Menu

Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro

I was going to wait a little bit longer before writing my review of this new computer, but Michael Tsai recently published some of his thoughts on it and – after writing a post in response to his experiences I realized it was turning into a bit of a review – so now this post is a review.

If you read Michael’s post you might come away thinking he doesn’t like the computer. I don’t think that’s the case. I just think he is pointing out the things that stuck out to him the most and usually the things we don’t like are the ones we remember more readily.

To cut right to the chase, I really like this computer. It has the potential of surpassing the 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina as my favorite Mac of all time. But I need a bit more time with it before I’ll know that.

The great things about this new computer are the speed and memory, the larger screen, and the sound.

The good things about this computer are Touch ID (makes using things like 1Password so much better), the large trackpad, and the hopefully reliable keyboard.

The bad things are the fact that it is all USB-C and the rather useless Touch Bar (more on this later).

Now, to Michael’s experience.

Michael on Touch ID:

I’ve always had great experiences with Touch ID on iPhones, but the Touch ID key on the MacBook Pro barely works.

I don’t have this experience at all. I’ve added two fingers to Touch ID (since my laptop is on my left at home and on my right at work) and I’ve never once had it error. Yet.

I’d suggest Michael consider re-entering his fingers again (or perhaps adding the same fingers he already has) or consider returning the computer. 50% is just not good enough. Something must be wrong.

Michael on the included power cable:

The included charging cable is gross, sticky, and leaves a film on my hands, like the AirPods Pro.

I have never had this issue with a cable from Apple. It makes me wonder if some people’s natural skin oils or whatever react to Apple’s cables and some do not? This may sound odd but I had a music teacher that couldn’t use brass instruments because brass was allergic to him. The trumpets would have holes in them if he used them.

I do appreciate his links to USB-C cables and chargers that he uses as I will likely buy both of those products through his links for my travel bag.

Michael on the aluminum case:

The bottom front, where you lift the display, still has very sharp corners, which once caught on my hand and drew blood.

I cannot find where he’s speaking about. There is no area of this case that I find “sharp” at all and certainly not one that could draw blood. Unless I threw it at someone! I’d love to poll 10 owners of this laptop to see if anyone else has thought the case was sharp?

Michael on the Touch bar:

The Touch Bar is more annoying than I expected, and I plan not to buy another Mac that includes one.

I don’t know if Michael remembers or not, but 4 years ago we agreed on the Touch bar’s potential. We both felt that it was underwhelming but perhaps, in the future, it’d be useful.

We are now in that future. And the Touch Bar, for me, isn’t particularly useful except in very specific apps. First, I use an external keyboard for about 90% of my computing. Second, the Touch Bar isn’t ingrained in my brain to reach for. I wonder if I learned to type on a keyboard that had a Touch Bar would I find it indispensable? A quick search of YouTube shows a lot of people that get use out of it.

Where I have found the Touch Bar useful though is in Adobe apps. Using Premier for a project yesterday, a few common tasks I have while editing a video were available on the Touch Bar. So I switched to the built-in keyboard for a bit and it really did save me a lot of mousing. Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. are similar. So perhaps for apps that have an enormous number of features and menu items the Touch Bar can really be put to good use. It becomes buttons that replace keyboard shortcuts.

Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting to contrast some of his comments with my experiences. It shows you that two people can buy the same product and have a different time of it.

Lastly, here are a few things that Apple could have done to make this the best Mac of all time (for me). A USB-A port, a card reader, added MagSafe to USB-C, and made the built-in camera just a bit better. That’s about it.

Oh, one last thing. The price. Mine was over $4,000. That is not a trivial amount of money and the most expensive Mac I’ve owned. However, most of my Macs have lasted at least 5 years. I use my Macs for both professional and personal use. Paying far less than $1,000 per year of use for how much I use the computer is a no-brainer. This laptop would be worth it at double the price. Don’t tell Apple that.

Why I used Migration Assistant to move to my new Mac

This isn’t a tutorial. If you’re in need of one and you’ve somehow stumbled onto my blog of jumbled thoughts on a variety of topics, sorry. You’ll need to go back to Google and try again (though, really, you should be using Duck.com).

I recently upgraded to a 16-inch MacBook Pro (review forthcoming) and had the opportunity to use Apple’s built-in process for moving from one Mac, or Windows computer, to a new one – Migration Assistant.

I’ve upgraded from one Mac to another (at my best count) 6 different times. Once I used Migration Assistant. All other times I didn’t. Since I only seem to buy new Macs twice a decade on average, I figure these moments are a good opportunity to start with a clean slate on my computer.

Doing so is not very easy. Though, I will say, moving from one computer to another is easier than it has ever been thanks to password managers, cloud services and storage, and a variety of other reasons. I remember in the 90s it taking about 3 or 4 days to feel as though you were back up and running. Then in the 2000s it would take me about a full long day or two. Most recently, without Migration Assistant, it would take me a full day. This latest move took me about 2 hours.

The reason I decided not to start from scratch was that I didn’t want to lose my current productivity level. Though I’m usually up and running within a few days, I feel somewhat hamstrung for at least a few weeks. Each time I open an app it requires new permissions, or whenever I pick up an old development project – with its myriad of dependencies – I have to relearn what I need to get it to run*.

So, fearing that I would lose momentum I decided to try Migration Assistant. My plan was to use it to migrate from my 13-inch MacBook Pro to the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and be up and running in the same day with every single app, preference, setting, dependency, file, password, and even session. My fear this time was if Migration Assistant did a terrible job at this, I’d have to format the computer and start over from scratch.

I’m happy to report though, that it went pretty smoothly. There were one or two apps that simply wouldn’t open (Visual Studio Code being one that comes to mind). So I simply trashed the app and reinstalled and it worked. I don’t know if it had to do with Migration Assistant or another issue but that was a simple enough fix.

Other than this one hiccup, I didn’t skip a beat. I never once went back to the old Mac and ended up formatting it the same afternoon that I received the new one. And with the added horsepower of this new Mac I feel even more empowered than I did prior to the move.

I do, however, have two suggestions to anyone using Migration Assistant… Do not use WiFi to make the transfer. I don’t even know why it is an option. I have a modern wireless set up in my home – it is very, very fast for most things – yet Migration Assistant simply would not work over WiFi. From what I could tell, the process would have taken multiple days. It seems impossible. So my only guess is that it simply doesn’t work. Apple should remove it.

If you cannot directly connect your two Macs because you do not have the right cables, consider recovering from a Time Machine backup using Migration Assistant (like I did). It only took about 90 minutes. To do this, you just need to make sure you back up your old computer right before making the jump.

I hope this new Mac lasts 5 years or so (unless the rumored switch to ARM is simply too enticing to wait). When I do switch to a new Mac, though, I won’t hesitate to try Migration Assistant again.

* This too has been dramatically improved with things like package managers and Docker.

My Everyday Carry, May 2018

I’ve been meaning to make this list for some time now. Finally, I emptied my backpack and took a photo so that I can make a list of my every day carry. The above items are with me, in my backpack, every single day.

Speaking of my backpack. It is a graphite Collins by Brenthaven. A little over a year ago Brenthaven reached out to me and asked if I’d like to try one of their bags. I picked this one because it looked like it would fit my needs perfectly. And guess what? I’ve been using it every single day since. I love this bag. Be sure to visit their site and look through all of the great product photos for this bag. It is perfect for me with what I have in it.

Not pictured: Google Pixel 2 XL.

Collins by Brenthaven

The following items are with me every single day.

  1. A folder to keep loose papers that I need to have with me.
  2. 13″ MacBook Pro with Touchbar. No keyboard issues (yet).
  3. A soft felt case for the MacBook Pro (like this one). I mostly use this as a precaution in case I were to drop the laptop.
  4. A Western Digital 3TB external drive. I back up my photos to this so I always have a copy of the library with me.
  5. USB-C MacBook Pro power adapter.
  6. HDMI cable.
  7. Recently used notebook for Bullet Journaling. I still carry it only because there are a few pages of things that I haven’t pulled forward into the new notebook.
  8. New notebook for Bullet Journaling. I switched to this notebook in March.
  9. A Pilot G2 Pen
  10. Wireless Apple Keyboard
  11. Beats Solo Wireless headphones for slow jams.
  12. Halls for throat emergencies
  13. Lip balm and moisturizer. Evidence that I’m sliding into my 40s soon.
  14. A stencil I created for making quick mobile mockups.
  15. Simple car charger, USB-drive, batteries, USB-C to headphone adapter, and USB-C to USB-B adapter.
  16. Logitech MX Master 2S wireless mouse. I love this thing.
  17. A dongle for USB-C to many USB-ports. Not shown in this photo is the dongle I keep on my desk at work to go from USB-C to HDMI.
  18. iPhone 4S that I’ve had in my bag for a long time. I thought I would use it for video or photo projects but I haven’t. Now using it for testing.
  19. Wired headphones as backups and for flights, etc.
  20. Micro-USB cables to charge the Beats and mouse.
  21. Backup Pilot-G2 pen.

This current list has remained fairly steady for a few years. Now I also have an Oculus Go but I don’t carry it with me every single day. I most use this for watching YouTube, looking at 360 photos I’ve taken, and doing VR research for work.

If anything major changes in the future I’ll try to keep this up-to-date.

The new MacBook Pro with Touchbar

Sarah Parmenter:

By the time 2016 rolled around, I was overdue an upgrade and I thought the new MacBook Pro’s were enough of an upgrade to warrant a new purchase. After all, it had been 4 years. A lifetime in hardware you use every day.

I was in the exact same boat as Sarah. I had been using a mid-2012 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display every day for 4 years. (There was about a month where I tried a Surface Book with Performance Base and Windows 10 that I still have yet to write up. Short version: Apple should be very worried about losing their creative and developer community though it does not seem like they are.) Unlike Sarah I loved my computer up until the day I swapped it out for this new computer. It was easily the best laptop I had ever owned from Apple. I simply needed to upgrade for hard drive space and processor speed.

This new MacBook Pro with Touchbar is an OK machine. I would echo many of her thoughts. I’d also add:

  • USB-C seems both frustrating and clearly the future. This time in the middle is annoying but I’ll wait 12 more months before I complain.
  • The Touchbar is very cool in my experience so far but I almost never use the laptop keyboard for long periods.
  • Battery life for me is a non-issue. I’m connected to power most of the time and when I travel I don’t bring my laptop anymore. My phone suffices.
  • Having the extra hard drive space is crucial for me at this point. In fact, if Apple would make a 13″ laptop with multiple terabytes in it I’d buy it.

Reading this you’ll likely think I should have just purchased an iMac. And while I could likely get away with an iMac I like having a portable workstation to attend events, take on client meetings occasionally, and take home to work when it is snowing.

I’m happy I upgraded and I likely won’t have to think about a new computer until another 3 or 4 years pass. But, again like Sarah, I’m not incredibly impressed with this machine as I was with the 13″ MBP.

A few asides:

  • Innovation in the laptop market is likely over. The Touchbar is cool but I think the iPad is more the future of mobile computing. As components shrink and the cloud plays a larger part in both processing and storage I believe that true portables will be iPads. Which means that iPads should start docking to displays soon and run macOS. Apple and the community disagree with me on this but clearly Microsoft does not.
  • If Microsoft shipped an AR-based platform wherein I have a phone in my pocket and glasses on my face (driven by the phone and Windows 10) I’d be the first in line for something like that to replace my laptop. Sounds insane but let me remind you that two people will be orbiting the moon next year and Stephen Hawking will likely be in orbit of the Earth.

E11: Browsers, Surfaces, MacBook Pros, and Tesla roof

Danny and I have an early Sunday morning conversation about our browsers of choice (he likes Vivaldi), Microsoft and Apple’s announcements this week and the Tesla roof.

Download MP3