Trees and Robots

by Jacopo Scazzosi

The 2018 MacBook Pro 15''

I’ve recently upgraded to a 2018 MacBook Pro 15’’ from a 2013 MacBook Pro 13’’. What follows is a list of first impressions after a few hours of normal use.

  • The combined absence of USB-A, HDMI, Thunderbolt, a card-reader and a MagSafe charging connector is annoying, frustrating and downright absurd.
  • Touch ID is fantastic, particularly so when used with a password manager that supports fingerprint-based unlocking.
  • The Touch Bar’s lack of physical keys and dynamic layout forces me to look away from the screen when I need keys such as esc and volume/brightness controls. Keys are there when I need them, they’re just hard to locate by tactile navigation alone.
  • The keyboard is worse than the 2013’s but not quite as bad as I had expected. Whereas keys are bigger and closer to one another and key travel is exceedingly minimal, these are partially offset by a meaningful amount of tactile feedback. Still, what feels like a solid keypress can result in no registered keypress at all and what feels like the lightest of brushes can result in unwanted keypresses. Perhaps as a consequence of this, I noticed my hands tensing up a little more while typing.
  • The trackpad is a litte too big, particularly given its relative position to the keyboard. Although palm detection seems to be working nicely, my thumbs often cause the cursor to jump across the screen.
  • I almost cannot believe the fact that the trackpad is a Force Touch trackpad, i.e. a trackpad with haptic feedback. It feels real.
  • The hinge is not a sturdy as the 2013’s. This is most noticeable while on the move, such as during a train ride. The screen wobbles more than that of a 2013’s 15’’ and a lot more than my 2013’s 13’’. That said, screen wobble is still pretty good in absolute terms.
  • The screen is amazing, crispier than the 2013’s and with greater color accuracy. I wasn’t expecting True Tone to make such a difference.
  • The laptop is fast and seems free of thermal issues. I’ve yet to explore all the advantages brought by the new T2 chip but its presence is immediately noticeable.

All in all, these first few hours with my new MacBook Pro made for a relatively solid experience, with the notable exception of requiring a separate and rather expensive USB-C hub right from the very beginning.

When compared to my 2013, this machine feels like a significantly different compromise between thinness/aesthetics and functionality/reliability. Personally, I think Apple has gone a step too far towards the former while sacrificing too much of the latter. The feeling of sheer marvel and excitement that I experienced when I bought my 2013 has been replaced by a wary contentment that doesn’t feel quite enough for a machine at this price point.