One of the nice things about my job is, I get to handle all sorts of nice bits of kit. The down side is, I don’t get to keep it. So this will be more of a first impressions review rather than a full scale run down.
The first thing that surprised me about this model, was it’s weight. It was much heavier than I expected it to be. Officially the weight is just over 3 pounds, but for a device of it’s size and the existing Macbook Air and other devices of the same size being much lighter it felt disappointing and a little too weighty. Obviously others will see this as a plus point as it probably makes the device more sturdy.
Upon setting up the device for the official end user, I had to install a number of apps and carry out a number of configuration settings, involving some fair usage of the keyboard. The keys feel stiff, maybe I’m just getting pedantic in my old age, but I like to feel a bit of a response from the keys. They feel stiff and heavy, almost uncomfortable. I’m not a huge fan of laptops this size anyway, but the whole typing experience just felt really uncomfortable for me, and as someone that suffers from mild RSI in the hands, this felt like a terrible keyboard for extensive use.
I was also disappointed by the trackpad, which really, really surprised me because I love the Apple trackpad I use with my Mac Mini at work. That feels great to use and so natural. Again this just feels stiff and clunky, with no feedback and another RSI impending disaster. With an already very compressed working area for your hands everything just feels like your arms and hands and fingers are just fighting for space, but this is a problem for me with all 13″ and below sized devices.
The screen is awesome. This is something Apple do very well and there was no complaints here. The main issue for me however is that due to the tight keyboard and trackpad space, I’d find myself wanting an external keyboard and mouse, which would ultimately result in also wanting an external monitor. So I’d probably only ever get joy out of the screen when I wasn’t working at my desk, and there’s no way I could afford an Apple display as well. So the monitor would probably end up being from another make and not feel like it was as good.
The touchbar I didn’t really get to use, at this point in time, I don’t think there is much I’d use it for and it would probably take a conscious effort from myself to use it. Maybe it’s something I’d get use to. The Apple Pay option is a nice touch.
The single USB-C connection causes us a problem at our workplace due to needing to set users up on the devices with mobile accounts that authenticate against their Windows AD account. So we now have to supply all Macbook users with a separate dock, this costs another £100 on top of an already overly expensive product. A separate review will come for the dock.
MacOS Sierra doesn’t offer much new for users locked into a corporate system. Users are not allowed to tie in their personal Apple ID to these devices so will not be able to play with as many of the cool features like iMessage integration and the like. This is due to a number of data protection policies in place in regards to cloud storage.
One annoying thing with MacOS Sierra has been the removal of offline file sync with Windows file systems, and it doesn’t look like this will be returning. There are a number of apps popping up in the app store as to be expected who are now looking to ride this potential gravy train. As of yet we have yet to use one, but I suspect the time will come when a VIP user suddenly ends up with all their network and local storage all out of sync.
Overall I must say just from using this for several hours, I was underwhelmed. I was really looking forward to new MacBook Pros and was considering getting one for myself as I was in the market for a new laptop when they were announced. The price and lack of great features in the end saw me buy another Windows device. I would have gone for the 15″ model so I may not have had the same gripes with the keyboard and trackpad, but until I can get my hands on one I don’t know. From handling this 13″ model anyway, I can honestly say I’m glad I didn’t spend the £2000+ I would have on a 15″ model.
Overall ‘at a glance’ grade: 2/5