Today’s MacBook Pro updates seem pretty incredible at face value – similar price points, quad-core processors on the 15 and 17 inch version, the addition of the incredible new ThunderBolt i/o port… But for many users, the upgrade may not (or perhaps should not) be such a simple decision. We discuss a few reasons why (all information is derived from Apple’s own spec page for the new models).
1. Significantly Decreased Battery Life.
It seems as though there is a price to pay for the fantastic new features of the MacBook Pro. One of those costs is battery life. Instead of the 8-9 hours standard battery life you might have become accustomed to, now you can expect a standard 7 hours wireless productivity (presumable in the best of circumstances). If you depend on the battery life of your MacBook Pro, you might consider getting an external power solution (such as from HyperMac), or foregoing this upgrade altogether.
2. 8GB of RAM Not Standard
For many users that are accustomed to a wide range of background applications, widgets, usage of many browser tabs, or usage of multimedia-rich applications such as Apple’s Aperture, Adobe Photoshop or Premiere, or even the now commonly used Apple consumer tools such iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand, 4GB of ram just isn’t what it used to be, and Apple still charges $200 for the 8GB RAM upgrade (you can commonly purchase the upgrade for under $100 online or at other retailers).
With many users now reaching the limits of their standard 4GB, and the expense of the upgrade (or the hassle of finding, buying, and installing the upgrade yourself), many users may find this aspect of the update off-putting, Why not include 8GB standard Apple? You want to be on the bleeding edge, and pronounce the MacBook Pro line among other recent notebooks? 8GB’s standard sure would have helped.
3. Higher Resolution Still Not Standard, and No Matte Option For Standard Resolution
The resolution of the new MacBook Pro line still has not seen a standard increase, and the upgrade to higher resolution still costs a pretty penny, at an extra $100 for a glossy high-res screen, or a whopping additional $150 for a high-res anti-glare screen. Perhaps more concerning is the lack of ANY KIND of anti-glare screen for less than $1150.
While many people love the glossy screen, and there are arguments to why it is better (rich graphics and media portrayal, for instance), many professionals prefer a matte display, which is less prone to glare, and which can be easier on the eyes when using a machine outdoors, or when doing professional tasks (like document creation or editing and other desktop publishing-related tasks.
4. Lack of On-Board SSD for OS X
My reading of the many, many MacBook Pro rumors, both very recent and somewhat distant, I had come to expect that a 16GB or 32GB embedded SSD would be a standard feature. With 16GB of SSD storage being available at retail for $50-$60 (see here, here, and here), with Apple of course obtaining flash memory for much, much cheaper, Apple wouldn’t have taken much of a financial hit for such a move. But even if they would have had to take some kind of hit for the inclusion, they certainly have the cash reserves to handle it, and it would have placed the new MacBook Pro models that much further ahead of the competition. Instead, they have left that move open for someone else to do first.
There is little doubt that consumers and professionals alike would have seen immediate benefits from faster boot times, much faster waking from sleep, and (with 16GB) speed enhancements to their beefier or more commonly used applications. It would have also significantly increased the “wow factor” for new users switching to the Mac. Sure, it might have slightly blurred the lines between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air, but I contend that the blurring would be quite minimal due to the enhanced storage abilities of the MacBook Pro line.
In addition, the benefits from increased market share and increased satisfaction among existing Mac users would likely far outweigh the costs (both fiscally and otherwise) to Apple. You missed an opportunity to raise the bar here, Apple, and rest assured someone else will be right on top of this (assuming you can still install any modern version of Windows in just 16GB’s of space).
5. Limited Out-The-Door Utility of ThunderBolt
This may be a somewhat weaker point in discussion, but ThunderBolt I/O, while it does have incredible raw power and amazing potential, isn’t a knock-out straight off the shelf. Sure, there are already some adapters available to make it connect to a variety of displays (including HDMI and native Mini DisplayPort), but most if not all of these adapters were available back when it was just Mini DisplayPort.
There are very few if any devices available that really take advantage of ThunderBolt, and until there are, this may not be a strong selling point for consumers. In fact, it may not ever become a strong point for any one but professionals and power users anyway – those that will take advantage of the full power of the revolutionary new interface.
6. No Option To Eliminate Optical Drive
Many of today’s users don’t use their optical drives as much as they used to. At the least, most users don’t use it often enough to carry it around with the 24/7. Some users still heavily depend on optical media, such as those who use their MacBook Pro for a media center machine, but surely that relatively small subsection of users doesn’t justify keeping the optical drive on-board for everyone?
I propose that a better solution would have been to make the optical drive optional (and offer an external optical drive to users for an additional cost), so that people that think they need it can still get it built in, but the rest of us could gain the ability to add something more useful, such as a secondary drive (perhaps an SSD). Instead, users that might need or want this functionality must resort to taking a storage hit (or paying big fat bucks for a 512GB SSD), or using a warranty-damning option such as an Optibay or OWC’s Data Doubler (at additional cost that doesn’t go to Apple, I might add).
Wrapping it Up
To conclude, this MacBook Pro upgrade certainly is very nice, quite welcome, and perhaps overdue. They have added many enhancements and features that will surely improve the flagship notebook for many of it’s users. But for people who are on the border about upgrading, who only use their machines for web browsing, iTunes, photo management, and document creation, or who’s current MacBook is seemingly meeting their needs, it might be wise to hold off until a future upgrade, such as the complete redesign rumored to occur in 2012.