I picked up a brand new Space Gray MacBook Pro on October 28th last year, and I wrote about my first impressions shortly thereafter (spoiler: I liked it). This particular computer has been the subject of some fairly strong criticism over the past few months, so I thought I’d weigh in on my thoughts after five months of use.
For those interested, this is the base model with a 2.0 GHz i5, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB SSD. No Touch Bar.
For those who aren’t aware, I’m a scientist/statistics type. This means that much of my use involves iTerm, Python, VMWare Fusion (running a Fedora distro), Transmit, and of course Safari and Chrome. For fun I use Spotify and Tweetbot.
Design and Build Quality
This is still the best looking laptop I’ve ever seen. It’s slim, light, and has held up to the daily hustle pretty well; although I have found a couple of light scratches on it (particularly on the Apple Logo).
The keyboard has really grown on me. In my first impressions piece, I called it “a joy to type on”, and that’s still the case. I’m at a point now where I type faster on this keyboard than on any other keyboard I’ve ever used; and my old-school work keyboard seems way too thick.
The display is still amazing. It’s so bright that I can’t remember the last time I used it at full brightness; I usually keep it at 4–5 notches below full, even while plugged in.
The short answer is that the battery life is much shorter than I’d like it to be. On average I drop about 15%/hour, which comes out to about 6–7 hours of use or 3–4 hours below Apple’s estimate.
My previous MacBook and MacBook Pros were very good at not going through any battery while closed (asleep). My new MBP isn’t so good at this, and it’s a real bummer. Although it can usually stay closed for hours without dropping a percent, it occasionally drops a good 10–15% while closed even for just an hour or two. The unpredictability means that I have about a 1 in 10 shot of being unpleasantly surprised when I open the laptop.
I’ve just updated to macOS 10.12.5, so it’ll be interesting to see if the changes within have any positive effects on the battery situation.
As I stated above, I outsource most of the heavy lifting to other computers and interact with them using iTerm. The heaviest lifting this machine does on a regular basis is running VMWare Fusion and Gmail in a browsing tab. Anyone who uses Gmail should appreciate that this is no simple feat. (Kiwi, the great Gmail program that allows you to combine all your Google accounts, uses just shy of 1 GB of RAM with 3 accounts connected.)
That said, this is a fast machine. No lag, no stutters. Everything is responsive and works quickly. It’s clock speed is slower than my homegrown i7 desktop computer running Windows 10, but its day-to-day operations are just at fast with the added bonus that my MacBook doesn’t randomly restart at the worst possible times when there are updates available.
A number of sites are reporting that Apple plans to refresh the MacBook Pro at WWDC with the latest Kaby Lake processors. Do I care? From a performance perspective, no. The latest upgrades aren’t that much more powerful anyway. But they are more battery efficient and dammit, if the refreshed MacBook Pros have better battery lives than I’ll be ticked off.