Monday , September 21 2020
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The new MacBook Pro gets a lot right, but we need a little more


I want to start by saying two things: one, this is not a review or practical impressions, because I have not used the computer (PetaPixel's practical coverage is future) and two, I am an advanced Apple user and have been since I was indoctrinated into high school.

I love Apple, and even when they don't produce a product I'm 100% satisfied with, the odds are high that I'll buy it anyway. The "why" of this is long and complicated and a story for another day, but suffice it to say that I love the ecosystem.

But just because I love Apple doesn't mean I'm immune to criticism. As much as they seem to get right about the new MacBook Pro, I think there are some places that could use some innovation or, in one case, dis-innovation, to bring it back to the forefront as a great uncontested creator tool.

We need an SD card port

I freely admit that I was an Apple apologist when the original TouchBook MacBook Pro was released and didn't include a built-in SD card port. I made excuses about how no big deal it was, how finding a dongle would be easy and remembering that bringing it would be second nature. I was sure it wouldn't matter.

Man, I was wrong.

I'm still using the first-generation MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and the number of times I've really screwed myself for not having a built-in SD card port is almost innumerable. Given the mobile nature of this computer, hundreds of times I just picked it up and nothing else, stuffed it in my backpack and ran out the door of a job only to realize that I had zero flexibility to do anything until I got home and found my damn dongle.

The new MacBook Pro greatly enhances the experience, but you can still really use a built-in SD reader.

Once I was in Sedona and had to ask everyone I met if they had a dongle I could borrow. One time I was working a job in the San Francisco Bay Area and needed to get copies of my second shooter's files. Instead, I had to take all his memory cards home with me and send them back to him later. Again, I was in Hawaii testing cameras and had to borrow a dongle from a friend, because once again I stopped bringing mine. I could go on and on and on with these examples.

Eventually, I bought enough of these stupid SD dongles to keep one in every room of my house and one in every backpack I had. This turned out to be the only solution to this problem: everywhere I could be with my computer, I had to have a dongle nearby. I'm just exaggerating when I say I put one in the pocket of every jacket I had, so it would be impossible not to have one with me.

What I'm saying and I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir right now is that an SD card reader on your laptop is not a luxury or "nice to have" feature. It's a must, and Apple needs to spawn the design and return it to us. There is plenty of room on the side of the computer, and if you're concerned with aesthetics, you can create a way for the door to be covered without interruption. They are really good at this kind of thing.

Touch bar needs to be reshaped

There are some people whose opinions I read in the comments section here on PetaPixel and other sites that advocate Touch Bar as useful when using specific apps. Although no one I have personally spoken to has advocated Touch Bar, I am willing to admit that it works for some.

But I don't think working for some is good enough. I think ideally, you would create something that really revolutionizes the way we work and move forward. Right now, typing on my MacBook Pro with Touch Bar in the Pages app, I have a few options for formatting this document on my Touch Bar. I can say that I've never used the touch bar to perform any of these actions. If you want bold, italic, or underline, I know the keyboard shortcuts for that. If I want to adjust the formatting and alignment, I find it easier to use the sidebar than to keep looking up and down my hands on the screen to see if the formatting did what I wanted. In this example, the touch bar does not enhance the experience – it complicates it and acts redundantly.

This point about having to look at my hands is also, in my opinion, Touch Bar's biggest flaw. Growing up learning to type, it was pierced in my head to avoid looking at my hands when I typed or worked. I'm sure some of you remember the keyboard covers that computer teachers would put on their keys so you couldn't see which letters you were typing. Not looking at your hands is strongly rooted in the computer experience for me now; therefore, having to change this only on this computer seems strange and wrong.

And yes, I would like to have my F keys back. There are some shortcuts in Photoshop that I can't run on this computer.

Scroll back or push it forward, as in the ZenBook Pro Duo, but the Touch Bar needs some rework.

I don't know what the answer to the touch bar is. Get rid of it, change it, improve it, do something, but all I know is that, in the current state, it is not helping more than simply doing nothing for many users. Perhaps the answer is expanding dramatically as in Asus's ZenBook Pro Duo. Some people don't like this implementation either, but it's much harder to say that this design doesn't add to the experience and they don't even have to sacrifice the top line of the keyboard to get it.

Apple is coming

I want to applaud Apple for adding the Escape key back to the newer MacBook Pro. This key is very important and should always be a physical button. I was ecstatic that the raw power of the computer also increased, and seeing them innovate in a better cooling system is also really great.

Most importantly, Apple has heard user complaints about the keyboard, which, as I type in the original, is a godsend. I have a friend who actually carries a second wireless keyboard and puts it on top of the built-in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar because he hates the built-in so much. This is embarrassing from a design standpoint, and I'm so glad Apple is fixing this ship.

We should be applauding that Apple is listening to feedback and making the appropriate changes. I certainly am. It is important to say that they are doing the right thing and encourage that kind of response for future products. I really hope they can do more with these last two features that really need attention when working on the next iteration of this line of laptops.

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