Video: Changes to the MacBook Pro we want Apple to make

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited May 11
With WWDC 2018 just around the corner, rumors of a MacBook Pro refresh have started to swirl. It's only been about 18 months since Apple redesigned its professional laptop lineup, so a major overhaul is not expected, but we're definitely looking for several spec upgrades, hoping for a few hardware changes, and even dreaming of some new features.



8th Generation Intel Processors

We recently pitted the base model 2017 MacBook Pro against Dell's freshly updated 2018 13-inch XPS 9370 notebook and the new Intel processors in the latter are impressive. This might be the biggest performance improvement per-watt in years, with Intel offering a true quad-core, 8 thread processor design using only 15 watts of power, the same consumption as the dual-core processor in our MacBook.

MacBook Pro


Intel's i7-8550U processor in the XPS scored a whopping 13,658 in Geekbench 4's CPU test and 598 in Cinebench R15, slightly beating out the i7-4870HQ in the 2015 MacBook Pro while using just under a third of the wattage. This type of power will allow many users like myself to "downgrade" to a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is much easier to travel with while still being able to comfortably edit 4K-resolution video in Final Cut Pro.

MacBook Pro Dell


For power users who need all the performance they can get, we'd love to see the new hexa-core i9-8950HK as an option for the 15-inch model. With base clock speeds of up to 2.9GHz and a turbo boost clock at a shocking 4.8GHz, this chip should be able cut through Apple's new ProRES RAW codec with ease, even in 4K, while maintaining the same 45-watt thermal design point (TDP).

Updated keyboard

The 2016 MacBook Pro redesign introduced an updated version of the butterfly keyboard first found in the 12-inch Retina MacBook. This ultra low-travel keyboard has been a love it or hate it design for many, but one that I personally like. I enjoy the satisfying "clickiness" the keyboard offers but the extra effort needed to actuate the keys sometimes tire my fingers during long writing sessions.

MacBook Pro Keyboard


Using older Apple notebooks like the MacBook Air leaves me missing the longer key travel, but not the slightly mushy and wobbly feel from the uneven travel that was fixed in the new design. Recent AppleInsider analysis using data sourced from Apple repair centers suggests the 2016 MacBook Pro butterfly keyboards fail roughly twice as frequently as older models.

I think we can all agree that a more reliable third-generation butterfly keyboard with a bit more key travel would be great.

Out with the Touch-Bar

Even though the Touch Bar seemed cool and exciting at the time of its launch, now I'd say it's more of a gimmick than a useful tool. I was really open-minded when I unboxed my first Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro and I initially used the Touch Bar often enough to warrant its existence.

MacBook Pro Touchbar


As time went on, though, I resorted to my old habits of just using the trackpad, keyboard, and a mouse instead of Touch Bar shortcuts. When I purchased an LG Ultrafine 5K display and started leaving my MacBook Pro in clamshell mode, my use of the Touch Bar shifted to just the required taps and slides needed to adjust backlight and volume. When it came time to upgrade my wife's laptop I opted for the non-Touch Bar model.

I spend a lot of time talking other users in creative industries, like photographers, graphics designers and film makers. Whenever I see or hear of someone using a Touch Bar MacBook Pro, I ask if they actually make use of the Touch Bar, but I've never received a single "yes" in response after over 30 queries.

Apple needs to find a way to make the Touch Bar useful by incorporating higher-function controls, additional commands or a larger work area. If it can't capitalize on the hardware, it might be time to rethink its incorporation in the MacBook Pro's design.

Face ID, please!

After a successful and promising introduction in the iPhone X, I want to see Face ID used in every Apple device I own. The convenience of not having to enter a password or scan a fingerprint is truly freeing.

I can get to the home screen with a simple upwards swipe, with seemingly nothing to slow me down. I don't have to remove gloves if I'm on my motorcycle to unlock with Touch ID (the sensors recognize my face even with my tinted shield closed) with Apple also claiming Face ID is much more secure than its other main biometric authentication system.

Moving back to my MacBook Pro after spending time with the XPS 13x made me realize how archaic it is to move a finger over a sensor for authentication purposes. The Dell notebook included a feature called Windows Hello, a facial recognition technology that, while not as advanced as Face ID, proved a worthy competitor.

As soon as I unfold the Dell XPS I'm instantly greeted with my desktop, an experience we think should be in the next MacBook. Along with effortless login, the ability to use keychain for password control and logins like the iPhone X would also make web authentication easy and more secure for most users.

Larger, brighter, HDR displays

Apple makes point of installing cutting-edge display technology in each MacBook Pro update, keeping the device at the top of the market in terms of color accuracy, contrast and brightness. We hope they keep up that trend.

MacBook Pro Screen


At 500 nits, the current MacBook Pro has class-leading brightness levels, which makes it usable in bright rooms and outdoors that would defeat other notebook displays.

I'd love to see the 2018 MacBook Pro display gain another 100 to 200 nits of brightness matching the latest iPhones and iPad Pros. This would further reduce glare issues and allow HDR content to displayed and accurately edited.

As for color accuracy, bumping up from the just over 100-percent sRGB DCI P3 panel to a 100-percent Adobe RGB version would be fantastic for those working in wider color spaces.

Minimizing the bezels by stretching the 13.3-inch and 15.4-inch displays to an even 14 and 16 inches would be great as an extra refinement, so long as it doesn't interfere with the chance of Face ID.

RAM increased to 32GB

One of the biggest limitations for power users is being stuck with a maximum of 16GB of RAM, the same maximum amount available in the range since 2011. A lot of MacBook users including myself were disappointed in 2016 when Apple announced the redesigned MacBook Pro would once again cap out at 16GB due to Low Power DDR4 (LPDDR4) memory limitations with Intel's then-current chips.

Apple chose to stick with DDR3 in order to use the low power variant, allowing them to maximize battery life for the new thinner and lighter models that have smaller batteries.

We all hoped the 2017 refresh would offer 32GB of RAM, but it didn't. Almost a year later, the newly released 8th-generation Intel processors still lack support for LP-DDR4 memory, which Apple wants to use.

It has reached a point where I would personally accept a lower battery life in exchange for more RAM. The current battery life is quite short under heavy loads, like during video editing or in graphic design, and these are areas where 32GB of memory would be really beneficial. Most users search for an electrical outlet to plug into while doing these types of heavy tasks anyway.

Additionally, there are now a variety of inexpensive USB-C PD power banks on the market which output the necessary voltage and amps needed to power a 15-inch MacBook Pro during intense on-the-go sessions, making internal battery life less of an issue.

MacBook Pro Stack


Apple has been making class-leading notebooks for a very long time, and we're starting to see Windows machines catch up not only in terms of performance but in fit and finish as well. We'd love to see Apple take another leap forward with their 2018 MacBook Pro range, which can help maintain the gap between Mac and its ever-improving competition.
Alex1N
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 162
    just a better keyboard is all i ask.
    supadav03williamlondonirelandcornchip
  • Reply 2 of 162
    Way back when Steve Jobs was forced into dropping Moto CPU in favor of Intel CPU’s.
    he also stated he was looking to switch over to AMD CPU’s and Apple has switch GPU to AMD. Even intel has reached out to AMD to help them make APU’s for those who do not know APU = joint CPU+GPU on one chip. If I ran Apple I would go with AMD Ryzen 7 1800x or their Theardripper or Zen CPU’s + 2 TB ssd’s, + min 16 gig or 32 gig’s + internal blue ray player + DVD drive people love disk’s for vidéo & Stills. AMD has 8 cores 16 theards and better cores & theards and drops the prices, More then $1,000.00. My 2 cents worth. Oh fan boys AMD has been around as long as Intel if not longer, they are still making chips and graphic cards and servers
  • Reply 3 of 162
    Great article. All these points are very true, especially Touch Bar being a failure and leaving it out reducing cost of the device.
    jcallowssuperklotonminicoffeeavon b7
  • Reply 4 of 162
    jcallowsjcallows Posts: 142member
    agree with everything you said, especially the gimmicky touch bar.  i hated it from the beginning.  i wanted to get the 15" model but none exists without the touch bar so i ended up getting the 13" one.  i'd also like to finally see a discrete graphics card in the 13" model.
  • Reply 5 of 162
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,605member
    I'd add to the list, going back to the previous size of trackpad. The new one seems in the way. If I want one that big, I'll just use my Magic Trackpad 2 anyway.
    dws-2Alex1N
  • Reply 6 of 162
    stevenozstevenoz Posts: 204member
    Get rid of the Touch Bar. I hate it.

    cgWerksjcallowssuperklotonireland
  • Reply 7 of 162
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,605member
    For me... go back to the 2015 design. Put in the latest CPU/chipset. Update the TB2 ports to TB3/USB-C. Maybe use the newer screen technology. Use the full cooling capacity of the 2015 design to keep these new lower power chips nice and cool. Done, sold! I'll order one tomorrow.
    It would easily be the best laptop ever made (as Marco said of the 2015, and on which I agree).

    And, in fact, that would solve pretty much Apple's whole Mac lineup problems. Take the trash-can Mac Pro, update the components. Done. Take the Mac Mini, update the components. Done. Take the 'cheese-grater' Mac Pro and update the components... 2019 Mac Pro done right now. Apple has had some insanely great products in the past, but for some reason, they feel the need to re-invent them when there is no need, and make them worse. Sometimes, yes, you have to make an overall design jump. But, most of the time, if it ain't broke...
    edited May 11 Alex1NcornchipHypereality
  • Reply 8 of 162
    chasmchasm Posts: 763member
    Max probably knows this, but for some reason it got left out of this video/article:

    1. The 2017 MBP introduced a modified version of the butterfly keyboard that significantly lowers the risk of damage/service need (according to Mike Wuerthele's article focused on the 2016 MBP), so a 2018 model will probably improve on that further based on further understanding of where the 2016 one caused issues. For people who hate low-travel keys, you are not likely to notice much if any change. Apple is not giving up on the butterfly design because it is better in most ways, so get real about this.

    2. Speaking of getting real: as Max undoubtedly knows, LP-DDR4 and DDR4 are two completely different types of RAM (think the difference between Java and Javascript for a comparison), and this it is not a case of "well just make it 0.2mm thicker" to switch to DDR4 -- it would require a complete case redesign and would very significantly diminish battery life, so again -- na ga ha pen. You want 32GB of RAM, you're waiting till 2019 at least -- and that's not Apple's fault, it's Intel's fault. I was glad to see Max noted that the 8th-gen chips still don't have that support.

    3. The touchbar is great. Alleged "pros" (whatever that means) may not find it all that useful, but "normal people" (who work with photos, text, use Facebook, that sort of thing) love it, at least in my anecdotal observations of people actually using them in public places. It would be good for some commenters here to bear in mind that they're not really "typical" Mac users, and that the vast majority of MBP (and Mac generally) buyers are first and foremost iOS users -- the touchbar's easy access to emoji, accented characters, Touch ID, and especially predictive text (aka major iOS features) are a major selling point for the 90 percent of buyers who are not editing in FCP or Photoshop all day.
    edited May 11 fastasleepsuperklotonAlex1Ncornchiptht
  • Reply 9 of 162
    I don’t see the touch bar going away. 
    In fact. It’ll probably be expanded at some point to replace the physical keyboard. Apple sorta dips its toe in the water, gets feedback, then goes all in.  
    Each keypress with a haptic feedback. 
    In my opinion, that’s whats around the bend or something similar. 
    Also, I’m wondering if the writer has tried just using Lumafusion with an iPad Pro for the 4K video editing needs as he wanted it powerful and portable. 
    fastasleepAlex1Ncornchiptht
  • Reply 10 of 162
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,605member
    chasm said:
    2. Speaking of getting real: as Max undoubtedly knows, LP-DDR4 and DDR4 are two completely different types of RAM (think the difference between Java and Javascript for a comparison), and this it is not a case of "well just make it 0.2mm thicker" to switch to DDR4 -- it would require a complete case redesign and would very significantly diminish battery life, so again -- na ga ha pen. You want 32GB of RAM, you're waiting till 2019 at least -- and that's not Apple's fault, it's Intel's fault. I was glad to see Max noted that the 8th-gen chips still don't have that support.

    3. The touchbar is great. Alleged "pros" (whatever that means) may not find it all that useful, but "normal people" (who work with photos, text, use Facebook, that sort of thing) love it, at least in my anecdotal observations of people actually using them in public places. It would be good for some commenters here to bear in mind that they're not really "typical" Mac users, and that the vast majority of MBP (and Mac generally) buyers are first and foremost iOS users -- the touchbar's easy access to emoji, accented characters, Touch ID, and especially predictive text (aka major iOS features) are a major selling point for the 90 percent of buyers who are not editing in FCP or Photoshop all day.
    re: #2 - Fair points, but given that this is a pro lineup (or at least supposedly is), wouldn't it make some sense to have one high-end model that goes in that direction? I think that was maybe his point?

    re: #3 - So, the pros aren't the typical MacBook Pro users? Yes, that might be the actual problem. Instead of being for pros, the MacBook Pro has become the MacBook+. The MacBook Pro shouldn't be aimed at the average iOS user... that's what the MacBook and MacBook Air (if they'd update it) are for.
    seanismorrisAlex1N
  • Reply 11 of 162
    danvmdanvm Posts: 629member
    chasm said:
    Max probably knows this, but for some reason it got left out of this video/article:

    1. The 2017 MBP introduced a modified version of the butterfly keyboard that significantly lowers the risk of damage/service need (according to Mike Wuerthele's article focused on the 2016 MBP), so a 2018 model will probably improve on that further based on further understanding of where the 2016 one caused issues. For people who hate low-travel keys, you are not likely to notice much if any change. Apple is not giving up on the butterfly design because it is better in most ways, so get real about this.

    A butterfly design that have changed two times since 2015 (could it change again in 2018?), that has quality issues and an awful tactile feedback is no something I'll consider better in most ways, as you said. 
    hammeroftruthcgWerks
  • Reply 12 of 162
    danvm said:
    chasm said:
    Max probably knows this, but for some reason it got left out of this video/article:

    1. The 2017 MBP introduced a modified version of the butterfly keyboard that significantly lowers the risk of damage/service need (according to Mike Wuerthele's article focused on the 2016 MBP), so a 2018 model will probably improve on that further based on further understanding of where the 2016 one caused issues. For people who hate low-travel keys, you are not likely to notice much if any change. Apple is not giving up on the butterfly design because it is better in most ways, so get real about this.

    A butterfly design that have changed two times since 2015 (could it change again in 2018?), that has quality issues and an awful tactile feedback is no something I'll consider better in most ways, as you said. 
    It's a little too delicate also. Many users who complain about key response in certain keys have ended up having whole topcases replaced because replacing the keys themselves is a very delicate process over the old models and a lot of techs end up tearing the membrane and then replacing the whole topcase. 

    A topcase replacement is a lot harder to do on the newer MacBook Pros compared to the older ones.  
    superklotoncgWerks
  • Reply 13 of 162
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 1,725member
    Way back when Steve Jobs was forced into dropping Moto CPU in favor of Intel CPU’s.
    he also stated he was looking to switch over to AMD CPU’s and Apple has switch GPU to AMD. Even intel has reached out to AMD to help them make APU’s for those who do not know APU = joint CPU+GPU on one chip. If I ran Apple I would go with AMD Ryzen 7 1800x or their Theardripper or Zen CPU’s + 2 TB ssd’s, + min 16 gig or 32 gig’s + internal blue ray player + DVD drive people love disk’s for vidéo & Stills. AMD has 8 cores 16 theards and better cores & theards and drops the prices, More then $1,000.00. My 2 cents worth. Oh fan boys AMD has been around as long as Intel if not longer, they are still making chips and graphic cards and servers
    Haha DVD drive. What "people" love DVDs in 2018?
    superkloton
  • Reply 14 of 162
    eliangonzaleliangonzal Posts: 449member
    "Edit 4K video..." on a laptop. I love a comment like that, sprouting like a weed in every techie blog site with posers and dilettants who act like professional video editors because they do unpacking videos in Final Cut Pro. 4K is ***meaningless*** on small screens. You are not going to amaze yourself as you edit anything on a 13 or 15 inch screen. It is, ultimately, a technology that demands to be projected on very, very large screens, and I don't mean 21- or 27-inch monitors. A professional editor is *not* going to edit trusting a laptop screen for anything. And this is not a selling point at all because **it is meaningless.**
    Alex1NcgWerks
  • Reply 15 of 162
    d_2d_2 Posts: 42member
    My two cents...

    Functional Needs
    1. Better keyboard
    2. HDMI out integration
    3. Improved TouchBar interaction 

    Cosmetic Wishes
    1. Backlit Apple logo
    2. USB-C Magsafe w status LED


    tokyojimuHyperealityjasenj1tht
  • Reply 16 of 162
    macmojomacmojo Posts: 6member
    danvm said:
    chasm said:
    Max probably knows this, but for some reason it got left out of this video/article:

    1. The 2017 MBP introduced a modified version of the butterfly keyboard that significantly lowers the risk of damage/service need (according to Mike Wuerthele's article focused on the 2016 MBP), so a 2018 model will probably improve on that further based on further understanding of where the 2016 one caused issues. For people who hate low-travel keys, you are not likely to notice much if any change. Apple is not giving up on the butterfly design because it is better in most ways, so get real about this.

    A butterfly design that have changed two times since 2015 (could it change again in 2018?), that has quality issues and an awful tactile feedback is no something I'll consider better in most ways, as you said. 
    I have both a 2012 15” MBPr (handed down to the kids) and a 2017 model (the top one with the Radeon 560pro) so I’m in a direct position to compare them.

    I greatly prefer the 2017 model’s keyboard, it’s crisper and just feels sharper. The 2012 model, while I loved it, feels mushy and soft now by comparison.

    The Touchbar is far more useful to me than the old function keys ever were. I use it in everything from the Finder to XCode to VMWare Fusion. While your mileage may vary, I much prefer it to the old keys. And the big touch pad is awesome, a great improvement over an already good touchpad.

    the improvements I’d like to see is Apple kicking Intel to the kerb and using its own CPU design so that it doesn’t suffer intel’s incompetence any longer. Apple’s A series have supported LPDDR4 since the A8!

    I’d also like to see them add haptic feedback to the TouchBar to make it more naturally responsive.

    And maybe add Pencil support since the touchpad should be big enough to handle it spaciouly. 

    Overall, I love the new model, but I understand that others don’t. The only negative to me is the reduced battery size. But that’s the trade off that comes with reducing the size and weight, which I love since I carry it around a lot.

    Apple management have an equation they use, if 80% love a product, 10% neutral and the remaining 10% hate, then they’ll go with the 80. All their comments since the release of the new MBPs in 2016 indicates that’s the case. No matter how loud and noisy the hate may get. So there’s no turning back.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 17 of 162
    irelandireland Posts: 17,386member
    I don’t see the touch bar going away. 
    In fact. It’ll probably be expanded at some point to replace the physical keyboard. Apple sorta dips its toe in the water, gets feedback, then goes all in.  
    We’ll see about your latter point. Re it going away, you might be right. Apple is culturally a very stubborn company.
    Alex1Ncornchip
  • Reply 18 of 162
    henrybayhenrybay Posts: 39member
    More keyboard travel please! Shallow keys are terrible for long writing sessions. 
  • Reply 19 of 162
    Not out with the touch bar! ...quite contrary: in with it into external keyboards. ;)

    I agree with the rest of the wish list. 
    calebbenbekke
  • Reply 20 of 162
    I always hear people talking about "travel" on the keys, but never any specifics on what the "travel" difference actually is in terms of a measurement. I truly doubt the actual amount of "travel" difference between the 2015 and 2016/17 designs amounts to much of anything. I think it's really the reduction of the key wobbling that makes people think there's a difference, but that isn't really "travel" at all. 

    I also think it's kind of funny that rumor sites that constantly complain about Apple needing more "pro" hardware or accessories wouldn't like the Touch Bar. Use of keyboard and F keys for shortcuts is typically considered a very "pro" type of use, and the Touch Bar just gives the user a lot more possibilities in that area.
    edited May 12 Alex1Ncornchip
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