Returned my '16 tbMBP 15in, back to my '13 MBA

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by FattyMembrane, Feb 27, 2017.

  1. FattyMembrane macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2002
    bat country
    I heard a lot of the complaints about the new machines and dismissed them as hyperbole and bad luck. I've been using Macs for about 20 years now and would consider myself a fanboy, so it saddens me greatly to be so disappointed in a Mac.

    I'll state from the outset that if I had a bit more time to deal with getting a replacement machine that was spec'd to my liking, I might be going with a 13in tMBP rather than returning to my 2013 MBA (I live in Europe and time my computer purchases to the few weeks per year when I visit my family in the US).

    A lot of people here love these machines and I can see why - I really wanted to love mine and I think in future iterations, I will.

    I'm a jack of all trades at my job. Primarily, I manage the marketing and administrative activities (lots of time spent in Slack, Wunderlist, PDF Expert, and Google Apps), but I also get my hands dirty with some basic graphic design (Pixelmator and Autodesk Graphic), website and server maintenance (Transmit and Atom), and an assortment of various websites and web apps between Safari and Chrome, which are both running for most of the day with anywhere from 5-15 tabs open in each and often a youtube video running in PIP mode or a podcast in iTunes while I work.

    After I'm done with work for the day, I'm attempting to teach myself full-stack JS development, so using tools like homebrew and npm to regularly install and remove packages, running node servers for local testing, and coding in Atom are common occurrences.

    I'm not mixing down soundtracks, compositing 4k video, or rendering the next Pixar movie, so I'm not a 'pro' I that sense, but I do consider what I do with my machine 'professional', and substantially beyond the demands of most average business and personal users. Did I overbuy for my usage? Maybe, in fact, I think I'm probably the kind of 'Starbucks' user that the rabid detractors were criticizing when lamenting the lack of traditional ports on the new machines.

    I've used the SD card slot on my MBA maybe twice in the 3.5 years I've owned it. The only USB peripherals I ever attach are a mini-USB microphone and my iPhone. Two cheap cables and my connectivity issues are solved - no dongles needed. I've never hooked my Mac up to a TV or projector, and in all honesty, I would have been fine with only 2 USB-C ports, since I can't recall the last time I needed to have more than one device plugged in while charging the computer.

    On paper, and in brief store demos, the new 15in MacBook Pro appeared to be not just a cool new toy, but a nice productivity booster as well. The extra screen real estate and trackpad space were quite welcome. The machine has 2 more cores, better processor specs, twice the ram, and a much faster SSD (although it doesn't feel any faster in day-to-day use), and unlike a lot of people, I actually like the new keyboard.

    The keyboard, however, is where my problems started. After the first couple of days, I noticed that I was failing to insert a space every third or fourth word. I initially assumed this was simply a matter of getting used to the new keyboard, but it turns out that the rightmost 20% of the spacebar key was dead and didn't actually register a keypress. As luck would have it, I realized that I only use my right-thumb to hit the space key, and I happen to rest it right at the border between the functional and non-functional parts of the spacebar.

    A second issue is that the dedicated graphics card doesn't fit my use case. I think this has more to do with the dual GPU setup in general than this Mac in particular, but I think it's worth mentioning, as 15in models are now all equipped with dedicated graphics.

    At first, I thought the integrated 530 chip can't quite be handle the massive resolutions the 15in supports, since there was slight, but noticeable stuttering in certain UI tasks. This was after updating to 10.12.3 and resetting the SMC. I realize that there are a lot more pixels to push than my MBA, but dropping that kind of cash on a new machine and having it feel slower than my old one wasn't a great feeling.

    Even when the 460 was being used, this still persisted, leading me to believe it's likely some kind of software issue, but I was out of options, and simply hoping Apple fixes it didn't seem wise.

    A more troublesome issue was that certain apps require the dGPU at all times - two of them being Graphic and Pixelmator. Where before I could leave works in progress open in Pixelmator and Graphic hidden in the background with negligible impact on performance and battery life due to App Nap, that simply can't be achieved on machines with dedicated graphics cards. If an app uses the dGPU, it's always going to be running as long as the app is open.

    What's more, Chrome will use the dGPU if you turn on the option to let the browser use the graphics card to assist with displaying web pages. Even worse, Slack has a bug that turns on the dGPU when a voice call is started and leaves it active until you close Slack. I found that out the hard way by having my battery die in about 3.5 hours.

    You may be wondering how I was able to so easily tell that the dedicated graphics were being used for these situations. You might guess that heat and fan noise were the giveaways. While the machine gets a little warm when the dedicated graphics have been active for a while, it remains shockingly quiet.

    The reason I could so easily tell the switch had happened is that on switching from integrated to dedicated graphics, the whole machine would lock up for 3-4 seconds and become entirely unresponsive. A software update issued the day I received the computer (10.12.3) was supposed to address some of these graphic switching issues, but didn't solve this one for me. Neither did an SMC reset.

    Apple has been using this dual card setup for several years now, and the fact that it's still not a smooth process indicates that it isn't a great solution.

    The bottom line is this - after tax, the computer was around $3,750, making it one of the most expensive options on the market. Apple's claim to fame has long been that the products 'just work'. For that price, I would expect nothing less. I wouldn't expect to have to deal with tech support, install updates, run diagnostic tests, etc. within the first few days of owning the machine just to get it to behave like a 'normal' computer. None of the other (much less expensive) Macs I've owned have required so much babysitting.

    What would make me happy as an end user?

    1. Bring back a 15in pro without a dedicated graphics chip (I have hope that a Kaby Lake refresh will include Iris Pro graphics for such a model). Not all of us need to drive a pair of 5k monitors (or any monitors at all).

    2. Fix these quality control issues with the low profile keyboards
  2. xraydoc macrumors demi-god


    Oct 9, 2005
    Personally, I love how fast the machine runs when the dGPU is active. When I'm plugged in at my desk, I'll often turn off the automatic switching just so it stays on.

    I don't see how, however, it's possible for Apple to do what you want with the dGPU -- when an app is running that requires it, even if it's in the background, I don't think it can be shut off. If Pixelmator requires it, then it needs to be active as long as that app is running. The solution I think would have to come from the authors of Pixelmator; perhaps they can add an option to only use the iGPU when the machine is running on battery power. But if the app was coded to use the dGPU, not sure Apple can be to blame.

    Same goes for Chrome. I suspect the method they use for drawing to the screen activates the dGPU.

    However, I do think that a 15" model without a dGPU would be a reasonable option, both to save money and maximize battery life. However, given the state of Intel's chips, I'm not sure if people would be happy solely with the iGPU that is included with the processors Apple uses.

    Edit: In your case, however, I wonder if the 13" models would be a better option.
  3. FattyMembrane thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2002
    bat country
    I certainly agree that Apple bears no blame for things like Slack bugs or peculiarities of a particular user's workflow, but it seems a bit nutty that the dual GPU setup is still so flaky, and that if I want a machine with a larger screen from them, there's no other option.

    Maybe Iris Pro iGPUs weren't available on quad-core chips when manufacturing started, but it seems like a decent option, and would be much more powerful than the 530.

    I'm also not sure why there isn't an option to disable the dGPU in addition to the option to have it permanently on (and relying on old and unsupported software like gfxCardStatus isn't a great option).

    If time was on my side, a 13in might have been a solution, but that extra screen real estate is awfully nice.
  4. Mindinversion macrumors 6502


    Oct 9, 2008
    Sounds like another case of defective notebook from where I'm sitting. I have the spec'd out 15" [1TB] and have none of the issues you describe... no lock ups, no slowdown on the screen. . and CERTAINLY no spacebar issue.

    I know it can be frustrating, but there are always going to be a certain % of defective units per manufacturing batch. That you got one is EXTREMELY unfortunate. I just wish there were a way for you to experience a known good unit. Even if you kept your MacBook Air [you gotta use what works] I can assure you that your experience is *NOT* the norm.
  5. Sanpete macrumors 68020

    Nov 17, 2016
    What you say about the peculiarities of your workflow may indeed be an issue in some of these issues. As @Mindinversion says, the pause while switching to dGPU isn't normal, even for heavy users. Some lags in scrolling are fairly common, though, and may be related to scaling, as some don't report any lags at all. (Just a theory, I haven't verified this.)

    Have you considered the 2015 15" without dGPU? Not as nice in some ways, but it might work better for you. I understand they're still available new in some quarters, and Apple sells them refurbished from time to time with a warranty same as new.

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4 February 27, 2017