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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

MacBook Pro Dongles[see update below] I received my new MacBook Pro 13″ the other day. I was both excited and hesitant. I’ve had my old 2010 unibody MBP for a number of years and it has served me really well. I maxed out it memory and added a 1T SSD. It is great and relatively fast for a 6 year old computer.

Did I really need a new one? What about the lack of ports that aren’t USB-C? I read that a number of  people returned their new MBPs because of what is called “donglegate” – the need for adapters to convert old devices to work with the new Mac.

Given these concerned, I ordered my new Mac and it arrived last week and I’ve had a chance to play around with it. Here are my observations…

  1. Speed: It is lightening fast for the things I do. I compared my old MBP to the new one with rendering a video in iMovie. Night and day.
  2. Screen: The screen is beautiful compared to my old 2010 non-retina MBP. I’m using it in the bright sunlight right now and I can see everything clearly. Wonderful!
  3. Dongles: Ok, let’s talk dongles. The more I think about donglegate, the less it bothers me. I just need a few dongles to travel with and maybe a USB-C Hub for home and I am good. Most peripherals are USB, so I just bought 2 converters for $8 (the price went up a buck since I bought them) on Amazon.com and they are super small (my old Mac has only 2 USB ports, so this is all I need). Yes, I needed to buy a new HDMI and VGA dongle, but I am not carrying around more cables than in the past; just different ones. I currently travel with these adapters as I need them for my speeches. I rarely use Ethernet when traveling (maybe internationally in some hotels but less and less). I don’t use the SD card reader on the road (and I rarely use it it all). So I am failing to understand all of the backlash against the dongles. (Here’s an article which discusses the best dongles to buy…assuming you really need them).
  4. TouchBar: I love the touch bar and touch ID. Logging is a breeze with the fingerprint recognition. There are some cool feature, for example scrolling through open Safari pages. Is it a must have or game changer? Probably not. But it is a nice extra feature. I am outside in the bright sunlight and can still see the Touch Bar clearly.
  5. Keyboard: The keyboard takes a little getting used to, but it is not a big deal, especially since when I am home I use an external keyboard, mouse and monitor. The new keyboard doesn’t have quite the same feel and is a bit louder (it clicks a lot more than the older keyboards), but it is responsive and touch typing is easy as it is on any other device. This may be the only real negative I can find with the new MBP. And I believe it is really just an adjustment period.
  6. Monitor: I have the new LG 4K monitor. Crystal clear. Feels overpriced with the retail cost of $700. My old Dell monitor is much less expensive and larger. But the new one is super crisp and designed for this Mac.
  7. Set-Up: Set up was ridiculously easy. Backed my old one to my Time Capsule and restored on the new one. Flawless. And I have over 200G in DropBox which loaded onto the new machine in no time. With the exception of MS Office, all of my apps worked immediately.
  8. Battery: Update: This might be the week link in the whole machine. Although it is claimed that you will get 10 hours, I am getting under 5 hours; closer to 4.5 hours. This is still an improvement over my older machine. And given I typically use the computer plugged in, this isn’t a major issue for me. But it is still something for road warriors to consider.

Overall verdict: If you have a newer MBP retina, then the upgrade is probably not worth it. But if you have an older, heavier (unibody) like I do, it is a nice improvement in terms of speed and weight. It has the portability of the MacBook Air with the processing power I need for video and audio editing. Would upgrading to an early 2016 retina be a better option? Maybe. But I guess I am not fan of spending a ton of money on hardware that is not the best specs. I got mine with the fastest/largest everything you could.

Some are suggesting people get a Microsoft Surface Pro. I’ll admit that is a great machine. But I have two iPads and an iPhone and love the seamless connectivity between the devices.

What are your thoughts?

Update Jan 20, 2017: Yesterday I returned my new Mac. The battery life I was getting was about 4.5 hours. Not quite up to the 10 hours they promised.  I brought the machine in to see if there was anything they could do to increase battery life. While diagnosing things, they found there was a hardware problem with my RAM. They suggested I return the machine and get a new one. I figured, if I have to rebuild the computer once again, I would wait until they worked out some of the bugs before getting a new one (there are rumors that a new one will come out the 3rd quarter of this year). My decision was more than just battery life. I really didn’t like the keyboard. Clicks too loudly. So the Mac is back and so is the monitor. To be clear, the dongles were not a factor at all in my decision. And I liked the Touch Bar (and the Touch ID in particular). Given this, my plan was to wait until next year to get the latest and greatest. But my buddy Robbe Richman strongly urged me to get the 15″ older retina version. So, on his recommendation, I ordered one and will play with that for a while and decide if I will keep that. I will update this once again after I play around with that machine.

UPDATE Feb 13, 2017: I am writing this on my 2015 retina 15″ MacBook Pro. After using this for a few weeks I decided it fits my needs perfectly. I love the older keyboard. And it is plenty fast.

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