Why I'm not buying the newest and most powerful MacBook Pro anymore

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Earlier this year, I faced a conundrum where my old 2012 MacBook Pro was still so good that I found it hard to justify buying a newer model.

Indeed, I bought the most powerful 15-inch MacBook Pro in 2012 because I knew its Core i7 processor would keep up for several more years than a MacBook Pro with a less powerful Core i5 processor.

The concept is called "future-proofing." Basically, I buy a device that's way more powerful than necessary for my current needs in anticipation for the future when operating systems and apps will require more horsepower. 

2012 macbook proAntonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderMy trusty 2012 MacBook Pro won't let me upgrade because it's still too powerful.Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

And this machine is truly a monster, especially after I replaced its slow old hard drive with an incredibly fast SSD drive and upgraded its RAM from 4GB to 16GB. My plan worked. My five-year-old laptop still ran incredibly well, even by today's standards, and I had no need to spend a couple thousand dollars on a new laptop. In fact, I could probably squeeze out another couple years out my trusty old 2012 MacBook Pro.

"What could possibly be the problem," you might ask. Well, future proofing has one big drawback. 

You see, I didn't really want my five-year-old MacBook Pro anymore; not when I saw all the cool new and improved features on newer models.

In the end, I finally did upgrade, but I didn't go for the newest, most powerful model. 

Here's why I upgraded and which model I bought:

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My 2012 MacBook Pro is a hulking beast.

My 2012 MacBook Pro is a hulking beast.

The mid-2012 15-inch model of Apple's MacBook Pro looks and feels like a brick compared to the mid-2017 MacBook Pro. It's almost an inch thick and weighs about 5.6 pounds. That used to be fine for packing and traveling back in the day, as it was pretty normal for a 15-inch laptop to be so big and heavy. Today, however, it's no fun packing such a heavy machine and carrying it around.

Compare it with today's sleek, slender, and lightweight MacBook Pro.

Compare it with today's sleek, slender, and lightweight MacBook Pro.

The 2017 model of Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro is just under 0.60 inches thick, and it's more than two pounds lighter than my MacBook Pro at just over three pounds. It's still no featherweight, but it's a lot more portable.

The screen on my old MacBook Pro is awful by today's standards.

My MacBook Pro was the model right before Apple introduced its sharper and clearer Retina displays for its MacBook Pros. That means my old MacBook Pro has a 900p resolution, which looks positively blunt compared to Apple's sharper 1600p Retina display.

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Apple's Retina displays also output much better color than the older non-Retina displays. After using a Retina MacBook Pro for a while, I came back to my old non-Retina MacBook Pro and found the colors to be washed out and lacking contrast.

At the end of the day, my old MacBook Pro's display is fine, but the more recent MacBook Pro's Retina display is very nice.

The new MacBook Pro displays are "flatter" than my old MacBook Pro, which looks a lot nicer and more modern.

On my old MacBook Pro, it looks like the actual display itself is recessed further back from the glass panel than the new MacBook Pros. This recessed look makes my old MacBook Pro look and feel dated, despite the fact that it still runs so well because of its specs and my upgrades.

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The new MacBook Pros have better battery life.

When Apple released my MacBook Pro, it touted a seven-hour battery life, which was great back then. Now, Apple boasts a 10-hour battery life on the new MacBook Pros.

My old MacBook Pro doesn't have the latest standard of USB, called USB-C.

My old MacBook Pro doesn't have the latest standard of USB, called USB-C.

USB-C is still in its early days and adopters are experiencing the growing pains of switching over to the latest and greatest USB standard. For many, it means using adapters so they can plug in their devices that use legacy USB standards.

However, USB-C is undeniably the future, and it has several benefits over conventional USB. For one, I could use one single USB-C adapter to plug in multiple devices, including a monitor, the MacBook Pro's power supply, and a bunch of other accessories like SD memory cards and legacy USB devices like an old mouse, keyboard, or external hard drive.

That's great because instead of having several cables sticking out of my MacBook Pro for all my accessories and peripherals, I could have a single USB-C connection. That makes it easier to plug a computer into a workstation at a desk, or unplug it when you need to go portable.  

I love the gigantic trackpad on the new MacBook Pros compared with my model's small trackpad.

The newer MacBook Pros' giant trackpad is great for gestures and general usage. It makes the trackpad on my old MacBook Pro feel positively tiny and limited.

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Apple's new Touch Bar isn't a big selling point for me. I'd be happy with or without it.

Apple's new Touch Bar isn't a big selling point for me. I'd be happy with or without it.

Having Touch ID, however, is a huge plus in my book.

Having Touch ID, however, is a huge plus in my book.

Using my fingerprint to easily unlock the 2016 MacBook Pro review unit was bliss. It's easier and faster than typing in my password every time I want to unlock my MacBook Pro from sleep. I hadn't tried Apple Pay with the 2016 MacBook Pro, but it's a tempting feature.

Eventually, I finally decided to upgrade because all those features just seemed too good to pass up.

In the end, I went with a refurbished 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Core i7 and 16GB of RAM that was considered "last year's" model among Apple's newer 2017 lineup. 

The powerful Core i7 processor in the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro will last me several years, just like the i7 did on my 2012 MacBook Pro. That means I'll probably face a similar conundrum down the line when Apple introduces great new features that makes my 2016 model feel old. But at least I didn't pay the price of a brand-new 2017 model. I saved myself $450 by going with a refurbished model.

I also keep up with Intel's new processor releases, and I can safely say that the processor's performance in the 2017 MacBook Pro model doesn't warrant the extra $450 it would cost over my 2016 model. I can't speak to the performance in future MacBook Pro models, but I'll certainly consider another older refurbished model before buying a brand-new model when it's time for an upgrade. 

Plus, one of my requirements for a laptop is a 15-inch display, and Apple doesn't offer its 15-inch MacBook Pro with anything less than a Core i7 processor. So I didn't have much of a choice unless I was willing to compromise on screen size, which I clearly wasn't. 

You can read my review of the refurbished 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro here

Still, I prefer the keyboard on my old MacBook Pro.

They keys on my old MacBook Pro have a lot of travel, and they feel good and satisfying to type on. By contrast, the keys on the newer MacBook Pro have extremely shallow travel, which makes them less comfortable to type on. It's not a huge deal, as I adapted to the new style of keys, but they're still not as comfortable as my old MacBook Pro's keys.

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And the MagSafe power connector is still one of Apple's best innovations.

And the MagSafe power connector is still one of Apple's best innovations.

If it weren't for Apple's magnetic MagSafe power connector, my old MacBook Pro would surely be dead by now. There have been several occassions when I accidentally tripped on its power cord, and the whole laptop was saved from a desk-level drop because the MagSafe power connector would disconnect from the charging port.

Now, Apple's latest MacBook Pros use USB-C for charging, which doesn't attach magnetically. In the few days I spent with a 2016 MacBook Pro with USB-C, I had tripped on the power connector and the laptop came crashing to the ground. Thankfully, it was only from couch-height, and the floor has a carpet that softened the blow. Still, I slightly bent the USB-C connector on the review unit I had. 

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