Apple's MacBook Update Falls Flat, Comes Up Short With Obvious Flaws Unaddressed
After all the harping and complaining about the single USB-C port on the 2015 MacBook by both the press and Apple fans for the past year, you would expect that Apple would add in a second USB-C port for the 2016 model. Surely the folks in Cupertino had heard the calls for change. Well, those calls fell on deaf ears, because here we are with the 2016 MacBook and still, it has a single USB-C port. Sure, Apple has upgraded the MacBook to Intel's Skylake Core m3, m5, and m7 processor platform, squeezed an extra hour out of the battery and added Rose Gold to color mix (big whoop), but we’re still staring at that single USB-C port.
It’s unfortunate that Apple is sticking to its guns on this one, as I’m sure that most people would rather ditch the legacy headphone port in exchange for another USB-C port. Heck, Apple could even charge for USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack accessory for those that still want to plug in headphones. But of course, it wasn’t meant to be – it’s too obvious of a solution and we’ve seen Apple do this before. The original MacBook Air (2008) was just as limited, and only featured a single USB port. Apple rectified this oversight with the redesign of the MacBook Air in 2010, adding a second USB port. Does this mean that we’ll have to wait until 2017 before Apple adds that second USB-C port to the MacBook? Perhaps…
My experience with an Apple MacBook (2015)
I must admit, I’ve been primarily an Apple user since 2009. It was that year that I bought an iPhone 3GS, which lead me one month later to purchase my first Mac: a 13-inch MacBook Pro. Over the years, I’ve always have an Apple notebook by my side, including two 13-inch MacBook Airs, a 15-inch MacBook Pro and another 13-inch MacBook Pro. But perhaps my most intriguing Mac purchase was the one I made in late December 2015: that of a 12-inch MacBook.
Sure, I had written about the device and admired its sleek lines form from afar, but it never really struck a chord with me for two reasons: 1) it was relatively expensive despite its middling performance and 2) it was extremely limited in port expansion thanks to its single USB-C port which also does double duty as a charging port for the laptop.
My apprehension was assuaged, however, when the laptop went on sale for $999, a full $300 off its regular retail price. I love a good bargain, so I was definitely intrigued. But I first had to get past my problems with the machine. I took a trip down to Best Buy to try out the keyboard, which was one of the most complained about aspects of the MacBook’s design. I spent a few minutes typing around on it and had no reservations of my own with respect to its typing deck.
That lead me to the focus on the performance and the single USB-C port. I’m not a gamer at all these days (fatherhood has tamed me) and I don’t do any heavy video editing or anything incredibly CPU intensive, so I don’t find myself craving more “powah”. With this in mind, I decided to ignore the downsides of a single USB-C port and instead focus on the MacBook's low weight, sleek design and crisp display.
I gave my wife my 13-inch MacBook Pro, sold her 13-inch MacBook Air and placed an order for a $999 12-inch MacBook — in gold of course. And for the past four months, I’ve been generally happy with my purchase. The performance of the MacBook is perfectly acceptable for my needs, I’m positively in love with its light weight, the display is superb, and I can usually get a full day’s worth of work out of the battery.
But… I keep going back to my biggest hang-up with the MacBook. The one that I decided to ignore when I purchased the device: that single USB-C port. I never realized how much of a hindrance it would be to productivity until I took a trip down to Florida last month to cover a ULA rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. While the MacBook itself is light, I had to carry a bevy of dangling accessories just to remain functional – something that I never had to contend with on my old 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Not only did I need my charger, but I needed an Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter and a USB media reader just to be able to charge my laptop and read my Canon D-SLR’s Secure Digital (SD) card card at the same time. And when I don’t need to charge my MacBook at the same time, I still have to use a USB-A to USB-C adapter along with my USB media reader.
What's the alternative?
I know, I’m an idiot for buying into the hype and hastily grabbing a first generation Apple product just because the price was right, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Although it’s not straight-forward to find a direct competitor for the MacBook in the PC sector, the Asus ZenBook UX305CA comes pretty damn close. It has a larger 13.3-inch display, is about half a pound heavier but is just as razor-thin as the MacBook. Yet Asus managed to cram in three USB 3.0 ports, a microHDMI port, an SDXC reader and a headphone port. It comes standard with a 1080p display, but a 3200x1800 touchscreen is optional. And like the newest MacBook, it comes with the latest sixth generation Skylake-based Core M processors.
Asus ZenBook UX305CA
Best yet, you can pick up the 1080p model for around $680 on Amazon, while the QHD+ screen upgrade only adds another $20.
With that being said, am I still satisfied with my purchase? Absolutely. I went into the purchase knowing what I was getting into; I just psyched myself into ignoring the potential downsides of the single USB-C port. It’s a pain in the backside from time to time, but I’ve learned to begrudgingly live with it. Apple's lightweight design and display still win me over, and I’m still a big fan of OS X.
But will I make the same mistake again in choosing looks over functionality? Probably not. Perhaps if Apple manages to add a second USB-C port next year, I’ll think about upgrading again, but what the company is peddling this year is just more of the same.