Exchanged MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for One without Touch Bar

It didn’t take me long before I started to miss function keys. Yesterday, I exchanged my laptop for MacBook Pro with Function keys. So far this is my favorite laptop.

The main problems with Touch Bar are:
  1. No tactile feedback. While Escape key is always visible and easy to press but without tactile feedback, you are never certain if you pressed it or not. I am so used to certain key combos in vim that without physical Escape key, my fingers could not even find regular keys without me looking down at keyboard.
  2. Cannot adjust brightness of Touch Bar. When working in dark at night, Touch Bar is too bright and distracting.
  3. Drain on battery. Finally, online reviews show that MacBook Pro with Touch Bar have shorter battery life than the one with Function Keys.
  4. Cost – after dealing with above issues, I didn’t think it was worth spending extra $300 for Touch Bar and small performance improvements.

Here is blog post of another programmer who did same exact thing as me because lack of function keys on Touch Bar model.

Pros of Touch Bar

However, I was really impressed with some of the functionalities of Touch Bar. I just wish Apple had included functions keys along with Touch Bar.

  1. In Photos app, you can see and scroll through your photos. I think it was easier and more natural to use Touch Bar for this.
  2. It shows slider when watching YouTube videos. Again it was more natural to use slider on Touch Bar than use slider with mouse. You can also perform various actions like liking a video there.
  3. While typing it shows possible word choices, I can see it increasing typing speed, at least for me.
  4. And of course, login with Touch ID is awesome.
MacBook Pro with Function Keys

Now I have slightly slower MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. I got the base model with i5 2.0GHz processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD.

However, in my usage so far I haven’t noticed performance difference. During initial setup, beach ball appeared more often on the current MacBook without Touch Bar than the previous one. However, I was able to render 5 minute 1080P GoPro video in less than five minutes. About same speed as my i5 2.9GHz MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. This is no scientific measurement but good enough for me.

My big concern now is SSD space. With only 256GB, it will require me to think about what to store on this laptop. However, I have rethought how I store data. Most of my data is in the form of photos and videos. Perhaps I should start storing these in external harddrives. This might be useful in long-term as then I can upgrade my laptop without thinking much about how to transfer my data.

UPDATE 3/27/2017:

Last Friday, I dropped my Macbook Pro damaging on corner a bit. As you can see it below. Luckily, it still works. But I guess now I am officially stuck with this computer as the resale value of is shot. And while Apple’s Return Policy is only 2 weeks but I still had option to sell it if it was not working out.

Laptop Trial #3: MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

In last two months, I have tried 2 different laptops, and now I am on my third laptop, 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

The first laptop was Surface Pro 4. I really loved it. It was perfect balance of power, size, and cost. I loved writing on it with stylus. But its biggest flaw for me was flimsy keyboard and its lack of “lap-bility”. (My Surface Pro 4 Review).

Next I decided that maybe mobility was not that important to me. I decided to go for max performance and ordered Dell Inspiron i7559 (Affiliate link). It is a gaming laptop with i7 and powerful GPU. Rendering movies on it was a pleasure, small 5 minute clips rendered in less than a minute. But it was too big. It also felt cheap and uninspiring. I ended up returning it too.

Finally, I decided to give 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar a try. I spent a lot of time comparing Touch Bar version with Non-Touch Bar version. The performance difference between two versions is less than 5% according to Geekbench scores (reference: the Wirecutter). But the price difference between two versions is $300. That seems like too much money for Touch Bar and two extra USB-C ports.

But I played with Touch Bar in Apple store.  While gimmicky, it seemed useful in many applications. As a user of Lightroom and Photoshop, I can see how this can be very helpful. In Photos app, it shows photos, you can scroll and select photos from there. I just wanted to try it.

Then MacBook Pro with Touch bar uses faster RAM and slightly better GPU. I believe Geekbench tests memory but not GPU. So actual performance might be even better.

——

UPDATE: However, I missed functions keys more than I though I would. So I exchange this MBP for one without Touch Bar.  New blog post: https://chaosplay.com/exchanged-macbook-pro-touch-bar-one-without-touch-bar/

Surface Pro 4 for Programming & Photography

I am always looking for lightweight laptops. For last few years, I have been using Chromebooks. Chromebooks are great; I can log into my servers using shell and work with most code easily. But lately, I have been playing with Android and there is no practical way to code Android on a Chromebook.

So I had been eyeing new laptops for a while. Final showdown was between Dell XPS 13 and Surface Pro 4 (Affiliate Links).  The specs were i5, 256GB, 8GB. These specs are probably bare minimum for a PC. Both, Dell & Surface Pro 4, with these specs were priced around $1300. I was leaning towards Dell XPS 13 as it is a regular laptop. But then I found Surface Pro 4 with Type Cover at Target for almost $400 cheaper. It became hard to justify spending extra $400.

So I purchased Surface Pro 4. So far I am liking it. I really love the size and the screen. Surface Pen & OneNote are really great; I didn’t think I would care about them, but now I am a fan.

Programming Performance

Performance is not bad at all. I am able to open two Android Studio sessions, Android emulator, Chrome with several tabs, Cygwin windows, and Task Monitor. Also I have, Dropbox, OneDrive sync, Google Hangouts, Windows Defender running in background. At this point, I am using almost all 8GB of RAM. Music or videos playing in Chrome might stutter during compilation. But there is no slow down in Android Studio. CPU is usually not even more than at 10% until compilation. Of course, during compilation CPU is 100% or close to it.

I haven’t tried any other IDE yet but I am going to test Netbeans and PHP Ed soon.

I use Sublime mostly these, it runs great on Surface Pro.

Photography Performance

For photography, I use Lightroom. It loads fast with no issues. One thing though it may take half a second or so before a new photo is fully rendered. My five years old i7, 8GB laptop with SSD takes the same amount of time to render each photo. I was hoping that Surface Pro 4 would be faster but it is not.

Also photos appear a bit too small for me in Lightroom with default panels around it. I can make photos bigger by hiding panels and then I can easily work on them using keyboard shortcuts.

Battery Life

Battery life estimates are usually around 3-5 hours when I am working on Android. I have been charging it at night and then using it throughout day like I would normally use it on weekends or in evenings. So far, I haven’t gotten close to battery dying on me.

If this was my main laptop at work, then I will be carrying charger with me.

Type Cover

Type Cover keyboard is not bad at all. In fact, I really like it. When resting my hands on it, it feels like that I am bending it but if it breaks, I can replace it easily.

Issues

Right now, my biggest issue is that I cannot use it in my lap easily. It is not impossible but it is not comfortable. Also when in bed or on uneven surface, it is really hard to move around. You almost always need to use both hands to move it, versus one finger for laptop. When working on it in bed, I am using lap desk.

Lastly, I was hoping to read books on it is a tablet too but I think it is just too heavy to hold in your hand for more than a few minutes. I will stick with Kindle for book.