6. boltjames macrumors 601

    boltjames

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    #6
    Perfectly stated and so true.

    In today's social media clickbait world where people can make high six-figure salaries producing YouTube videos about Play-Doh sets, negativity 'sells'. It's not about the truth, it's about what gets people's attention and how much underlying money can be made by those who speak their minds.

    Just look at the iPhone Battery Case released two weeks ago. Some mid-level manager with a big financial plan in Apple's accessory division decided to go after the charging case segment, designs it in a way to get around seriously restrictive patents, and suddenly the narrative is "APPLE HAS LOST ITS WAY!" and "APPLE RECOGNIZES BATTERY SHORTFALLS WITH HIDEOUS ACCESSORY!"

    The 12" MacBook wouldn't generate click revenue for basement bloggers and pay their electric bills if the article subject lines and video titles read "Apple Releases New Notebook For Travelers" or "Apple's New Notebook Puts A Premium On Portability". So it becomes "APPLE HAS LOST ITS WAY!" and "APPLE RELEASES NOTEBOOK THAT CONNECTS TO NOTHING!" and off we go, making money internet-style.

    That's why discussion forums are gold. Here you can hear from real owners with no motives other than to help others.

    BJ
     
  7. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #7
    I think over all the rMB is a fine computer that is not meant for everyone, i.e., its not ideal for everyone. One size doesn't fit all. With that said, I also echo the sentiment of the other posters, who are basically saying some of these negative reviews can be categorized as clickbait.
     
  8. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

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    #8
    I'm not really seeing these negative reviews as clickbait. In my opinion, the headlines of the reviews (the part that is supposed to get you to click) are fine, but the reviews cut / paste from one another to arrive at rather unimaginative, unoriginal, and sometimes misleading conclusions. Maybe they were all hanging out together or something, but they somehow arrive at about the same place in their unenthusiastic endorsement of it. Their lack of interest doesn't seem to be out of malice or an attempt to simply increase clicks, but an all around poor understanding of the product. I suspect some of this has to do with the fact that it is a laptop ("boring" and not a game changing new category) and that it doesn't tick some of the boxes above with "fastest" ever built, or something like that. It might take a bit of reflection on the product after using it for a while to see its value.

    Here are some titles of reviews in the first few months. They don't seem so negative to me. Everyone is almost uniformly imagining some road warrior who lives in the cloud, because it only has one port, but I think that is some odd over-reaction. I do move around a lot, but I use an external drive a lot and displays (projectors / TVs), while barely using the cloud at all, and I find it to be wonderful. Then, there is some hating on the trackpad (I still don't get that) and the keyboard doesn't get much love (as a picky typist, I do get that, though I happen to like it). There is a general assumption that the computer is kind of an interesting concept, but made for some future user.

    MacBook review: Apple reinvents the laptop again
    http://www.engadget.com/2015/04/09/new-macbook-review/

    Review: Apple's new MacBook is a great travel laptop
    http://www.computerworld.com/articl...the-new-macbook-is-a-great-travel-laptop.html

    Apple MacBook review: a conflicted beauty
    http://www.wired.co.uk/reviews/laptops/2015-06/apple-macbook-2015-review

    Is there some clickbait I missed?
     
  9. boltjames macrumors 601

    boltjames

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    #9
    Let's put it this way- the RMB is for an advanced user.

    Meaning that it's for someone who is 100% clear on what he or she wants from a notebook. Someone with years of experience who understands fully the capabilities necessary to get his work done and still enjoy the media capabilities. The RMB is for someone who generally fits this profile:

    - Values portability above all else when deciding on a new notebook. Travels extensively on airlines. Commutes daily by train or bus. Student with long walks on a sprawling campus to various classrooms.

    - Doesn't mash away at a keyboard in a cubicle all day, isn't assembling major motion pictures, isn't developing apps, isn't paid by line of code, doesn't view the notebook as the sole source of income but rather a tool needed in a supporting role.

    - Is a cutting-edge technophile or close to it, embraces new technology and the benefits it can bring which are sometimes not well-understood by others. Already uses Dropbox (instead of thumb drives), wi-fi for connectivity (instead of ethernet), Bluetooth for peripherals (instead of dongles), Cloud (instead of SD cards), etc.

    - Willing to overpay for what on paper seems to be a bad value.

    There is nothing particularly special about the RMB other than it addresses what most use a notebook for in the real world and eliminates all the rest for the sake of reducing size and weight. I haven't used an SD card for 10 years yet have been forced to pay for an SD card slot, drag it around all the time, live with its weight, live with its thickness. The RMB simply says 'no' to those types of ports and connectors and legacy technologies going back 20 years so that we can move forward without those shackles and not live by the rule of lowest-common-denominator. For those who, again, are advanced enough to understand and appreciate this, the RMB is a Godsend.

    BJ
     
  10. driftless macrumors 65816

    driftless

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    #10
    + 1 Nailed it.
     
  11. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

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    #11
    Overall I agree. I am not sure about "advanced," but I would say it requires a user to be especially clear about what they are going to do with it (as your use cases suggested), and not expect an exact correlation between numbers on a graph and price.

    The safe bet shooting down the middle is still the 13" Pro, in my opinion, because it covers the most bases. The 13" Air is a close second (for folks who don't care about ppi). But, just like the 11" Air or the 15" Pro, the MB asks users to make some choices that will make some tasks difficult to do. Multi-tasking or playing high end games on the 11" will be tough with the ppi and screen real estate available, and working on an airplane in Economy with the 15" is not pretty. Some devices, like the 13" MBP / Air, don't require a lot of thought, while others, like the MB, do. For some reason, the MB got singled out for criticism in a way that I think might have driven away its target audience (students, for example). It ended up being for an imaginary "future" user in a way the more familiar 11" and 15" didn't.

    The keyboard, which is a key element for lots of people (hahaha), got a lot of criticism that I think was especially unfortunate. It isn't just good for spill protection, as one reviewer understood it -- it is actually really good for typing. I wonder why so many reviewers were (and still are) put off by it.
     
  12. David58117 macrumors 65816

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    #12
    I think the problem may be - the reviewers are going in to the review looking for problems to report.

    What stands out about the rMB?

    They keyboard is new. The trackpad is (was) new. Having a single port is new. And the CPU is new.

    It's not really a surprise people looking for problems to report are going to zoom in on those.

    The difference between them and us - I didn't buy the rMB seeing those as problems.

    So for me - the rMB is both good in theory, and good in practice.
     
  13. driftless, Jan 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016

    driftless macrumors 65816

    driftless

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    #13
    We have a rMB and it is fantastic device for some application. My wife uses it and an iPad Mini 4 when traveling abroad. I used it for a while and will probably pick up a Skylake version or a second current version.

    This reminds me of all of the posts about the first 5K iMac, tons of trash talking about it by people who can't afford one and/or don't own one. Some of us early adopters, mostly folks who process video, were saying "No, this is the future, it is a fantastic machine". To me, some of the chatter about the rMB feels like a toned-down version of the initial chatter that followed the nMP and 5K iMac. The rMB is a fantastic travel machine and the perfect laptop for those constantly on the go. I would think that students who aren't heavy into math, architecture, physics, etc., would love to use the rMB. Same with writers. Can it do everything? No. Is it an iMac substitute, no. But it is well suited those who know exactly what their needs are and it the rMB can meet those needs, or it is a perfect additional device for those of use who have multiple devices.
     
  14. KPOM macrumors G5

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    #14
    As far as I'm concerned, the rMB is the most elegant Apple device on the market right now. I have the 12" rMB, iPhone 6, Apple Watch Hermes, Apple TV (4th Edition), iPad mini 4, and iPad Pro, so it's not for lack of comparison.
     
  15. boltjames macrumors 601

    boltjames

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    #15
    Going back to what was said earlier, reviewers are professional typists whose sole source of income is generated by their notebook of choice. The 12" Retina MacBook will never be for them, isn't designed for them. Speak to someone in an airport lounge you'll find out the merits of the product.

    It is therefore no surprise that a reviewer who writes a column would be put off by a new keyboard he's spent 15 minutes with, especially if he's used to the old style Apple keyboard. When you look at them objectively, the new keyboard on the RMB has larger keys (easier to hit) but less space between them (less easy to identify).

    What I will tell you is this: It takes a week to get fully used to the new MacBook keyboard. Once you do, it's no better or worse than any other keyboard you've experienced. I'm a touch-typist and I can average 60-80 words per minute when taking online typing tests, I have no issues at all. It's just a matter of time, and time is not what these reviewers have. They want to make money. They've developed the narrative that pays the bills before they've opened the box.

    BJ
     
  16. Elise macrumors 6502

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    #16
    It didn't even take me a week to acclimatise to the KB, it was a perfect marriage within a couple of hours, but I'll concede that I'm probably a minority.

    I still enjoy the same battery life as I did when I received it, about 8-9 hours but then I'm not a power user; I'm not using battery hungry applications. I am probably the type of user Apple had in mind when they designed this laptop, and six months on it hasn't disappointed.

    I've been spoilt now, so I can never go back to the other Apple laptops as good as they are. I bought my daughter a Macbook Pro for Christmas, it's great for her but it's heavy as hell, I couldn't adjust to lugging that around after carrying the rMB.
     
  17. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

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    #17
    My 15" MBP was moving on to another family member, it was time for me to get a new Mac, and I went to the Apple store expecting to get the 13" MBP, because I was convinced by the reviews that the MB was an overpriced, under-performing, and compromised device. One review, for example, even though it was fairly positive, concluded: "Make no mistake: you aren't crazy for hating on the new MacBook. Right now it's a $1,300 compromise. " But, as great as the MBP is, I was immediately drawn to the MB.

    My work requires a lot of typing (researcher / writer), and I assumed I'd dislike the MB's keyboard, but I immediately loved it. I admit it was different than what I was used to, and I understand it might take others longer to acclimate, but I had no problem. It was snappy without the lag I was expecting. And, the price seemed reasonable considering its amazing form factor. It was an easy decision once I tried it in the store. It would have been a lot easier if the reviewers hadn't written it off. I often find reviews to be really useful, but this time was definitely not the case.
     
  18. SSD-GUY macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Can I ask, I'm thinking of getting a MacBook and have kinda gotten used to the keyboard over many Apple store visits, my question is, do you find it easy to 'switch' between keyboards? I.E, when you go back to using the normal first gen Apple wireless keyboard or the MBA/rMBP keyboard?
     
  19. driftless macrumors 65816

    driftless

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    #19
    I can't speak for others but I have no problem going from my iMac keyboard to iPad logitech keyboard to the rMB.
     
  20. KPOM macrumors G5

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    #20
    I don't have any issues going back and forth between the MacBook, iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, and my HP work notebook (with a MacBook Air-style chicklet keyboard). If anything, after a little while, the HP keyboard seems a bit tedious. The best feeling to me is the iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, but since it doesn't have a backlight, the MacBook is better on a dark airplane.
     
  21. SteveJUAE macrumors 68020

    SteveJUAE

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    #21
    Clickbait aside lets face it the rMB is not the fastest/highest spec/most connected/luxury KB device for the price.

    No wonder the reviews paint a slightly downward review. they knew it would be far harder to convince the masses that this was a less is more laptop, as all other reviews place VFM on specs

    They reviewers would rather pour over the obvious apparent shortcoming, that more can grasp, than reflect on it's design premise of ultimate portable clamshell and why certain compromises exist and are not deficiencies.

    It's even harder to slap many readers in the face and say you don't really need an I5/I7 80% of the time.

    Of course they liked the stepped batteries and premium material and even the colour choices but the whole ensemble was missed by many

    It takes a great deal of confidence in your brand to build something like the rMB that will not initially appeal to many

    It takes an above average user who is confident of his/her requirements to understand the rMB

    It takes more than the busy exec/traveler/Apple enthusiast to appreciate the benefits of such a sleek clamshell

    The rMB is a statement of a complete and considered choice of form factor
     
  22. navaira macrumors 68040

    navaira

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    #22
    I find the rMB to be the most exciting thing Apple released in the last few years. It's a very bold statement to make – "here's a device that's slower than a Chromebook, super thin, has a keyboard you've never seen elsewhere and you will love or hate, one slot that hardly any peripherals exist for, and oh, it's €1449 to boot". I don't want the first rev, but I'm fascinated by it. It's the same feeling I had when original Air premiered. It's something that never existed before. Is it actually good? Perhaps. *cue in the reviews* But is there anything else like it? No.
     
  23. Z3man macrumors 6502a

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    UK
    #23
    Well said that man.

    I think its easily their most exciting product since the original Air, i am surprised Apple didn't make more of a hoo-ha about it when they released it, after all it is groundbreaking.
     
  24. dogslobber macrumors 68040

    dogslobber

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    #24
    The retina MacBook issues are well-documented in this forum by myself and others. The original MBA in 2008 had some of the same failings, and that model's flag wavers were quickly dumping those systems when the later revisions, which solved the original's shortcomings, were announced. I advise people to not be in possession of a 2015 rMB when the next version is released. It won't be pretty when you realize the difference and the fact you've missed the opportunity to unload a flawed product.

    Expect a new on in the next 6 months.
     
  25. KPOM macrumors G5

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    #25
    I disagree. I had that original MBA as well as the rMB. The latter is a much better machine overall. The next version will have a Skylake processor. It might have Thunderbolt 3. I doubt much else will be different. It's a great design.
     

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