Dear Apple: Thin Is Not Pro

Posted on by Larry

Earlier this week, Apple updated their MacBook Pro line of laptops with faster processors containing more cores. But the new gear is the same size, it has the same limited ports, the same potential issues with heat dissipation, and a new and “allegedly-improved” butterfly keyboard.

A keyboard that’s been a problem for three years. As a good friend sent me in an email last night: “Oh, sure,” he writes, “like it’s really fixed this time? I’ll believe it when Casey Johnson and Joanna Stern say it’s fixed.”

The only reason this butterfly keyboard exists at all is that Apple believes that Pro laptops are thin laptops. Which is both arrogant… and misguided.

When I do video production or video editing or audio editing on location – tasks which are considered pro functions – these new machines require I also travel with a 20 pound bag of dongles. Production today requires USB, HDMI, audio out and a Micro SD slot. None of which Apple considers Pro anymore.

ASIDE: When was the last time you went on a job saying, “If my laptop isn’t thin, I can’t use it?” Or, was it more likely you said: “DARN! I hope I remembered to bring all my stupid connectors?”

Every year, I promise myself that I’ll buy a new Apple laptop. I have the money – it’s in the bank. Yet, every year, when Apple updates their laptops. they don’t fix the keyboard, don’t fix the heat issues, don’t add more ports; and constrain GPU power. So, I’m still traveling with a 2013 MacBook Pro which has a slower CPU but plenty of ports and a keyboard that has never failed.

Increasingly, as media software continues to evolve, GPU speed and storage bandwidth take center stage while CPU speed diminishes in importance, especially for higher-resolution formats. But these new Pro units boost the CPU not GPU.

Still, they are thin.

ASIDE: When was the last time you said: “Wow, my extra-thin laptop sure looks sexy sitting on the corner of the craft table.” Or, did you say, “I wish this color grading would render faster?”

As you know, Apple does not share its hardware plans with the public, so I have no inside knowledge. But it is my hope that these units are a placeholder for a complete system redesign coming in the next year.

A pro laptop that is thicker, that includes a better, more reliable keyboard. More ports. Faster GPUs. And a heat sink big enough to cool Cleveland. And if they need to slow the CPU down a bit to accommodate that, that’s a good trade-off.

ASIDE: Hands, please. How many people want a laptop that’s really, really thin, overheats under load and has a problematic keyboard? OK. How many people want a computer that isn’t quite so thin, better cooling, faster GPU, more ports and a reliable keyboard?

I’m happy that consumers like thin. I think thin is cute. But, excuse me, I need to grab my traveling kit of dongles and docks. It’s time to get work done.

THINKING FURTHER

I have no objection to thin laptops. Not everyone who needs a laptop needs all the horse-power of a video editor. The MacBook Air is a delightful machine; and very thin.

My objection is that systems which are marketed as high-power, professional systems should focus on goals other than simply seeing how thin they can be made.


36 Responses to Dear Apple: Thin Is Not Pro

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  1. Phildo says:

    Maybe Nvidia’s new laptop to be introduced in June will be a more compelling pro solution than Apple’s “thin to win” idea.

    See MacRumor’s link below:

    https://www.macrumors.com/2019/05/28/nvidia-studio-laptops-to-compete-with-macbook-pro/

  2. I second all of this. Additionally, the loss of MagSafe for power connection is absurd, particularly when editing in the field in cramped quarters.

    The other issue with thinness/lightness is that it honestly makes the machine hard to open. I can’t open my 2015 MacBook Pro with one hand or I’ll launch it off the table, but my beefier 2009 MacBook Pro? That thing’s a champ.

    Also as a native Clevelander, I appreciate the shoutout! 😀

  3. Shameer M. says:

    There are rumors of a redesigned 16.5″ MBP in the works. Knock on wood that ends up being better suited to pro users

  4. Hi Larry
    I saw your rant on the thinness of the mac book pros
    and as someone whose body is falling apart I really really appreciate a very lightweight and thin pro laptop
    yes I have to carry a few small cables but it this so much better than carrying the old heavy laptops
    so
    aside
    I love these small and thin laptops
    bart

    • Larry says:

      Bart:

      Thanks for your comment. I agree, there is a place for thin laptops. Not everyone needs a “fully-loaded” system. However, it seems to me that Apple is making too many decisions where thin wins over functionality.

      Larry

  5. Not only is thin not pro, not having all the options of my 2013 Macbook Pro is a deal breaker. I need another computer and won’t buy anything that doesn’t have a disc drive either. I have customers who still want things on discs. So many consumers still have stuff like that and I feel that Apple is trying to force everyone to the cloud. It’s clever marketing but leaving too many in the dust.

  6. James says:

    I think you’re out of luck. Really. Apple is catering to the mainstream consumer market, which is larger than pro content creators like yourself by orders of magnitude. And they can’t make two lines of products just to satisfy pros, the consumer stuff would wind up completely subsidizing the pro line. I don’t see them producing a line of “loss leaders”.

    For years the two markets could shop the same since technology didn’t allow much choice. But as things keep getting more and more miniaturized, compressed, lightened, etc., a dividing line has come to relief that wasn’t so obvious before. The two groups really are looking for different things in their tech purchases. Before, they had to make compromises and just pick from what was available. Now, improvements in design and manufacturing have made it possible to give consumers what they’ve really been wanting all along. But what consumers (most anyway) want is anathema to pros.

    Apples attitude is not surprising. They can either cater to billions of consumers, or a few million pros. The company has to survive, so the choice is really a no brainer. For Apple, they’ll say the relationship has been great and they’ve enjoyed working with you. They wouldn’t change the past for anything. But the goalposts have moved. The consumer market is going in a different direction and Apple has to go with it. So here we part company. The future of Apple is not in your future, nor you in ours. But it has been a great ride. Thank you.

    I think any media pro using Apple hardware today had better get serious right now about investigating options for the future. If the viability of your career is tied to Apple products, you are in trouble. And it’s a problem that is simply not going to go away.

    • Larry says:

      James:

      You may be right, though Apple’s recent announcement of the workstation-grade Mac Pro would argue against some of your points.

      Still, my feeling is that we need to tell Apple when they head astray. Even the new Mac Pro has USB-A ports, something the MacBook Pro doesn’t have.

      Larry

  7. Larry,

    I’d like to know your thoughts on the MacBook Pro Apple announced yesterday. Were the GPUs updated? I love my 2013 MBP, but it looks to be near end-of-life for Premiere which is sad because for everything else I do it is fine (which is amazing for a 6 year-old machine).

    • Larry says:

      Carol:

      Apple didn’t announce a new MacBook Pro, they announced a new Mac Pro, a workstation-class desktop system.

      The MacBook Pros were updated last week with fast CPUs and GPUs. The new systems are significantly faster – SIGNIFICANTLY faster, than your 2013 laptop. Apple seems, from early reports, to have solved the heat problem, though the keyboard will be something you either love or hate.

      If you need a new system, the 2019 version looks to be very promising, based upon early reports. Here’s an article that can help you decide how to best spend your money. This is a bit old, but my general recommendations still apply:

      https://larryjordan.com/articles/configuring-a-2016-macbook-pro-for-video-editing/

      Larry

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