Posted on Tue 12 November 2019

2019 MacBook Pro

In 2015 I bought a used, mid-2013, 15" retina MacBook Pro. I was upgrading from a 13" MacBook Air, which was feeling cramped as I was spending more time on development than writing.

My MBP served me well until 2019. Its battery life had declined over time, but a few months ago it started going to sleep when the battery indicator still said 15% or more. I was getting around an hour of battery life out of it, but because the battery indicator wasn't accurate, I had no idea when it would suddenly go to sleep while I was working.

I tend to work without my laptop plugged in a lot, so this was a problem.

Around the same time, my WiFi started dropping out a lot on my MBP. Most days I'd have several periods when I couldn't get any work done because anything web-based would hang and timeout. For some reason it was always worse in the mornings, and I spent a lot of wasted time debugging the WiFi signal before I realised it was probably the computer at fault.

I called a local Apple-approved repair shop and asked about the battery. I was hoping to have it replaced, as well as getting them to test the WiFi card and possibly replace it for me. But because of the age of my computer, they told me it wasn't worth replacing the battery. My machine would soon be rendered obsolete by Apple and new parts wouldn't be available anymore, so they recommended I simply buy a new one.

I was lucky that our business could afford to buy me a new computer, which cost close to $4k (AUD). I got a 15" again, but went for the lower-spec version, since it has plenty of everything for my needs.

I've been tweeting a lot about my new MBP since I got it, so I thought I'd round up some thoughts on it from the first couple of months.

The keyboard is okay for me

I always liked the low travel on my old MacBook Pro's keyboard, so it wasn't a huge adjustment for me to switch to the new super low travel keys. I don't love them, but I adjusted quickly and don't find them super uncomfortable. They also don't seem uncomfortably loud, but I believe this year's MBP has quieter switches than recent years.

I also really like the bigger size of the keys compared to my old MBP. There's a lot less room between the keys than on my old Mac or on my Magic keyboard, and I like that so much more space is used up by the keys themselves. But the tiny up and down arrows are awful. I'm constantly hitting the wrong keys or not hitting the keys at all when I'm trying to use these two.

The TouchBar sucks

The escape key hasn't bothered me much on the TouchBar but what I really hate is that I don't have volume keys available all the time. The volume slider is slower and less precise, and it's the only option for always-available volume buttons on the TouchBar. I turn my music volume up and down by one notch a lot throughout the day (even more so with this new MBP, since at my preferred volume level, I can't hear music well over the computer's fans, and they turn on and off all the time), so I would much rather that the up and down volume buttons were always available.

I also like to skip tracks often, but the arrow button on the TouchBar to show all the buttons so I can get to the skip button is so small I have to really pay attention to make sure I tap it correctly. Not to mention the extra tap required to get to the button I wanted in the first place.

And the TouchBar is not providing me any benefits to make up for these downsides. I don't find it useful at all, even though I've tried. Like Erica Sadun, I touch type, so I hardly ever even notice what's on the dynamic part of the TouchBar, and I never, ever use that part of it. It really makes my computer worse.

The Bluetooth in this machine is terrible

The Bluetooth range in this computer seems to be around 2 metres. When I sit on the couch, I'm around 2-2.5 metres away from the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse on my desk, so I'm constantly interrupted by HUDs telling me they've disconnected, then reconnected, then disconnected again. It gets so bad I often turn off Bluetooth when working on the couch. But I switch between the couch and my desk so often this is a pain to do all the time.

My old MBP, in contrast, had a range of more than double that, so this problem only occurred when I was working in the backyard or at the other end of the house, which was understandable.

On top of this, it seems the Apple Magic Mouse and keyboard are known for having weak and unreliable Bluetooth connections. The Bluetooth in my old MBP was so strong, however, I never had an issue with either, and never found out they're known for connection issues. Until I got my new Mac, which has such weak Bluetooth itself, it can't make up for the "magic" accessories, and so they would disconnect from each other all the time. The mouse, in particular, would constantly disconnect from my MBP while sitting right next to it. It could be touching the side of the Mac, and it would still disconnect while I was using it. While working I would have to sit and wait for it to reconnect before I could continue. I switched to a wired keyboard and a non-Apple Bluetooth mouse, and haven't had a single issue since, despite using that same magic mouse and keyboard with my old MBP, without issue, for all the years I had it.

The battery and WiFi are fixed

No surprises here, but my battery and WiFi issues are completely gone on the new machine. I get at least two hours of battery life out of this Mac, which is almost always running Xcode and often the iOS simulator, too. I'm disappointed that I didn't notice much change in how fast my everyday tasks were, though. I thought the upgrade would be so big that compiling and running apps in Xcode or indexing my Xcode projects would feel snappy, but I haven't noticed a difference in wait times, sadly. (That's not to say there's no difference, just that any difference is small enough that I can't tell it's there while doing my day-to-day work, which is where I want to feel it.)

The 2019 MacBook Pro itself feels nice. It's very slim.

There's not a lot else to say, really. I'm disappointed in the Bluetooth and the TouchBar. The keyboard is less bad than I expected. Otherwise it feels like a newer version of what I already had, which is what I needed, but not very exciting.

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