Why this author downgraded his 2017 MacBook Pro to a 2015 MacBook Pro

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For the past 11 months I’ve been using a 13″ 2017 MacBook Pro after my old 2014 MacBook Pro was dropped going through airport security by an agent who picked up my bag without realizing the bag wasn’t zipped. The 13” was a workhouse that did well for me, and I’ve been using the model since it was a 12” form factor.

But I’ve not really been enjoying the 2017 MacBook Pro. Two things happened that were noticeable. One, the new butterfly keyboard by Apple was a huge adjustment. This is to make the laptop thinner. The butterfly keys don’t have much of a ’strike’ and are hard to get used to. It feels like the keys are moved closer together as well to create the smaller laptop. Then, the new USB ports left me scrambling to try and get all my stuff connected to the laptop. Within a week of getting the new MacBook one of the USB-C ports died. But I was trying to get work done and didn’t have time to turn it in to get it fixed. I managed to find a hub and dealt with it.

Now, Apple has done things before that were slightly ahead of the time and left me scrambling for a few months to adjust, and then a year later seemed no problem. I wrote my dissatisfaction off to this. But after 11 months I’ve constantly felt cramped and unhappy with the keyboard and then the keys on the right hand side started not working. Which makes it useless as a laptop. And I couldn’t get under the keys to clean or check why with the new design.

So I took the laptop to the Apple Store and turned it in to get fixed, and I used some of my business credit to set up a payment plan and buy a 2015 15” MacBook Pro. Apple still has older MacBook Pros in stock, advertised as ’MacBook Pro Silver’ for a discount. My thinking was: go back to the old keyboard tray and see how it felt while the 13” was in the shop.

I am, after all, a writer. And it seems like a ridiculous thing, but how well keys work with my fingers every day matters. A lot.

And the older 2015 Mac felt like I’d gotten an upgrade. For the first time since I jumped into using Apples in 2000, after 15 years of using MacBook Pros, it was an upgrade to jump back a unit for me. Here are the four quick reasons why:

1) The Keyboard!

Without a doubt, within just an hour, it was clear I couldn’t go back to the butterfly keyboard of the new MacBook Pros and the MacBooks. Getting the old keys back felt buttery, they were more clearly spaced apart. My fingers knew where they were and they could hit a rhythm easier. A week later, you’ll get my older model MacBook Pro when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

This is such a big deal. I had been testing out a friend’s Lenovo Thinkpad not too long ago, because the keyboard was so nice it was the first time I looked at my own laptop and felt I was compromising. But back on the older Pro, I was happy and back to my fingers feeling happy.

To be honest, I suspect half the reason I learned a way of typing to keep my fingers on the home row more often, detailed here, was due to my hating the keyboard of the 2017 MacBook Pro.

2) USB-C

While I know that USB-C is the future, the new MacBook Pro dropped having even one old USB port. Which meant that my iPhone needed a hub to connect to charge while on the road, as did my watch, as did my external battery that rides in my backpack.

Moving back down to a 15” meant that I could toss out a portable hub, a convertor, and two extra cables that I had acquired to deal with most of my travel stuff using regular USB and the new Pro not having any. This isn’t life changing, but downgrading the laptop made life and cable management simpler. You shouldn’t feel like a downgrade was an upgrade, but it does.

3) Magsafe connector!

The new MacBook Pro gets rid of the Magsafe connector, that pulls off easily if you trip on it. How cool to get that back! Again, if felt like an upgrade. The USB-C cord could come out easily, but some experimenting showed me that at a hard angle, it dragged the laptop with it. And by experimenting I mean ‘Oh shit, I just hit the cord and the laptop leaped across the coffee table and I grabbed it just in time.’

Getting Magsafe back is peace of mind.

4) Loss of windup cord

Okay, this is small, but it’s yet another ‘oh, I love that this is back,’ but the old wall brick power plug for the 2015 MacBook Pro has little pop up hinges that let you wind the power cord around it and store it neatly in a bag. The new one? It was a USB-C wall plug and a USB-C cord. No pop up hinge, so you had two separate items.

And if you accidentally mixed the cord up with some other cords in your bag and left them?

Yeah.

Oh, and the 5th cool point is that I can now use a HengeDock to dock the MacBook Pro easily when I get to the office, and grab it and go when I am leaving. Just another small thing that greases the workflow.

So the 15” 2015 MacBook Pro is huge compared to the 13” 2017. Much more laptop than I usually prefer, but I have decided that it’s worth it for the keyboard. The extra pound is not as exciting, and the 15” will be harder to use on an airplane, certainly. However, the extra screen space is nice, particularly for when I’m away for more than a day or so on a trip and need to get lots of work done.

It’s pricey for me, but I will put my head down and make it work. Because, as a friend of mine pointed out, this is how I make a living and it’s okay to invest in tools that actually work and don’t get in my way. And the new butterfly keyboard gets in the way.

Hackernoon has a great post about the frustrations and unreliability of the new MacBook Pro design that echoes some of my frustrations.

Charg.d blog has a review of the SurfaceBook 2 that I think is dead on and I can’t argue too much with. I’ve played with it and it’s an amazing piece of hardware. I’m still deep in OS-X, but I think this 15” MacBook Pro will hopefully last 3-4 years, as it’s a pretty powerful beast, before I have to make a difficult decision. The nature of the keyboard on Apple’s professional equipment will go a long way to how I make my decision then.