Since I started writing with Ulysses again, I’ve been forced to reacquaint myself with my 2016 MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar. This is the one that an Apple executive (maybe Phil Schiller?) claimed would make a nice alternative to the MacBook Air when it debured, neatly ignoring that it cost $700 Canadian more than the Air (ironically, the updated 2018 MacBook Air, combined with a 128GB version of the MBP, has resulted in the price difference now being only $230).
There were no great revelations in going back to the MBP. I still liked the things I liked before, and still disliked the rest. So let’s recap:
- The haptic trackpad is still the best I’ve ever used. It’s a tad bigger than it needs to be, but that isn’t a real issue, and being able to click anywhere on it is great. And the clicks are smooth, not, uh, clicky.
- The display is terrific. High resolution, bright, and without using the “skinny” 16:9 ratio. It’s not as tall as a 3:2 display, but it gives more headroom than 16:9, something I find important in a laptop.
- Speedy SSD.
- Versatile Thunderbolt 3 ports.
- macOS is still pretty solid.
- Backlighting is spiffy.
- Save about $670 over the next tier of MacBook Pro, and get bonus real function keys in the process.
- Only two Thunderbolt ports. One for charging, the other for…everything else. And both on the same side.
- Actual performance varies. It’s never bad, but sometimes it doesn’t feel as tight as what you’d expect for a “pro” machine.
- Headphone jack (ya) is on thee right side, which, given the design of nearly every wired set of headphones in existence, makes no sense.
- macOS is still pretty solid, but the Finder still kind of sucks.
- Styling is getting dated.
- All-aluminum design is slippery as all get-out. Every time I pull it out of my knapsack it feels like it’s going to squip out of my hand. And it doesn’t even feel that nice. It’s metal and cold. Meh!
- Even though it only weighs about three pounds, it somehow feels heavier.
- Battery life is only average vs. other Ultrabooks.
- Display bezels are pretty big in 2019.
- You can’t upgrade anything post-purchase.
- Any repairs are difficult and costly.
- The keyboard still sucks.
I can tolerate the keyboard, but I still don’t really like it. It’s just too shallow and clicky, like a scissor switch keyboard imitating a mechanical keyboard. It just doesn’t feel right. And I have less than two years before a potential repair bill of $600+ awaits, should even a single key fail. Given Apple’s flailing in trying to make the keyboard more reliable, I’m very interested in seeing what the next MacBook Pros look like. I doubt they’ll retreat to what they had before, but I think there’s a decent chance they will do something different, instead of continuing to tinker with the current design. Hopefully they won’t present something even worse still, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Overall, this is a laptop that doesn’t stand up to the best Windows laptops anymore. The only thing that really separates it from the competition is the trackpad, but the deficiencies like the keyboard, battery life and repairability, lag behind many other notebooks. Still, it’s a competent machine and I can muddle along with it for writing. Every other Mac laptop now comes with the same butterfly switch keyboard (even if current models feature a newer, quieter version of it), so it’s not like switching to another model of MacBook will make much difference.
On a scale of 1 to 10 Think Differents, the 2016 MacBook Pro without Touch Bar rates 6 Think Differents.