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Which 13-inch 2016 MacBook Pro? (or MacBook)

Two excellent deals on an outstanding configuration of the 13" model sans touchbar and with all the right trimmings: 16GB memory, 512GB SSD, 2.4 GHz CPU:

...

My oldest daughter will need a laptop for college next year, and so we went to the Apple Store to look at the 12" MacBook versus the 13" MacBook Pro.

She loved the 2 pound form factor of the MacBook, but I pointed out the dual ports, brighter/bigger better color and contrast and more pixels display, faster processor, better speakers, etc of the 13" MacBook Pro. And the superior ergonomics even if only just balancing on one’s lap (the MacBook is too small for that usage scenario).

All those benefits for 3 pounds versus 2 pounds and 3/4" dimensionally in both directions. But once a power brick is carried, the weight gap becomes less relevant. And either one fits easily into a daypack, and a 1 pound difference hardly matters when also carrying 10 pounds of textbooks and a water bottle and such.

Apple MacBook 1.2 Ghz / 8GB / 512GB for $999

The $999 Apple 12" MacBook Pro 8,1 1.2GHz / 512GB (at time this was written) is very appealing on a price basis, but if the budget allows for more, my thinking is that in terms of a 4 year lifespan for a college student, the argument is strongly in favor of the 13" 2016 MacBook Pro, particularly when the all but mandatory* $229 AppleCare extended warranty is included in the total system cost—the price differential in percentage terms is small when looking at a 4 year service life and in the context of what a college education costs. On the other hand, $999 gets you 512GB instead of 256GB internal SSD and in that 2 pound form factor.

* Apple laptops are “total failure” systems: due to soldered-on everything, the cost of repair beyond the pathetic one year warranty is prohibitive, although the toaster overn repair trick might work in certain cases. AppleCare is thus an all but mandatory purchase. If Apple quality is really superiro to other brands, then why doesn’t Apple stand behind its products with a 3 year warranty instead of the lowest-bar 1 year warranty?

Prelude

Apple considers the touchbar a feature, but it’s really a minefield anti-feature that is too often the source of errors and problems; I would pay extra to REMOVE the touchbar anti-feature in favor of real keys. The 13" model can be had without the touchbar.The 15" 2016 MacBook Pro has no such option, and all one can do is to program it to fixed keys, which are not in the right positions, and have no tactile consistency with the main keyboard.

Which 13" 2016 MacBook Pro model?

After seeing both the touchbar and non-touchbar models, I am strongly in favor of the NON-touchbar model* because it has several advantages:

  • Superior value: the price escalates rapidly with the touchbar model.
  • A slotted/removable SSD which ought to be upgradeable at some point, thus keeping the cost reasonable by going with the 256GB SSD (the cost escalates rapidly over the base model). If more storage is needed, I expect that OWC will have an upgrade before too long. This is not possible with the touchbar model due to its soldered-on SSD.
  • Real keys for ESC and function keys. The touchbar is “unstable” eye candy, an anti-feature for serious use (touch ID excepted). If and when any app shows truly useful touchbar support for pro use, I may change my mind, but no Apple app has anything useful on the touchbar that I can see. Function keys are proven by years of use, fixed* and thus can be relied upon to be there, and always will be predictable with no surprises.

Bottom line is that the base model is least expensive while affording future storage expansion. The CPU speed is irrelevant for the uses discussed.

As for value, the Apple $200 upcharge for the soldered-on choice of 16GB vs 8GB (8GB more) is an obscenity that only Apple can get away when 32GB of iMac 5K memory is only $238 as I write this—that’s $3.3X more per gigabyte and when bought with a brand-new machine. But when soldered-on as with the Apple MacBook Pro, there is no upgrading later so the choice must be carefully considered up-front.

* I would pay extra on the 15" model to REMOVE the touchbar, but see 2016 MacBook Pro: Configuring the Touchbar Control Strip to Show All Function Keys.

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