Hip To Be Square

When the retina MacBook was released, I thought it was a sign that Apple was returning to their Steve Jobs Product Square: laptops and desktops on one axis, pro and consumer on the other. As the Intel transition completed, Apple had added the MacBook Air and the Mac Mini which no one really knew if they were consumer or pro. Then they stopped updating things.

Right now on the desktop side Apple offers an iMac updated a year ago and a Mac Pro and Mac Mini that haven’t been updated in 3 years. So what the hell is the pro desktop? The 5K iMac? Not if you want symmetric wide color displays. For that you either need the 15″ MacBook Pro (for dual 5K) or the 13″ MacBook Pro or believe it or not the 2013 Mac Pro but you’re limited to 4K.

The Pro vs Consumer line on the laptops isn’t any clearer. The 12″ MacBook with its tiny CPU remains in my opinion a great machine only for users like myself who also have a desktop. That sounds more Pro than Consumer. It’s an accessory for your Mac Pro.

The best consumer machine by price and spec is the confusingly named 13″ MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar. It has a 15 Watt CPU, which is a lot more power than the 5 Watt MacBook, but nowhere near the 29 Watt 13″ Pro with Touch Bar or the much higher 15″ model. The fact that both 13’s have the same battery rating is probably indicative of light testing where screen brightness and other constants are the top power draws. 10 hours is more like a maximum for the Touch Bar model and more like a promise for the non Touch Bar model (someone please save us from these names).

The 13″ with Touch Bar is kind of a terrible machine for all. It has more CPU than the non Touch Bar but only a little bump in Intel Integrated GPU. It has no discrete graphics option. Anyone who buys this for the Touch Bar will probably be disappointed in the lack of battery life it has due to the beefy CPU randomly going up to that full 29 Watt ceiling when decrypting Xcode Betas or crunching through some video task better left to the discrete GPU it doesn’t have. With the extra port bandwidth you can drive more external displays but you’ll probably observe sub-60 frame rates in the GUI and have a lot of fan noise.

And if all this wasn’t confusing enough to buyers, old Airs and Retina Pros are still being sold in the same section of their website without having to dig into refurbs and clearance.