The new 16-inch MacBook Pro launched yesterday, and by all accounts, it’s fantastic. But it arrives at a time when the MacBook (Pro or otherwise) is no longer the default choice for a portable Apple computer. Regular readers will know that several Cult of Mac writers use an iPad Pro as their main machine. Killian, Ed, Ian and I all ditched the Mac awhile ago in favor of iOS.
And I haven’t bought a Mac since 2013. It was a MacBook Air that has since moved on. The only Mac I still own is a 2010 iMac. And yet I have already ordered the new MacBook Pro. Why? What changed?
iPad Pro isn’t quite pro enough
In theory, I would be happy to stick with the iPad Pro. It works fine with an external keyboard, it can use a mouse, and I love that it can switch between being a tablet and being a regular computer instantly. I love its amazing display, its size, and the fact that it’s so thin, and so fast, and yet still doesn’t need one single fan to keep it cool.
But recently, I’ve soured on the iPad “Pro” experience. The software still isn’t quite there, for me at least. When I’m not writing, I’m making music, and I use the iPad for that. But even in iOS 13, the iPad’s connections to external gear remain flaky. I did a full wipe and started over from scratch a few months ago, but the iPad still drops connections, or fails to recognize something that’s plugged in. You also can’t hook up more than one audio device at a time.
The other big problem is iCloud Drive. If you use iCloud Drive on a Mac, then all your files can stay both on your Mac, and in iCloud Drive. On iOS, you can download individual files to local storage, but they will be released, seemingly at random. The result is that you can’t rely on iCloud Drive as local storage on an iPad. Even at the office, with a fast Wi-Fi connection, this means you can’t quickly audition audio clips, for example.
The new MacBook Pro keyboard
The Mac suffers from none of these problems. This is what — to me — makes it a real pro machine. You can bend it to your purpose, instead of the other way around. So, why not just buy a MacBook Air? After all, it does everything the new MacBook Pro does, albeit a little slower, and it’s also way, way cheaper.
But the reason I’m buying a Mac now, instead of last month, or at any other time since iPadOS rendered my iPad too unreliable for work, is the keyboard. Not because I crave an amazing keyboard (I do most of my typing on a Bluetooth keyboard, even on MacBooks), but because the butterfly keyboard was defective. The fact that Apple still includes the latest revision of its terrible keyboard in its repair program shows that even Apple knows that it’s junk.
The 16-inch MacBook Pro’s switch back to the time-tested scissor mechanism, in the new Magic Keyboard, means that the keyboard should just work. You know, like they have done for decades, before all the stupid butterfly nonsense.
Modern Mac experience
Switching from such an old Mac means that I also will get the full modern Mac experience. I have never been able to use Handoff features like the Universal Clipboard or AirDrop to iOS. I’m looking forward to great encryption and the T2 chip and Touch ID, so the Mac is as secure as an iPhone. And to having four USB-C ports (I already use hubs, so I have no problem with the lack of USB-A).
I’m also looking forward to using macOS Catalina. My iMac can’t run anything newer than High Sierra, so I can’t use Dark Mode or cool features like Finder Stacks, or those buttons that run Automator actions from the Finder’s preview pane.
New MacBook Pro and iPad together
But the thing that really makes me want a new Mac right now is that macOS and iOS are now very tightly integrated. Handoff means you really can switch between devices at will, even when working on the same article. And Sidecar means that I can use touch, and the Apple Pencil, on Mac apps like Ableton Live and Logic.
And all the while, I can enjoy the superior customization options of the Mac. It’s a win-win. Albeit a really expensive one. If I wasn’t in a hurry to move (partially) back to the Mac, I’d wait for the MacBook Air to get its keyboard replaced, or for the first ARM Mac to appear. As it is, I’m happy buying the 16-inch MacBook Pro. If it’s anything like previous Macs I’ve owned, it should last me for a good six-plus years