The MacBook Pro gets more power while Microsoft looks forward


The MacBook Pro gets a refresh, Microsoft looks elsewhere

A surprise announcement from Apple this week: the MacBook Pro received a significant performance refresh that adds an array of new configurations designed to appease 'pro' users.

If you've been following the MacBook Pro saga, this is the machine that probably should have shipped with the original design refresh. You can finally get quad-core processors, 32GB of RAM (only in the 15-inch model) and up to 4TB (!) of SSD storage in a machine running macOS. That's a serious amount of power that many of us have been asking for over the space of two years!

There's some notable improvements here too: the keyboard has redesigned to be quieter (and maybe even to break less), True Tone arrived to deliver richer colors and a new T2 ARM coprocessor is there to offload things like Touch ID, input and the hard drive to a separate, Apple designed core.

There were no changes, however, to the design or the array of other problems those same 'pro' users had with the machine.

The Touch Bar is still there (notable that the 13-inch model without the touchbar isn't receiving these upgrades), you'll still need an array of dongles to connect devices and, most surprisingly, the GPU remains underpowered and dated even compared with 2+ year-old laptops.

For those that absolutely depend on macOS to do their work, this bump is a welcome one that should help them get their work done. It is notable, however, that the MacBook no longer pushes any sort of envelope.

We can find many examples of this: Retina displays on the Mac were once regarded as boundary-pushing technology, which has fallen generations behind today's 4K wide-gamut displays appearing in laptops across the market. Graphics on the Mac also did the same, but the AMD chipsets Apple continues to use are antiquated, months out from NVIDIA refreshing its own lineup that already outclasses AMD's despite selling for two years.

This refresh, in my mind, is designed to appease the masses for a while as Apple continues to build out the future without Intel. We've heard rumors of a convertible laptop that runs macOS for a while, and mounting evidence suggests that a shift to Apple-designed CPUs may come as soon as 2020.

As Apple works away on that and extends the current MacBook's runway until that shift arrives, Microsoft is looking forward. It's all-in on the convertible tablet/laptop strategy (sometimes called 2-in-1s) and the debut of Surface Go last week is evidence it's gaining steam.

Surface Go isn't quite a MacBook Pro or even an iPad killer, but something different in the middle. It's a computer that goes down to a tiny tablet, designed to be thrown into your bag and give a great experience regardless of whether you're using it for work, or just on the couch. Microsoft tried this before with Surface RT years ago, but the experience just wasn't there yet.

With a growing store and this interesting form factor, Microsoft may be onto something: a convergence between the separate laptop and tablet you already carry, with just enough power to get the job done and the ability to run desktop-class applications.

If anything, the most compelling argument for the lines between tablet and computer actually blurring came from the iPad Pro. It is a fantastic device capable of replacing a large chunk of most people's computing tasks, but stops short of actually replacing a laptop for the majority of people. 

As Apple doubles down on its existing MacBook, it's interesting to see Microsoft fill the innovation vacuum and show what might be the future, with convertible high-end hardware at the larger high-end and the smaller, more adaptable low-end with Surface Go that might mean a single device rather than two in your backpack.

Still, we aren't there yet, and MacBook users will be happy to know they can get the power they desire after a long wait and that Apple has begun refreshing with recent processors after only three months, rather than dragging it out more than a year.

In the end, all of these devices are tools, and it's nice that there's choice again.

🌎 Apple refreshes the MacBook Pro


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