I’ve always been a believer in the idea that professionals in whatever walk of life should have the best tools available and this seemed like a pretty good justification to upgrade from my 3 and a half year old MacBook Air to the latest MacBook Pro. After a lot of agonising I went for the 13 inch touchbar model with extra memory, 500GB SDD and standard processor.
I don’t want to dwell on its physical appearance apart from to say its predictably gorgeous, slightly smaller and, I think lighter (I’m not bothered enough to actually weigh it, but it feels a bit lighter to me) than my 2013 Air. I think I prefer the squared off appearance to the Air’s wedge; this is a laptop that means business.
I’d rather spend more time describing the experience of setting it up and of using it as I think this is the thing that most Apple-haters (you know who you are) miss out on when they complain how Apple has ‘lost its edge’ or some such nonsense.
When it arrived (4 days earlier than promised!) I briefly wondered whether I would be able to migrate my files and applications from my Air. I need not have worried: when you switch on for the first time, it asks you whether you are setting up a fresh laptop or whether you are migrating from an existing one. You have the option of restoring from a Time Machine backup or directly from a Mac on the same network. I chose the latter and a few steps later it was merrily transferring away.
A couple of hours later, the process was finished and I’m glad to say an almost complete success. It had transferred all my files, my applications, including the ones that were not downloaded from the app store, and nearly all of the settings across seamlessly. The only things that didn’t work were:
- Because I was running out of space on my 128GB Air, I had migrated my photo library onto an external SD Card. The migration progress had figured out that I was using an external library but (of course) couldn’t find it. This was not a massive problem as I wanted to transfer the library onto the main disk anyway but it was a bit more of a rigmarole than it could have been as my SD Card reader didn’t work when plugged in to the USB-C to USB adaptor
- For some strange reason it didn’t recognise that I had changed the settings for my Outlook (aka Hotmail) account to use the IMAP connection rather than the old POP3 (which Microsoft had kindly turned off a few months ago with no fanfare whatsoever). Once I had figured out what had happened it was a simple matter to add the new account settings to Mail, especially since Apple have a mail server settings lookup service on their site. Weirdly however, it proceeded to delete a whole load of e-mails from my inbox. I think now that it’s because I tend to delete e-mails from Mail on my iPhone to save space. Up until now this has not deleted them from the server but it has suddenly decided to start doing so. I don’t think it was necessarily to do with the migration but something to watch out for nonetheless
- Safari asks me whether I want to save the login details for every site I have an account with. I don’t because I use 1Password as a password manager but it’s strange that it’s forgotten those particular settings when it appears to have remembered everything else. (You can tell I’m scraping the barrel now)
In use the most remarkable thing is how familiar everything is. All my files are where I expect them to be, I can log on to all the same wifi hotspots; it’s like using a newer, cleaner version of my old laptop. This probably contributes to the deafening ‘meh’ that came from most reviewers, but if you think about it, that’s exactly how it should be. Contrast this with upgrading a Windows PC or laptop. You spend more time figuring out where Microsoft has pointlessly moved the functionality you used to be able to find in your sleep and trying to find out whether there are any drivers for the hardware that MS haven’t got around to supporting out of the box than you do working.
I love being able to log in using my fingerprint and the implementation of the touch bar is just about perfect. You don’t have to change the way you work at all. I forget about its existence for hours at a time, then glance down and there’s always some useful information there. Again this is just how it should be.
I miss the reassurance of the old magsafe connector but I like being able to connect the power at either side. Since I bought a USB-C to Lightning cable I can now charge my iPhone directly from the power supply rather than having to go through the Mac or carry around a separate brick. Others have complained about the need to carry lots of cables around but the only extra one I use is a USB-C to USB connector for my camera, though to be honest, if I was that bothered I could just transfer the photos by wifi.
So there you have it. Reassuringly expensive, undeniably gorgeous and if you already own a Mac, a subtle but useful enhancement to your current, already class-leading experience. It’s tempting to say “One day, all computers will be made this way” but unfortunately I don’t think they will. Those who don’t get it, don’t get it, and I’m afraid that includes Microsoft, Google, Samsung and all the others. What worries me is that Apple themselves will one day forget how to make devices this good. The world will be a poorer place.