The new Macbook Pro’s limited reach

Two of the Macbook Pro’s most hyped improvements – the Touch Bar and more compact profile – have little benefit to many professionals. I’m worried Apple is increasingly hawking consumer level tech that’s missing the high end market.

At least half of the developers and designers I know work primarily with a Macbook Pro hooked to an external display and paired with an external keyboard and mouse. Ergonomics improve with both displays at similar height and distance. It’s more efficient to scan and drag content given the screens’ proximity. And by driving the setup through a laptop, you still get the flexibility of a portable device for meetings or work on the go.

Therein lies the rub with the Macbook Pro’s Touch Bar. With the aforementioned setup, the Macbook’s distance makes the Bar out of reach and hard to see. Ironically, a setup for serious work nullifies the Bar’s purported productivity benefits. And based on Apple’s pricing segmentation, we’re paying a premium for it as well.

Developers and designers also like lots of RAM, good battery life, and decent GPU/CPU power. Yet the Macbook Pro’s smaller profile adds tradeoffs on all counts. The 13 inch models have worse battery life than previous revision. And Apple felt battery life justified no more than 16GB of RAM for any Pro configuration. That’s unchanged from the last major Pro revision four years ago. Meanwhile many higher end PC laptops allow for 32GB.

Granted, the compactness is visually impressive and a boon for travel. But a bit more size adds space for battery, power, and other enhancements. At what threshold does that extra thinness make the power cost worthwhile? I’m worried Apple crossed a line many professionals never would.

Perhaps my concerns are premature. I haven’t actually used the device, and serious reviews and benchmarking are yet to come. Apple could still release an external keyboard with Touch Bar to diffuse problems on that front. Also, not every professional uses the same setup.

Nevertheless, it still feels this last iteration of Macbook Pros leaves a big segment of professionals in the dark, the largest since I started buying Pros in the early 2000s. Apple isn’t completely out of touch with professionals, but a miss is still a miss.