I finally got a chance to give the new MacBook a whirl and decided to share my thoughts about it. I very rarely feel compelled to review products or services. Like the average consumer, I typically only review things when they’re so fantastic that I think they’re a real game-changer or, conversely, when they’re so terrible that I think it’s very likely they’ll be a game-ender. Unfortunately, this review will be the latter - let’s begin:
The Big QuestionAdmittedly, I was skeptical about the new MacBook from the get-go. Despite my skepticism, I really do like to give everything a fair chance, so I tried to keep as open of a mind as possible. Rather than focusing on any specific feature of the MacBook and making an uninformed decision about whether or not I would like it, I instead simply pondered the question “who is this designed for?” Unfortunately, after spending some time with it in person, I’m no closer to answering that question.
And that really is the big question - the only one that matters. If you don’t know or perhaps, in this case, you are confused about who your target audience is, then no matter what you build, it’s valueless. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for innovation simply for the sake of innovation. But innovation for innovation’s sake is meant to be in the realm of research, not mass-production. I never got a clear sense of who the new MacBook was designed for or what particular gap it was supposed to fill. It’s too pricey for the casual Facebook peruser and too underpowered for the heavier user - your developers, your videographers, etc.
For example, when the most recent Mac Pro was released, I immediately got a very clear sense of who the product was designed for. It was a beast of a machine, made for people who need serious power - such as photographers, video editors, animators, etc. Granted, it had a substantial price point to match it’s substantial build but at least it made sense. Even though it wasn’t a machine that would make sense for my budget or my needs, I appreciated it because it did fill somebody’s needs.
Now on to the features...
The KeyboardThey spent a lot of time in the Keynote talking about how innovative the new keyboard is. Perhaps the underlying technology truly is revolutionary but the typing experience is anything but. The keys are almost completely flush with the casing, meaning that there’s basically no key travel. To compensate for the lack of travel, they added a very slight click, similar to the click of pushing down the trackpad. However, it just makes the sound of the keyboard annoying while not increasing the tactile feedback, making for a sloppy and detached typing experience.
Not to mention, there’s virtually no space between the keys. I believe their design intention was to provide a larger contact surface but what it actually does is make it easier to accidentally hit a wrong key. Remember how much everyone hated typing on the iPad’s virtual keyboard when it first came out? Yeah, it feels like a physical implementation of the iPad’s virtual keyboard.
My initial assumption to the Force Touch trackpad, based on the above image, was that somehow it detected force intensity and performed different actions accordingly - some sort of pressure sensor. Introducing subjectivity into how a trackpad operates seemed like a terrible idea. The reality I discovered when actually using the Force Touch trackpad is, perhaps, even sillier. “Force Touch” simply means it has two clicks. Begin pushing down on the trackpad and you’ll feel the click you’re accustomed to. Keep pushing down a little more on the trackpad and you’ll feel another click. What the what?!
The Form FactorTo start with, I think the finish offerings (silver, gold, grey) are pointless, but I can understand how others might appreciate it. So I’ll leave that one alone.
Let’s talk thickness. Does it really matter that the MacBook is about a tenth of an inch thinner than the MacBook Air? I would argue that it does not and that we need to stop playing the “thickness game” altogether. There becomes a point (and I believe we’ve already reached it) when computers are as thin as they ever should be, even if it was possible to make them thinner. Eventually, we may have the technology for a computer to be as thin as a piece of paper but would that actually make any sense for conventional use? When I first picked up the MacBook, it wasn’t obvious that it was thinner than the MacBook Air. They’re both incredibly thin. If I had set a MacBook Air right next to the MacBook, I may have been able to see the difference but, again, so what?
As for the single USB-C connection, I’m not sure what seems like a worse design decision - limiting the use of peripherals to one-at-a-time (and apparently considering power to be a peripheral) or introducing yet another power connector into the Apple ecosystem. 😩
And I know this is extremely nit-picky but I really miss the comforting glow of the apple on the back of the screen. It’s a tiny detail and one that most people would, likely, consider insignificant. But to me it’s one of those things that sets Apple apart from the rest of the notebook white noise. It looks classy yet welcoming. An indicator of the premium product that it is.
The NamingAs confusing as everything else is with this machine is the naming decision. Traditionally, the MacBook is supposed to be the entry-level Apple notebook. It’ll get you into the Apple family without breaking the bank but also without giving you the most power that Apple can provide you. If you needed more power, you could step up to the MacBook Pro - “Pro” indicating that it’s a machine capable of providing professional levels of functionality. Then the MacBook Air was released. It was thinner and lighter than the standard MacBook, hence the name “Air”. It all makes sense.
But now, even though the MacBook Air is still a product line, there’s a thinner and lighter machine than the Air. Is it called the MacBook Air 2 or perhaps the MacBook Airier? Nope, it’s just called the “MacBook”. Again, what the what?!