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I made A MISTAKE buying this laptop

By Jaime Rivera August 23, 2021, 11:37 pm
16 MacBook Pro

Anton D. Nagy contributed to this 16-inch MacBook Pro After the Buzz episode post.

This is the 16-inch MacBook Pro and when I bought it last year I thought this would be it. Finally my dream machine. It’s actually the first product that started a very interesting trend. See Apple has always been known for showing consumers what they should want instead of listening to them, and its 15-inch predecessor was, in a word: a mess. From bad keyboards, to display issues, to thermal throttling, it was clear that Apple’s obsession over thin and light was ahead of its time. The solution was to just cave in and make the product larger. To own the title of being a Pro product, function had to follow form and not the other way around.

The problem is that this product was either late or the catalyst Apple needed to prove that it was time to transition. It patched the problem the 15-inch model had, but then notice how it hasn’t been refreshed since 2019. 

Transition periods are always complicated, and no company is more notorious for them than Apple. This is the company that pushed the market to adopt the CD-ROM over floppy drives, only to kill the slot early for digital media. USB over Serial Ports, only to kill that for USB-C. It made the headphone jack popular again, only to kill it later over Bluetooth. Yes, it’s a pattern, but even if Apple has been right most of the time, what happens when you’re caught in-between?

Here I was thinking this computer would be it, so I spent an insane amount of money in maxing it out to its full potential. Yes, that amount. And then about two months into living my dream, I realized I made a mistake. A very expensive one.

So, for context, I bought this computer in September of 2020. My 2018 15-inch unit was already coughing at 4K exports, and after the M1 announcement in June, it was clear that this computer wasn’t going to get an Intel refresh. Yes, I know I was a year late, but if you saw the presentation, the numbers were just too good to be true, and Apple has always been notorious for overpromising and under-delivering in its pro products. My logic was to avoid the curse of the early adopter because I couldn’t trust my workflow to an unproven product. I don’t need to remind you how bad the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro or 2016 15-inch touch bar models were.

So everything started fine. Ordered in silver to avoid the scuff marks from space gray, got my dbrand skins to give it this retro look in white, and this MOFT Invisible stand is a godsend. Propping this computer to a higher position has proven to be crucial for less back pain, and also heat dissipation. For the better part of two months, I was in heaven.

I think that what I liked most about this computer was its screen. You’d think that an extra inch in real estate isn’t much, but the near border-to-border design is crazy immersive. Even today this 16-inch Retina Display is best in class for any laptop when it comes to color accuracy and detail, even if it falls behind in contrast as a natural limitation of IPS LCDs. Still, the combination of this panel with these speakers is still crazy. I have yet to hear louder and richer results from any other laptop, in whatever category you’d like to compare it to.

16 MacBook Pro

The combination of the skin, plus the stand has helped it remain like new more than a year later, and I also noticed that the added thickness serves an extra purpose. I no longer get that sticky feel after trying to open this laptop when exposed to heat, and I now notice the glass panel is no longer prone to permanent marks from the keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, it’s back to being great. Sure a bit noisier but the return to these scissor switches has solved all the issues of its predecessor. I still wish we had the option to lose the touch bar, but I’ll admit it doesn’t bother me as much. My hands are mostly concentrated on this massive trackpad which is still best in class, and where its size doesn’t get in the way of your work. If anything I feel that way about the large palm rests, but it comes with the territory if you want a machine this large.

Overall from multi-tasking to video editing, to watching a movie, for the better part of two months, I was in love. My problem is when I had to order the M1 MacBook Pro and Air for review. Theoretically, these two products have never really competed against the larger variant, so I thought this was just your typical laptop review, that I would then edit on my 16-inch model, but then this happened…

This is Part 1 of when I learned I had made a mistake. Yes, two computers that cost a quarter of what this larger computer cost, were almost as good. I mean sure, I could export a video around 2 minutes faster on the 16-inch model, but that was the least of my problems.

16 MacBook Pro

See, the 16-inch MacBook Pro falls into the old paradigm of computing, which was that the more you have the better. Larger meant better thermals, more space for larger batteries, more fans for cooling, a discrete GPU. And you guessed it, all that hardware just chews up the battery. The fans of this computer are so aggressive that even if I let it play the screen saver, they will kick in. But again, I say paradigm because at the time we didn’t know any better. We knew fan noise and terrible battery life were par for the course on powerful laptops. 

So yeah, cue in the M1, and the paradigm shift. Forget the need for cooling, the fan is there just in case, which as a result means that you can enjoy true all-day battery life. I won’t bore you with all the details, I’ll link to those two separate videos for you to understand where I’m coming from. Point is, those two entry-level computers are just as good in performance, and better in everything other than the fact that this one has more screen real-estate and ports if that’s your jam.

But then we get to Part 2 of when I learned I made a mistake, and it’s that I didn’t think planned obsolescence would reach this computer so quickly. WWDC 2021 already started placing a couple of nails into the coffin of any Intel Mac. If you noticed, MacOS Monterrey already has features that will only come to Apple Silicone. Sure they aren’t consequential, but I’d call it a red flag. 

16 MacBook Pro

And then there’s the fact that I’ve spent the last few weeks not wanting to use this 16-inch MacBook Pro because I’m already noticing a lot of apps slowing down, and these aren’t even power-hungry apps. The amount of lag in some Microsoft Office apps like OneNote is insane. The sluggish launch of certain basic apps like Chrome is unnerving. The beach balls and dropped frames on Final Cut Pro, regardless of my 64 gigs of RAM just don’t make sense. I’m not saying that developers or even Apple have decided to abandon these apps for Intel Macs, but I can tell you performance has been degrading quickly since the launch of the M1 variants. And sure, it could be perception, given how I’ve been exposed to both computers, but if I’m paying more for an Intel Mac in absolutely every category, I technically should get a better experience! If all the extra specs I bought don’t reflect a better overall experience, then it means this lineup has no reason for being.

To fix some of the lag, I was forced to get creative and look for ways to optimize my machine, regardless of the excess hardware I bought it with. Even the M1 needs some fine-tuning every now and then just to keep it in good shape, and one of my favorite tools to get that done is CleanMyMac X.

Conclusion

To conclude, let’s just say this video felt like a moral responsibility. The 16-inch MacBook Pro was a great solution to a problem two years ago, but for those who think Apple isn’t willing to cannibalize its own products, just remember how the iPhone killed the iPod.

16 MacBook Pro

If we’re honest, I struggle to think who this computer is for right now. Even if you were one of those people that prefers a large display, I think buying any M1 with an iPad for Side Car, or even an external monitor would be cheaper than the base model of this 16-inch model. The chips are dated so it’s not for Intel fanatics. Unless you need specific plugins that are still not supported by M1, this product has simply no reason for being.

Bottom line, I can’t recommend you buy it in 2021. If it had massive discounts, then sure, but as it stands right now, I seriously recommend for you to wait for the refresh that’s rumored for the fall. Fun fact, I’m actually editing this video on the M1.

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