MacBook Pro Recommits to the “Pro”
After years of controversial decisions, Apple demonstrates once more they understand what Pro users need.
Today, Apple released its long-awaited update to its MacBook Pro line, which transitioned its entire line to the ARM-based Apple Silicon line, away from the Intel chips that have powered them for the past decade-and-a-half. While this new chip represents a beefy boost to the laptop’s power, the device got its largest refresh that it has in years.
Many of the decisions made in the 2010s for the MacBooks were criticized. They adopted a low-profile keyboard that had a tendency to get gunked up and provided less tactile feedback — a decision that was later reversed. The physical function keys were replaced with the “Touch Bar,” a small, thin touch screen. Though much-maligned, I think its biggest problem was not the Touch Bar itself, it was what was lost in its place.
The MacBook Pro also pared down its selection of ports to just four USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, removing a lot of flexibility provided before with the now restored HDMI, MagSafe, and SD card offerings. Some are criticizing the lack of USB-A, or the traditional USB plug, but it is a port genuinely on its way out, whereas HDMI remains the standard way of connecting to larger displays. The new MacBook Pro still supports charging over the USB-C ports, a feature I’m glad that is persisting — personally, more than wanting MagSafe back, I want to be able to charge everything with USB-C. Meanwhile, the iPhone still uses Lightning.
The screen now pushes even closer to the edges, utilizing the “notch” design popularized by the iPhone to wrap around the newly upgraded-to-1080p webcam, which was last improved to 720p back in the early 00s trend of college students taking selfies with MacBook Pro’s Photo Booth app (I was one of them!) before the iPhone became ubiquitous. At the time, it was better than the camera on many flip phones, but in an increasingly work-from-home, virtual meeting-driven world, it was ridiculous how poor the quality of the camera on a Pro device was.
Apple boasts that it has an upgraded thermal management system that helps circulate more air with the same amount of fan power. ARM chips like Apple Silicon also generally produce less heat than Intel chips of similar computing power, owing to the fact it is optimized for mobile use cases. However, Apple’s chips blow the competition out of the water. The new M1 Max chip is more powerful than anything you can currently get in a Windows laptop.
The first time I ever got a MacBook Pro was as a high school graduation present in 2006. My excitement was immeasurable. Suddenly, I had so much power at my fingertips. Though Apple has made a lot of decisions along the way that I have had mixed to negative feelings about, this is a laptop that excites that small part of me that is still that giddy 18-year-old. This is the perfect MacBook Pro — at least as one can envision so far.
For people who need reliable, powerful machines on the go for resource-intensive professional work like coding and media production, the MacBook Pros have always, for their occasional flaws, represented one of the best choices available. This announcement demonstrates that Apple understands what these Pro users expect out of a truly Pro device. It does not need to be maximally streamlined like the MacBook Air (which these days still packs quite the punch). It needs to be a great way to get work done anywhere.
If you liked this story, please consider subscribing! Most of the content is available for free subscribers, though the rest can be unlocked with just $5/mo.