I was really excited about my MacBook Pro purchase last year - but now, I regret it
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Apple's new MacBook Air seems to be the perfect laptop for me.
- The problem is that I spent thousands on a new Apple laptop last year.
- I'm annoyed because my MacBook Pro has several issues that the new MacBook Air fixed.
When I received my MacBook Pro with Touch Bar in August of 2017, I was pumped.
15 months later, I have mixed feelings about my major purchase - and many of them are caused by Apple's new MacBook Air with Retina display, which is the laptop I wish I had bought.
I thought I had made the purchase correctly. I researched the specs, saved up, and waited until Apple refreshed its laptops with the latest Intel chips, so I wouldn't be buying old technology.
Reader, it was expensive. I loaded it up with lots of bells and whistles, including an upgraded processor, additional RAM, and extra storage space. I had owned my last MacBook Air for over six years, so I was ready to amortize the roughly $2,000 cost over a long period of time.
And now, just over a year later, I regret my purchase. It's not really a knock on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar - although there are issues - it's just that the new MacBook Air is the right machine for what I need to do, and I'm frustrated that there was no similar option when I needed a new Mac.
Now, I've got an expensive laptop that I'm not completely satisfied with that I expected to own through 2023, and my wandering eye is looking towards Apple's latest and greatest.
A few issues
It's not that the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is a bad machine - I've worked on it, traveled with it, and generally used it heavily, as I expected when I purchased it.
But I shouldn't have to deal with daily annoyances on what is a premium laptop.
Let's start with the Touch Bar.
I dislike it. I wish it weren't on my laptop. I frequently control iTunes through the function keys, and the touchscreen simply doesn't provide the same feedback as a button. I hit mute all the time when I'm in meetings to make sure my music doesn't start playing and embarrass me. These are buttons I press perhaps 30 times a day or more.
It's also really easy on the Touch Bar to accidentally activate a key, whether it's Siri (right above backspace!) or the screen brightness. It also frustrated me that I have to look at the Touch Bar to determine what I'm doing, because by default, it changes from app to app. There's a setting that basically turns it into the old keys, but even then, it's just a less effective version of what I had on my laptop in 2011.
The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar also has disappointing battery life - about four hours, in my experience. It's bad enough that when working in the field and covering events like Apple's iPhone launch, I frequently need to plug-in before the day is done. My 2011 MacBook Air had better battery life.
One place where that energy is going is heat: My MacBook Pro with Touch Bar gets extremely hot. It's too hot to use on my lap or in bed. I've worried that it's too hot to put directly on my dining room table.
Finally, my MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has the "sticky key" problem that's led to a slew of stories and even class-action lawsuits. The "1" key sticks and sometimes types two 1's when I only mean to press it once. The spacebar sometimes doesn't register.
It's a problem. Apple says it will fix the sticky keys free-of-charge, but that's time and effort I'll need to spend.
But the MacBook Air solves all these problems
Enter the new MacBook Air, which went on sale this past week. It appears to be the device that I wanted last year, when I bought my MacBook Pro.
For example, although it has Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner - a nice feature - it doesn't have the Touch Bar, bringing back my beloved media controls and escape key.
In terms of battery life, Apple says the MacBook Air can get up to 12 hours on a single charge. That might be optimistic, given that Apple boasts 10 hours for the model I have that usually runs out of battery in half the time, but it's a step in the right direction.
And it has an improved keyboard that should address the sticky key issues I've experienced. Apple even highlighted it at its launch event in Brooklyn. "The new MacBook Air has our latest-generation keyboard with keys that offer four times the stability over the previous generation, creating a modern keyboard with a more precise and responsive typing experience," an Apple official said at the launch.
A teardown from iFixit shows that these keys have a plastic piece inside the keys that should cut down on crumbs and other debris getting inside the keys.
While the price - starting at $1199 - isn't that far off from what I paid for mine, especially after upgrading the storage and RAM, it's hard to not feel buyer's remorse.
The MacBook Air does still have some shortcomings compares to the Pro - it has a less powerful Intel chip, for example. But I don't really need massive processor power.
Of course, it's not Apple's fault that every year it comes out with new computers that are better than the last year's models. That's how the business works.
But I think a little bit of my annoyance is due to the fact that all of these changes could've been made in 2017. People were complaining about these issues with the MacBook Pro back then. Apple never said it was preparing a new computer that addressed the issues - it never talks about upcoming products.
Which left me in a sticky situation in the summer of 2017. It wasn't the right time to buy Apple's best 13-inch laptop, as it turns out the next year's model ended up being what I wanted.
While it's great that Apple has fixed many consumer complaints with its main laptop line, it highlights that computer purchases are big items that people plan to use for years, unlike phones, which have a two to three year lifespan. And people who end up buying lemons are stuck with them for a long time.
People who now buy the new MacBook Air seem happy, and are likely to say they're satisfied with their purchase. But by not having a reliable release schedule and a roadmap for future updates, there's a chance that some people - like me - will end up in a generation of customers who are stuck with a laptop they're not completely happy with.