MacBook Pro 2017 Review: I Get It. Kinda.

When I was in middle school, my older brother got his first MacBook. My mom spent a fortune on it, but my brother insisted that his college required Macs because Windows computers got viruses and were therefore security risks. Turns out he was lying, go figure. At the time, I happened to be buying my first laptop, a Dell Inspiron 15 that ended up falling apart at the hinges.

For years to follow, I encountered friends, family, and peers that insisted that MacBooks were the only computers that they would ever consider, and that I was somehow ignorant to think otherwise. I stayed away from Macs until this year, and now that I have finally used a MacBook as my daily laptop,

I Get It…

Kinda.

Before I start, I just want to address the biases that will undoubtedly arise in your mind.

If you are like I was, and thought it made more sense to get more bang for your buck by buying Windows PCs, you need to try a MacBook. I don’t think you should absolutely go out and buy one, but at least find a friend who is not too stingy to not let you play with their $2000 laptop for a little while.

On the flip side, if you are like my brother was, or any of those people I fought with over the years, you need to try a PC. And no, not a $200 PC that comes in the same packaging as a Superman Action Figure, a top end or upper mid-range PC. Like a Dell XPS, an HP Spectre, or a Surface. While those are priced closer to Macs, they still offer an amazing and unique experience that most open minded Mac users will appreciate.

The benefits of the grass being greener, is that you can trade lawns with your neighbors.

 

Now to the meat and potatoes – my review.

Design

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve
Apple still can design amazing products.

I remember the first time I picked up an aluminum MacBook Pro. I’m not sure what model it was, but even then, years ago, I was very impressed with the design, the thinness, and the quality. Here in 2017, Apple has proven that they are still able to design amazing laptops. While this device isn’t as thin or as seamless as others, it still stands out as one of the best looking computers out there. The way the base curves into the sides makes it look even thinner than it actually is. Other manufacturers have definitely caught up in this category, but there aren’t many other laptops that you could put in front of me that would make me say, “Wow”.

Screen

While Apple continues to stay away from touch screens on their laptops, they still have very high quality displays. I imagine I have seen higher resolution laptop screens, but I couldn’t tell you which ones. Just like a lot of the other products that Apple creates, the MacBook display is good enough such that you won’t be disappointed by it. Brightness has a broader range than a lot of laptops I have used, colors look great, and the glossiness does not lead to too much glare.

Software

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve
Screenshots of some of the times my MacBook has crashed.

I will give MacOS the benefit of the doubt, because I have not been using it my entire life and therefore I am not as familiar with the gestures, hotkeys, and general navigation. That being said, I am incredibly frustrated with the software every single time I use this laptop. These are a couple frustrations that I experienced:

  • Pressing the expand button expands the current application to full screen, rather than just fitting it full size in the available space. I just recently realized that double clicking the top bar of the application resizes it to fit. Unfortunately, this isn’t very easy to figure out without first learning it
  • After exiting an application full screen, often it would disappear entirely, and when I reopened that application, it opened a completely new window
  • Snapping windows side by side in Mac OS requires you to hold down the full screen button and then drag it to either side. Again, this is not as intuitive as in Windows simply dragging the window to either edge.
  • Considering this is a >$1000 device made in 2017, I have experienced way too many crashes and freezes. So many, that I have begun taking screenshots every time, and MacOS conveniently saves all of my crash screenshots on the desktop so I am reminded of them every single time I log on.
  • I don’t agree with having to type in an administrator user name and password when I shut the computer down. If I for example lent my computer to a friend and asked him to shut it down when he is done, I don’t want to have to give him my password to do so.
  • Now that Android apps are on Chrome, MacOS has the worst app store out of any computer platform. The Windows 10 store is bad, but at least I can download Netflix on it. And the reason I prefer watching Netflix on an app rather than online is I can download compatible shows and movies on the Windows 10 Netflix app, which I can’t do in the browser.
  • When I try to connect to a wifi network, the menu of options sorts wifi networks in range alphabetically (as opposed to by strength). Since I live in a crowded apartment complex, I have to scroll through a long list of hotspots to find mine, as opposed to just going through a couple on Windows 10.

 

Specifications and Performance

The model that I have for review is equipped with a 7th generation Intel Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The biggest letdown of these specifications is the timing – the MacBook Pro 2017 was announced only a few months before Intel announced their 8th generation processors. The 8th generation is so much better than the 7th generation, I can’t help but wonder if Intel told Apple, but Apple still decided to release laptops with dual core processors.

That being said, the device performs well in day-to-day use. I haven’t used it extensively for any heavy lifting. Unfortunately, I have noticed the device getting particularly hot when on video calls or watching Netflix. If I had to guess, I’d say the cooling solution is insufficient.

 

Keyboard and Trackpad

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve
So little travel.

Apple has gotten a lot of criticism for the low travel keyboard it includes on both its MacBook and MacBook Pro models. One major reason for this is it is a large departure from the 2015 model of MacBook Pro, which had clicky keys with a lot of travel. I’d like to point out that this keyboard is not the same as the MacBook 12 inch. It does have more tactile feedback, and the weight of the computer prevents you from pushing the computer around in your lap as you tap keys (that was my biggest issue with the MacBook 12 inch). Since I have never extensively used a MacBook Pro from the past, I may be one of the few people who thoroughly enjoys typing on the MacBook Pro 2017. Not only because it is a new experience from other keyboards, but I think it is comfortable. Despite me enjoying the feeling of it, I wasn’t quite as accurate as I was on other keyboards.

Everyone knows that Apple makes the best trackpads. While computers like Dell’s XPS and the Surface line have caught up in the past few years, Apple still knows how to make a trackpad feel smooth and seamless. This trackpad also uses Apple’s “Force Touch” technology, so you do not physically click the keypad, but tactile feedback makes it seem like you do. This is great for providing an even distribution of click response throughout the entire trackpad, but I have one gripe with it. Apple included the same 3D-touch technology that they include in their iPhone, allowing you to press harder for a different interaction. There are no clear benefits of doing so. The only result I got when hard pressing most of the time was a context menu that I could not find a good reason for. Even worse, most of the times it came up when I intended to just do a normal press. This could be another issue with me being unfamiliar with the operating system, but I think Apple should make it clearer what a hard press is actually good for.

Other

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve
The port selection on the MacBook Pro. 

Battery life on this laptop is quite amazing. I don’t particularly notice it during use, but I have noticed that when I pick it up after a few days, it often has the same level of battery that it did when I last put it down. That’s respectable, and not something that every other manufacturer can claim.

It frustrates me that something as basic as TouchID is not on the base model of the laptop. If Apple can put TouchID on their $350 iPhone SE, they should be able to do so on a $1200 MacBook Pro. The lack of biometric login puts the MacBook behind some very reasonably priced Windows laptops.

Since this is a traditional laptop, it does not bother me that it does not have a touch screen. Soon I will post an article of the state of Windows 10 on tablets, which outlines my frustration with the touch situation on Windows 10. While it is a nice addition to any laptop, I still prefer using clamshell laptops with traditional methods of input – mouse and touchpad.

I have not tried the new touchbar model of this computer. While I am intrigued at the idea of a keyboard with dynamic keys based on context, I use the function keys way too often to be comfortable with replacing them with an OLED touch panel.

Another common complaint about the MacBook Pro 2017 is the lack of ports. Maybe this is a side effect of having so many computer options, but I didn’t find myself often bothered with only having two Thunderbolt 3 ports. At home, I have a Thunderbolt 3 docking station that allows me to connect to all of the peripherals I need, and I personally prefer charging over Thunderbolt 3 since it is such a common cable now.

Bottom Line

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-11,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve
Somehow I still like it.

When I first started this review, I wanted to put aside all of my Windows computers and do a “PC to Mac” challenge.  Unfortunately, I use Windows PCs every day for work, and I am constantly getting new computers to review. So I wasn’t able to fully commit to learning the MacBook like I should have. That being said, I am very impressed with the MacBook Pro 2017. I pick it up and try to force myself to use it, even though it is often not the optimal device for my use case. I cannot recommend this computer to anybody, unless you really need a Mac for some proprietary software, because it is very expensive. That being said, if you have never used a Mac before, you should definitely try and borrow one from your hipster friends, because it is enjoyable for anyone who can appreciate good hardware and a new experience.

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