Snell on the 2021 MacBook Pro’s Ports

Jason Snell has words about the new 2021 MacBook Pro lineup, highly recommended if you’d like to reminisce about Apple’s walk back of most of their laptop decisions:

If Mac laptops come in eras, one just ended.

It started in 2016 with the release of MacBook Pro models featuring butterfly keyboards, the Touch Bar, and a minimal selection of USB-C ports. It ended on Monday with the announcement of new MacBook Pro models that roll back most of the major changes introduced in 2016, putting the MacBook Pro in a new state of grace that recalls the middle of the last decade.

Everything Announced at Apple’s October 2021 Infomercial

New MacBook Pros, AirPods, HomePod Mini color choices, and a cheaper Apple Music plan

Apple just had their iPhone infomercial in September and launched new versions of their Apple Watch and iPhone. Now in October they have an infomercial for Mac updates. Here’s everything they announced including new MacBook Pros.

Apple Music Voice
Zane Lowe announced new playlists and a new cheaper $5 monthly subscription for Apple Music that seemingly only lets users play music through Siri on Apple’s devices and not the Music apps which have been on more than Apple devices for a while now. The cheaper plan also can’t use Spatial Audio or Lossless Audio. The regular Apple Music plan is still $10 and it’s $15 for a family plan. This cheap plan might crush Spotify if it were available on more devices and let you use the regular Music app, as it is, it seems weird and bad to force people to use Siri only.

New HomePod Mini Colors
New Homepod Mini colors in blue, orange, and yellow in addition to the old black and white options. Same $100 price, no other updates. Dave Wilkes Jr introduced the new devices.

Third Generation AirPods get Spatial Audio
That’s basically it, the non-Pro and non-Max AirPods are getting Spatial Audio, longer battery life, adaptive EQ, and a redesign to bring them a little closer to the AirPods Pro headphones design with a wide case but without noise cancellation. The default price goes up to $180 to get that noise cancellation and includes the wireless charging case, but you can still get the 2nd gen version without wireless charging and without the new features for $130.

New m1s

New Apple Silicon
Johny Srouji introduced the new M1 Pro chip that supposedly gets 70% faster CPU performance and 2 times the graphics performance.

Srouji also introduced the M1 Max with an even larger chip that has more cores for everything and supports up to 64 gigs of RAM. Srouji went over how the new variations on the M1 supposedly get incredible performance with low power consumption.

Craig Federighi introduced other features of the new chips, and then a montage of third-party developers talking about the new performance.

Macbook pro without ui
New MacBook Pros
John Ternus introduced new 14 and 16 inch Macbook Pros that get their first redesigned appearance since 2016. The controversial touchbar touch screen that replaced the F-row of keys on the keyboard is gone, but Touch ID remains, and Shruti Haldea introduced more of the new features like the return of the SD Card port, HDMI, and Magsafe 3 for power in addition to power through the thunderbolt ports. Kate Bergeron introduced the new displays on these laptops with thinner borders, ProMotion variable-refresh rate and the rumored notch that holds the camera along the menu bar area in macOS. Trevor McLeod introduced new features like the notch holds a better 1080p webcam, better speakers, and better microphones. There’s no Face ID.

Notch

Haldea returned to further throw Intel under the bus with comparisons to previous generations of Intel MacBook Pros in performance and battery life. The performance improvements sound sick. Prices start at $2000 for the 14 inch, and $2500 for the 16 inch versions. The 13 inch M1 MacBook Pro sticks around for a cheaper, touchbar equipped, option.

Overall
The new laptops are great for people who need the performance or have an older MacBook Pro and have been waiting for a bigger update.

Still to get the Apple Silicon treatment are the bigger iMacs and the Mac Pro. The Mac Mini is also rumored to receive another update but I doubt it’ll happen before the end of the year at this point.

The cheaper Apple Music plan seems punishing that users can’t seem to use the Music app. I’ll update this post if I’ve gotten that wrong but it’s gross.

Can We Trust The New 16″ MacBook Pro Keyboard?

Skipping an event, Apple launched a new 16″ MacBook Pro to replace the 15″ model via press-release and inviting some folks to look at the new laptop. The 16″ MacBook Pro was changed by thinning the bezel to slightly increase the size of the display, upgrading the speakers and microphone, and the keyboard is back to a scissor-mechanism instead of the dreaded butterfly-mechanism.

The new laptop looks like this:

This new 16″ laptop was rumored for a while, and part of the rumor was that the price would get a significant bump. That rumor was a little bit wrong, the starting price for this MacBook Pro hasn’t changed at all since Apple raised it a few generations prior. It’s still $2400 for the base 15″ MacBook Pro, before you add on an AppleCare insurance plan and upgrade any components before you order it. Fortunately it does start with an entirely reasonable 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM.

I thought it was interesting that Apple specifically called out Fortnite players as having a better experience in their press release with the meaningless non-statistic of “Gamers will enjoy smoother gameplay with up to 1.6 times faster performance in games like Fortnite.” 1.6 times faster what? Framerates, presumably.

Game developers are also purported to have improved performance with another call-out: “In Unity, developers will experience 1.4 times faster fly-through performance during game development.”

All of this improved performance is attributed to better Radeon Pro options, the 5300 and 5500 with either 4 or 8 gigs of video RAM with the pseudo-benchmarks attributed to the highest end Radeon Pro 5500 8GB.

The new speakers on the 16″ MacBook Pro are supposed to have less vibration, due to being paired back-to-back which Apple promises will cancel out the rumble. The new microphone array sounds better than any other laptop microphone I’ve heard, which should make video and audio calls better, unfortunately the built-in camera is still an old 720p module that hasn’t been upgraded in years.

The new keyboard has the inverted-t arrow keys that were replaced four years ago with what most people seem to think is a less useful shape that looked kind of bizarre with extremely tall left and right arrows that were hard to find by touch. There is now more space between the keys, and a physical escape key and a separate power/Touch ID button on the opposite sides of the Touch Bar panel. All those changes are welcome, but the most important change is the new scissor key switch mechanism that may be more reliable than the butterfly mechanism, and here is the real question: after three generations of awful, unreliable, butterfly keyboard mechanisms, should anyone trust Apple to get this right?

I don’t think so. I think most people would be better served to wait for longer-term reports. As long as there is still time left on the extended keyboard warranty if they have a butterfly-mechanism keyboard and if they don’t have daily issues with key switch unreliability. You’ll also have to wait if you want this new keyboard part on any other size or type of MacBook. It’s only on the 16″ Pro for now.

It stinks that Apple is the only company that can make laptops that run macOS, because it puts people in a bad situation where they have few choices if they want privacy, security, and enjoy the user experience of Apple’s products. I’m glad that Microsoft continues to work on their Surface line of devices to challenge Apple, and we may see ARM-based macOS devices before long that replace these Intel-based laptops.

Apple’s Anxiety-Inducing MacBook Pro Keyboard Situation Update

Remember how Apple released a MacBook Air last year that might have had a more reliable update to their butterfly keyboard mechanism? Joanna Stern wrote about how it wasn’t fixed for the Wall Street Journal and put the nail in that coffin.

Here’s one I missed, Casey Johnston also had an update on our long national keyboard nightmare and bought a 2018 MacBook Air. Surprise, her Air’s keyboard broke as well.

Today. May 22, 2019. Apple has a press release speed-bump for the MacBook Pro accompanied by this headline: Apple introduces first 8-core MacBook Pro, the fastest Mac notebook ever

Congratulations Apple, any updates on that keyboard business?

“Phrase not found” Uh-oh.
Ol’ Jack is starting to worry here that maybe Apple isn’t getting around to fixing this one properly

Here’s the “good news.” Apple has extended their keyboard warranty program for their laptops to include all MacBooks with this butterfly mechanism.

“But wait,” you’d say, “haven’t they done anything to possibly fix this issue in these models?” Apple has told it’s spokespersons to say, on-background (with conditions), that these updated MacBook Pro computers have:

…a new material for at least one of the components in these switches. The purpose of this change is specifically to increase the reliability of the keyboards.

That is John Gruber’s interpretation of the message. I also completely disagree with Gruber’s supposition that these keyboards “…can’t be worse and are likely better.” The new keyboards can definitely be worse, and it’s clear that Apple’s judgement on this issue is poor. Apple has shipped the same bad keyboard design for 4 years.

I’m glad that Apple is trying to fix this keyboard design, and is updating their Macs on a regular basis again. Supposedly if you bring in a 2018 model of MBP or Air for repair you’ll get the 2019 keyboard material. I’m disappointed that if my ancient MacBook Pro fails I would not choose an Apple laptop to replace it. This 4-year extended warranty program doesn’t inspire confidence when it is immediately applied to their latest iteration of this butterfly key switch design.

What happens if the keyboard dies on the first day of the fifth year you own one of these laptops? You’ve got to beg Apple to fix it, or pay them to fix it.

How long can you go without your laptop? If you don’t care, then maybe you should get an iPad Pro. Apple’s keyboard for that is more reliable.

Would you recommend, sell, or give, one of these laptops in good conscious to a friend or family member, knowing that the warranty won’t last and the keyboard is likely to fail before the rest of the computer? I wouldn’t!

After all of this. Even if, or when, Apple’s designers make a new laptop that has a new keyboard design, would you trust it? I wouldn’t.

iFixit Says The 2018 MacBook Pro Keyboard Might be Fixed

The ongoing saga of the unreliable MacBook Pro keyboard continues. According to Sam Lionheart for iFixIt the new 2018 MacBook Pro 13″ and 15″ keyboard has a new silicone barrier that:

…is quite obviously an ingress-proofing measure to cover up the mechanism from the daily onslaught of microscopic dust. Not—to our eyes—a silencing measure. In fact, Apple has a patent for this exact tech designed to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.”