Not this year

I think we all have standards for large purchases that we use to measure the value of potential purchases. For some reason, mine goes way back to the car that I had at university. My dad and I both upgraded to Chevrolet Impalas (previously owned by someone else). His was a brown four door and mine was a blue two door with a Landau roof. (Whatever happened to Landau roofs?) They were listed at $1500 and because we bought two at the same time, we paid $1250 for each. Mine lasted me for five years of university and the start of my first job. That’s my standard.

When I left going to work every day, I needed my own portable computer at home. Since I was doing a bunch of speaking and presenting, I needed both Macintosh and Windows platforms. In a perfect world, I’d probably could have got by with just the Windows machine but I had a lot of Macintosh stuff which was in proprietary formats. Lesson learned.

So, I bought a MacBook Pro and I’m still using it today. It has a decent processor, lots of RAM, and a new SSD drive. I upgraded to that drive from the original spinning hard drive as it just seemed to get slower and slower. Or maybe I was becoming more and more impatient. Upgrading was an experience in itself; I bought the drive at BestBuy and took it home to install. I could do everything except for this one proprietary screw. There was a backlog at BestBuy so I went to Staples which supported Apple products too. After being warned that it was going to be a minimum of $50, I found out that my technician didn’t have the requisite screwdriver either. She was great though and called this smaller operation, explaining my problem, and they had the screwdriver. So, I was off to the other end of the city!

They were pretty quick and replaced the drive and, for no extra fee, offered to install the latest OS for me. It would take overnight. So, I went for their offer. The computer has worked well since then but I’m reminded that it’s now 9 years old every time I try to use the trackpad. It’s got intermittent issues with a hard click but generally functions well with a double tap or an external mouse. But, double tapping and dragging a scrubber bar is another issue. Then, there’s the battery – I’m now seeing a “Service Recommended” icon. I know that’s going to be more money and another trip inside the computer. Eventually, one has to move on.

Is this my moment?

It was with great interest that I saw new MacBook Pro computers announced earlier this week. Now, I think we all know that we’re paying top prices when we look at Apple products but I thought I would give it a look. It was kind of neat to see that Apple had given up on that goofy bar and replaced it with function keys. That’s a major move.

Off to BestBuy online to see what the pricing was. Gulp!

There was nothing there that came in at a lesser price than my blue Impala. Who can afford this? Apparently, quite a few people since many of the machines were sold out. They don’t ship until next week! So, it’s pre-orders.

Depressingly, the SSD and RAM specs are equal to this computer. The only difference is the processor; trusty old Intel has been replaced with M1 in one or two funky models. Had I not been suffering from sticker shock, I might have spent more time discovering the differences – think cores…

The other thing about this is that most everything is done in the browser these days. Can I justify the price of two or three cars for a really fast browser? <grin> Not this year. Not even if they throw in a $25 polishing cloth.

So, are you upgrading?

4 thoughts on “Not this year

  1. Good morning Doug!

    I will be upgrading my MacBook Pro this year. My current workhorse was released in October 2013, which would put it at eight years old now, so it sounds like yours has one more year on it than mine. If yours originally had a spinning drive in it then it must be a little bit older, because my model was only released with solid state memory.

    If your trackpad is struggling to perform a solid hard click, and if you are getting the battery service required warning, then it is likely that the battery cells in your laptop are bloated. Certainly after nine years the battery cells will be past their intended duty cycle. It’s a bit of an adventure to replace the battery cells, but it can be done if you check out the iFixit website and search out your model/year on YouTube. I have actually replaced the battery pack in my 2013 laptop twice now. The secret to removing the glued-in batteries is to carefully use some string to “saw” behind each battery cell after carefully applying a bit of acetone as a solvent to the string. You will read about warnings to avoid puncturing the battery packed and causing either an explosion or fire, but if you work carefully and avoid using any sharp objects, it’s actually doable. A replacement battery pack cost on the order of $125, and you will need A Pentolope screwdriver to open up the bottom case. If you purchase the battery replacement kit from ifixit.ca, it comes with all of the tools and the solvent, so you’ve got everything you need.

    With the Intel i7 chips, the MacBook Pros of our era typically run hot and the fan was certainly coming on a lot this summer, so when I replaced the battery again recently, I also disassembled the fans to clean out all of the dust, and also replacd the thermal paste between the heat sink and the CPU and GPU. The machine now typically runs about 10° cooler than previously. Having said that, there are a few apps that will notoriously challenge the CPU and automatically get the fans to kick on – Microsoft Teams is probably the most notorious at this.

    Despite the “back to 2015” retro design (giving up on the Touch Bar and returning to function keys, re-adding the HDMI port, SD card slot, and returning to the MagSafe connector) what’s actually inside the new MacBook Pros is such a different animal from last year that the performance will do a huge frog leap over what was previously available. Not only does the new M1 Pro/Max chip design provide much faster pipelines to the RAM, all kinds of additional engines to accelerate various types of processing, loads and loads of GPU cores and a much lower power consumption, the SSD’s are next generation, and the display technology is way way better. This machine is in no way a refresh of last year‘s model, but rather reflects a completely new internal design and so previous models can’t compare at all – especially a model that is eight or nine years old.

    MacOS Monterey will be released this Monday, and with this release, my 2013 laptop will no longer be supported by the latest OS. This past year it was still in the “vintage“ category, but will likely be reclassified as “obsolete“ now that the new models are releasing. I am running 2020s Big Sur release just fine, and the machine is capable of doing basic tasks, but the power consumption and overheating of the I seven chip mean that the machine is noisy when I’m doing intensive tasks and the battery life – even with a new replacement battery – is only on the order of a few hours. The new M1 system-on-a-chip has the power management so finally tuned that the 16 inch models can give you upwards of 20+ hours on a single battery charge.

    As with most people, I have stayed close to home over the last couple of years due to the pandemic, and so my laptop has lived on my desk connected to external monitors, keyboard, and mouse, and so the aged battery hasn’t created much of a problem. However, with things opening up, having my laptop tethered to a desk is not part of the plan, and so all of the new goodness in a 2021 release machine will be making its way to my desk in the next while, and from there into my backpack.

    Apple computers may be pricey compared to standard run-of-the-mill laptops, but if you compare them spec-for-spec with a comparable PC, the price differences really aren’t that significant. When you toss in the “we design the whole widget“ benefits (tuning the OS to the hardware, and vice versa), there is considerable longevity in Macintosh computers. Eight years is an excellent run for a laptop, when replacement cycles are historically more on the order of three or four years.

    There are lots of configurations to select from – – and I’ve confirmed that for anything other than a base model, it will be necessary to order online and wait for a build-to-order to ship. I’m looking forward to testing out a machine this coming week, and with the ability to spec out a 14 or a 16 inch model with the same innards (no need to have to purchase the 16 inch model to get the higher end features) I am contemplating whether to go with the 14 inch model for a slightly smaller travel profile – – connected to monitor, keyboard and mouse at home either model will be the same — Or whether I will want to stick with the 16 inch model which is essentially the form factor I’ve used for the last 20 years. Decisions decisions.

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    • I’m just gonna share this. I so much want a 16 MacBook Max, but I can’t justify it. I went from a 2017 Macbook Pro with 16 gigs, running, like you, in clamshell, to a new M1 Macbook Air, a new iMac 24 inch M1, and my pick of the litter, a new Mac-Mini M1. The Air and iMac are basically base models or a bit better.The Mac Mini M1 is 8cpu 8 gpu and 16 gig. Each and every one of these computers, baby M1’s, kick that i7 MacBooks’ ass. There is no contest.
      And I have yet to hear a fan kick in. Now my workflow is not intensive. A little graphics. A lot of open browser windows, some doctoring a photo here and there. But.

      My point is price point. If you haven’t experienced using a M1 chip, I don’t know how one could determine which GPU CPU and ram configuration would be best for you and your work flow, and cash lay out when concerning these much beefier Pro and Max SOC’s.

      Andrew, you most likely will have to wait to receive whatever configuration you order, so you might want to order a Mac Mini…even base model (like 500$) to familiarize yourself to the real world speed of these chips…and then determine if you need to spend 2000, 4000, or close to six thousand for the guts and form factor you think best for you. I’m mean what the hell…Apple will take back the Mac Mini within a certain time period.

      Good luck to both you guys.

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