The Mac We Need, But Not the One We Deserve Right Now

I have a mid-2014 MacBook Pro. It’s a great computer and it still does just about everything I need. It is, however, beginning to show its age. The graphics card sometimes has issues pushing smooth video to my two 27” 4K monitors. And the performance definitely lags when I have too many processor- or memory-intensive apps open (I’m looking at you, Slack!). I considered buying a new Mac, but I just can’t do it yet. Until Apple realizes they don’t know what’s best for me, I’m keeping my $3k in my wallet.

Apple User Testing: The Myth, The Legend

You’re probably familiar with the myth that Apple doesn’t do user research and testing. It is definitely a myth. Whether you’re a fan of Apple or not, they do great design work. Their products would not be wildly successful if they didn’t do research and testing.

So how did this myth start? I’m not sure. Nor does it matter for the arguments I’m about to make. But I’m guessing the myth comes from some of Apple’s suspect decisions. In recent history, we can point to products like the trash bin Mac Pro, the HomePod, and the original implementation of the Apple Watch. While successful products in their own rights, some of the design decisions Apple made with these products left people scratching their heads. Did they make these decisions in a vacuum, with no research or testing to back them up? It’s doubtful. But when you’re Apple, and you’ve released many successful products, reinvented industries, and changed American culture, you’ve built enough design capital where you can be adventurous and make “mistakes.”

I believe Apple’s success and design capital creates a huge design ego. It allows Apple to easily say, “We know what’s best for you.” In many cases, they’re right. I’m very happy with my iPhone 8. Even though I didn’t want to pay the premium for it, I think the iPhone X is the best smart phone experience available. I absolutely love my AirPods. My iPad Pro with Apple Pencil is the best experience I’ve had with a digital tablet-like device (like a Wacom tablet and similar). And I used to have similar feelings about the MacBook Pro. That, however, is no longer the case.

What Year is This?

The newest MacBook Pros simply do not cut the mustard. No, I’m not referring to the Touch Bar or the faulty keyboards. I’m simply not happy with the specs. In my option, the newest line of MacBook Pros are not very “pro.”

Insufficient Memory

While the top-notch design is still there and some consider the Touch Bar adding a “pro” feature, my biggest complaint with the MacBook Pro is its lack of memory (RAM). I can’t get an Apple laptop with more than 16 gigabytes of RAM? What year is this? To contrast, Dell has laptop configurations that go up to 64 gigabytes of RAM (and it’s not that much more expensive). Seriously, Apple, can we have more RAM? Maybe 64GB is asking too much. But can we at least have 32GB? I’d be more than happy with that.

GPU Backwards Spells UPGrade

Apple does a decent job of giving us an appropriate GPU in MacBook Pros. An AMD Radeon 560 with 4GB of memory is decent, but it’s not what top-of-the-line pro machines currently ship with. It’s not difficult to configure a laptop online with a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GPU. For professional designers, motion graphics people, developers, etc, this GPU upgrade would make a significant difference. As I eluded to before, sometimes I feel that I need an external GPU to help drive my 4K monitors.

Granted, I know I’m not comparing apples to apples here (pun intended). You definitely pay a premium for Apple design — both aesthetically and under the hood. Their products are definitely attractive. And because of the very tight integration between their software and hardware, you know you’re getting a reliable machine that “just works.” But when I pay that premium, I also want to know I’m paying for a reasonably current hardware configuration. Imagine the MacBook Pro we could have if Apple borrowed some of the ideas and hardware from the new iMac Pro? Portability with more capability than the current MacBook Pros, and I’m sold. Here Apple, take my money. But alas, we’re not there yet.

We Have Other Choices

I think my current MacBook Pro has about two more years in it before it really starts to show its age. If Apple continues to lag on upgrading the memory and GPU options in their pro laptops, I may be persuaded to buy a non-Apple laptop. Both MacOS and Linux are build on top of Unix. Switching from an Apple machine to a Linux machine is not that far of a stretch. Take a Linux distro like elementary OS — which is fairly close to MacOS in many respects — and install it on a nice machine, and we’re getting fairly close the professional tool that I want my MacBook Pro to be. Linux also has an analog for almost any specific type of software for Mac or Windows. So I could definitely see myself using a Linux machine for my day-to-day professional design and development work.

Is it as Simple as Asking?

Why do we not deserve the MacBook Pro I’ve described? I don’t think we’re being loud enough for Apple to invest resources into making it a reality. Maybe if enough of us talk about this and get the ideas proliferated through the universe, Apple will catch on. Look what happened with the trash bin Mac Pro. People complained that it didn’t suit their needs, so Apple went back to the drawing board to create a product that will (hopefully) be what Mac Pro users want. Will this happen with the MacBook Pro? Only time will tell, I suppose.

Even if Apple doesn’t catch on and future MacBook Pros aren’t as pro as we would like, there’s always the Razer Blade 15. It’s very nicely designed with great specs. It is essentially what the MacBook Pro should currently be. I can hear Commissioner Gordon saying, “It’s the Mac we need, but not the one we deserve right now.”

PS: A touch screen and an LTE chip would be nice MacBook Pro additions as well, Apple.