My thoughts on the 2016 ntb 13" MBP after 1 month of abuse

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Decky, Jan 20, 2017.

  1. Decky macrumors newbie


    Jun 28, 2016
    So I bought the ntb 13" MBP base model (hereafter referred to as the MBP) and have used to extensively and will be sharing my thoughts on it here because I've benefited extensively from user reviews from these forums in the past. Let me know if there are any questions!

    For context, I've used the Surfacebook(SB) with the dGPU and the 2016 12" MacBook(MB) and have sold/returned them in the past and prior to that I owned a 2012/13 13" MBA.

    Use case: I went to Iceland for an 8 day trip in the winter with the MBP with me wherever I went and had to complete a dissertation throughout the month+ that I owned it for. I am a photographer + trying to learn video work (my gear: 5d MkIII with Magic Lantern installed) and I am an avid fan of MOBAs and competitive games (3.5k MMR scrub in Dota 2 and I do play some Overwatch with friends). To me, the perfect laptop would be one that is portable enough yet powerful enough.

    Form factor: It feels very well built and I prefer this over the SB's build ANY day (despite being a microsoft user for most of my life). Although it is only 400g heavier than the MB, I would argue that the difference is quite significant especially in terms of thickness. The MBP only slightly reminded me of the old MBA, which was the best form factor IMO but that it has a uniform thickness makes it feel slightly less portable but its not a big deal. Back to the comparison to the MB: I initially thought that 400g wouldn't feel like much, especially since I go to the gym often and am specifically doing a strength routine, but I was wrong. I was alot more comfortable taking out my MB when at lectures/different rooms etc. but alot less with the MBP. I think this has alot to do with the thickness and form factor rather than just mere weight.

    This is not to say that the MBP is not portable: I was able to type an essay while on a cramped bus ride to London with relative ease and it was portable enough for me to edit/write while sitting in the backseat of the car while touring Iceland. I just don't think ultraportable is a good description for it.

    Donglegate: I expected to really hate that I needed to rely on dongles, but it's actually not that bad AND there are benefits to it. I use one dongle with a USB3 port, USB-C power pass through port and HDMI port and another dongle with 3 USB 3.0 ports with an SD card slot.

    On my desk I'm set things up such that I will be connected to an external display via HDMI, a mouse, portable SSD and ethernet-USB. The convenience here is that whenever I want to bring my laptop out (school, travel etc.), all I have to do is unplug two dongles. When I return, I just plug in those two dongles and I'm all set. The traditional laptop would require me to unplug at least 4 separate cables that are not USB-C (meaning that they are not as simple to plug in), so there's the added convenience.

    HOWEVER, it still sucks not having a USB port available when you're out in the library without your dongle and someone has a pendrive to pass files to you.

    The lack of an SD card slot sucks. But now that I use CF cards it isn't that bad since i would need an external card reader anyway.

    Keyboard: Being a MB user in the past, I was quite confident that I'll love the new keyboard but I thought the difference was only slight. To be more scientific, I did a specific type-test with a Cherry MX blue mechanical keyboard (had access to one for awhile), the MB and the MBP. I warmed up before every test and recorded 3 results and got an average score.

    Unsurprisingly, the Mech keyboard gave me an average of about 105 wpm with a 99% average accuracy, while the MB keyboard gave me an average of about 92wpm with a 96% avg accuracy and the MBP comes in at about 96wpm with 97% avg accuracy. Personally speaking, these tests don't speak about how comfortable the typing experience is over longer periods and using a blue cherry mx mechanical keyboard tends to get tiring after long term use.

    I think it's *feels* faster to type on the butterfly switches than on a mechanical keyboard, however the problem comes with distinguishing different keystrokes that tend to produce errors or hesitation that slows down my speed. Even after using a butterfly keyboard for nearly 4 months (and writing tonnes of essays), I still find myself using the backspace key alot more compared to on a normal keyboard. But the benefit of the butterfly switches compared to the rest is that it can feel more comfortable because of the low key travel.

    Strangely, I have not been bothered by the loud keyboard even though I use the library often. The SB had a problem with a loud trackpad and that bothered me.

    Overall I think the keyboard is decent and didn't bother me much even though I was coming from a mechanical keyboard. One important caveat where this MBP keyboard is a dealbreaker: Gaming. As I play ranked games on Dota 2, the slight decrease in accuracy has made life a little more difficult especially when during critical moments in the game. But I doubt many people game on macs..

    Performance: This is where I'm most impressed. Although I got the base model without the touchbar, I was blown away by how much this thing could handle. Lightroom works fine with raw editing (though I'm using a 5-year old camera, not sure how it will handle monster 50mp files) personally I find LR to be better even on the 12" MB than on the SB (maybe optimization?). I use presets alot in my workflow, and the changes are almost instantaneous even on the MB, while the SB has a slight delay (could be a lemon).

    The display is as good as the display on the SB IMO.

    I tried editing some videos with Magic Lantern from my Iceland trip and because I was new to the workflow, I had to use Lightroom to colour grade the images manually (that's exporting 100k+ worth of frames) and in those extreme cases, exporting was slow AND I couldn't even use a bluetooth speaker while exporting heavy loads as it became really jiterry. But 99% of people wouldn't use this workflow even if they had ML so..

    FCPX performance was buttery smooth (admittedly, I was only doing 1080p video) with the exception of adding 3D titles which caused some frame drops but nothing game breaking. Note I used FCPX with an external monitor connected to it for a dual-monitor set up and it worked well.

    Gaming. Using bootcamp, I was able to play at 1080p with mostly low settings in Dota 2 and get constant 90-110fps even in large teamfights. I'm sure it can be boosted slightly, but it looks good enough for me since I don't play the game for graphics. Overwatch was suprisingly good as well. I was able to get 70-80fps on 720p (I think) with all settings low. The game still looked great!

    Battery life: It's amazing. nuff said. Used it on and off to work while travelling without the charger and it could last me nearly a full day. It seems to hold the charge well since I went out for a few hours in the icelandic winter with the MBP in my backpack but it only lost 2%?

    Final thoughts: While the ntb MBP has no "special" perks like a touchscreen or a pen etc. I actually think this is the best laptop I've owned and am considering buying Apple Care for it as it literally does everything I need it to do as a laptop. Many ultrabooks cannot play the games that I want to play (even the older rMBPs).

    I do prefer MacOs over Windows 10 due to the simplicity of it all and the availability of FCPX, so I was naturally biased towards Windows devices (partly due to my bad experience with the SB).

    It IS really expensive though, I'm not sure if I would've bought it without the student discount. I did buy it with some skepticism but knowing that I had about 3 weeks to try it (holiday exchange period), I pulled the trigger and have not regretted ever since.
  2. Benny L macrumors member

    Benny L

    Jan 17, 2017
    Vegas baby
  3. Sanpete macrumors 68020

    Nov 17, 2016
  4. Mac128guy macrumors member

    Apr 25, 2015
    London, England
  5. PieTunes macrumors 6502


    May 6, 2016
    San Diego, CA
    Appreciate the well thought out review. It's nice to read about actual use cases and how the machine actually functions for someone, rather than just generic benchmark scores and whatnot.
  6. matram macrumors member

    Sep 18, 2011
    Thank you for these observation. It felt good reading something balanced and constructive among all the complaining.
  7. maka344 macrumors 65816


    Nov 4, 2009
    London, UK
    Great review, thank you. I love the nTB (512). It suits my needs very well, it's slick and fast with outstanding battery life. Which should get even better once they release 10.2.3.

    You can buy Apple Care with your student discount too.

    EDIT: How has the body held up with your recent travels and use case? SG I presume?
  8. josh bear macrumors 6502

    Jan 11, 2010
  9. Decky thread starter macrumors newbie


    Jun 28, 2016
    Yeah it still looks flawless. I didn't abuse it THAT badly though. I didn't know I could buy AppleCare with student discount, thanks for the heads up!

    Thank you for all the compliments guys!
  10. maka344 macrumors 65816


    Nov 4, 2009
    London, UK
    You sure can, just head to the Apple Store online via your student discount portal (be logged on at place of education) and add Apple care to your bag.
  11. palebluedot macrumors 6502a


    Jun 29, 2008
    Thanks for the review. Have you tried gaming in OS X via Steam? I have a dual Mac Mini + gaming PC build (with Synergy for a software based KVM to share one mouse and keyboard), so I don't game in OS X anymore (I used to be one of the original WINE/Crossover gamer guys keeping the flame lit for Mac gaming before Steam was on OS X). However, my wife has the new nTB and I'd love to let her play TF2 and Overwatch on OS X as she only has 256gb so don't want to waste space on a Bootcamp install.

    Also FYI, you can buy AppleCare for even cheaper on eBay. Just make sure you are buying from a reputable dealer with high review marks.
  12. bigdogn12 macrumors member

    Jun 1, 2011
  13. ivnmetal macrumors member

    Sep 19, 2014
    By any chance, is possible to buy AppleCare at Apple w/ a student discount, e/o buying a macbbok in store?

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