2016 MacBook Pro – Deciding on an Upgrade

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Have you seen Apple’s new MacBook Pro?  Did you order one when it was announced?  Are you waiting for the reviews to come out to make sure it is the machine for you?   Is this too many questions to start a review of the most recent MacBook Pro?  If you have read this far, the answers to most of the questions is…”probably…”

I have to admit that I was one of those who had some misgivings about the newest addition to the Apple portable line-up.  I watched the entire launch event and started to feel that maybe I missed something.  Maybe, they announced something that I missed when I stepped out of the room.  After reviewing the news and looking at the other tech blogs, it was apparent that I was not alone in the hopes of something different.  Something different from what was announced was a hope of many people as the criticisms were plentiful.

My previous 13” MacBook Pro was getting a little long in the tooth (around 5 years) and would begin to bog down when I would do a dozen or so activities at once.  The fans would spin up and the device would run hot.  Even with a few upgrades over the years, 16GB of RAM and a pretty fast SSD, along with the original i7 processor, the machine seemed to struggle while keeping up with my professional needs.

Yes, I said it, I am a professional.  I may not do as much video editing as others…I may not do as much audio editing as others…I also may not do as much coding as others…however, I still count myself as a working and engaged professional.  I need a device that is stable, reliable, and can handle the photos, videos, audio, website coding, and massive Microsoft Office documents with which I work daily.  I need to be able to do many of these things at once.

I have read so many opinions of the new MacBook and even started to investigate some Windows laptops.  I kept pricing out the options and created a complicated spreadsheet to show how much money this new adventure would cost me.  I had a budget and most of the options I kept pricing out on this new MacBook Pro would exceed that budget.   The increase wasn’t that much more, but it was still over.  I even wondered if I could get a desktop and a laptop for the same money as I could order a new one.  Checking the Apple refurbished site and toying with the idea of getting a Windows laptop and a cheaper refurbished Apple desktop, I realized that budget was not going to fit exactly what I wanted and how long I need the device to work.

I read some of the recommendations on the Windows laptops and even came away more energetic about the Surface Studio (Intel Core i7/16GB RAM/2GB GPU/1TB HD – $3500) and Surface Book (Intel Core i7/16GB RAM/dGPU/512GB HD – $2799) from Microsoft after their recent announcement.  However, after adding in the 16GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, and an i7 processor, the prices were not coming up with the promised savings as many of the critics had claimed (MacBook Pro 13” Intel Core 3.3 i7/16GB RAM/Intel Iris Graphics 550/512GB HD – $2499).  In fact, most of them, especially the Microsoft devices were coming up as more money, money that was way beyond the budget I had.

hp-spectre-x360

In my journey, I looked at the HP Spectre x360 at Best Buy. I was excited by the Intel Core i7 processor, which claims to be the new and improved version, though no speed is listed, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB HD.  At $1299, this seemed like a great choice and possible alternative to the systems I was configuring from Apple.  As I investigated things further, I noticed that while there was a USB 3.1 port, there was not an HDMI port, SD card reader, or any other method to connect an external monitor other than the 2 USB-C ports.  So, I would need to purchase dongles for this machine as well, and still be out the ports people were jumping on Apple for eliminating.  The cost was great and the machine seemed to run smoothly during some tests at the store. As I read reviews on this machine, I noticed that the USB-C would only charge through HP charger and the battery life wasn’t always as advertised for some professionals.  Noting that I would still need to purchase a dongle to run a monitor, read SD cards, and get one less port, I decided to look elsewhere.  However, if I needed a Windows specific machine, I would purchase the HP Spectre x360.

I went back to the option of the MacBook Pro again.  I usually prefer the 13” for it size and ease of use.  However, given that the new 15” was less than an inch longer than my 13” 2011 MacBook Pro, less than a half pound heavier, and $300 more than the 13”, I decided to order the 15” with a quad-core processor rather than the 13” dual-core.  My thought was that this would allow me to keep the machine in use for 3-5 years since the specs are better than the smaller version (quad-core vs dual core, dedicated graphics, USB-C ports that can power 2 5K monitors instead of just one).  I also felt that the better graphic card would help with video editing and connecting the multiple monitors I use daily.  When I finally decided to order though, the wait time for a 15” with the Radeon Pro 460 graphics would be well into December.  That may be a little too long for my patience as I waited this long for the updated hardware and most of those Windows alternatives were in stores and available within a week.

I put in my order and waited.  Within a couple of days of ordering, I read that early orders were shipping.  I was excited to hear that some were getting to users earlier than expected.  Checking my order produced no updates on timing.  I get excited about new technology, so waiting for nothing is a bit of a challenge for me…just ask my wife…

Recently, I decided that check the website again and noticed that pickup availability was beginning to show for some models.  So, I rolled the dice and checked on the “customized” version I had ordered.  That was not available for pickup until the end of the year.  So, I tried a maxed out 13” model, still no dice.  Then, I looked at the 15” 2.7 quad-core i7 model that was the second model for the 15” ($2799).  I searched local stores and what do you know, it was available at a local Apple store for pickup the next day.  While the graphics may not have as much memory (2GB vs 4GB), it would be the same price of the “customized” 2.6 model I ordered with the same storage and the better graphics.

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I quickly reserved the 2.7 model and cancelled my previous order.  The experience at the local Apple store the next day was easy as I checked in with my Apple Watch, showed my driver license, and walked out with a new device in hand as well as less money in the bank.  Did I spend too much?  Probably.  Did I get a good machine for the money?  We’ll see, but so far, I am pleased with the speed, style, and ease of transferring my software.  I did buy an adapter to connect my laptop to an external monitor.  That dongle does include USB-A and USB-C ports, which leaves me with three USB-C ports for other devices.  I also purchased a couple of inexpensive adapters that converts USB-C to USB-A ($7.99 on Amazon for 2) so I can plug in an additional microphone, USB headset, hard drives, and other devices.

Setup was extremely easy and smooth…but, that is for another post.  Stay tuned…

Author: John Murray III

Educator, existentialist, executive, grown into a world of one-liners, corporate america, and romantic poetry.Early influences blossomed from stories of belief, imagination, and excellence by Richard Bach, Walt Disney, Mark Twain, and James Baldwin. I lived on a quieter Beale Street, swam in the bumpy Rock River instead of the mighty Mississippi, worked at the place where magic resides, and met the modern existentialist himself.I have had the opportunity to teach literature, writing, technology application, and professional development at post secondary, collegiate, and corporate institutions. Having been honored with multiple, award winning verses, publication of a novel, and business book, my wife, Teri, and I decided to expand our EIII storytelling model and started Story Institute (http://www.storyinstitute.com). At Story Institute, we inspire you to imagine, enhance, and grow your stories personally and professionally while helping you share your successes in print, online, and in person while you Imagine your Stories Again through Short Story & Poetry Topics, Storylines, Novels, and Contests for the writer in most of us and the imagination in all of us.

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