2015 15″ Retina MacBook Pro

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Work supplied me with a 2015 Retina MacBook Pro as of late 2016. This is an interesting machine, and is unlike any of the Macs that I have purchased for myself “recently”. I’ve tended to avoid the 15″ models because of the additional girth and price.

I’ve been using the machine for about a year now. It’s a fast, great looking, solid laptop, and the build-quality is great, but for the money, I feel that it is a terrible value. Moreover, the lack of ports (that have since been reduced again in the 2016 and later models) is annoying. Apple is clearly sacrificing user convenience for aesthetics and “elegance” that is overdone, leaving most “professional” users like myself having to attach over-priced dongle after dongle for no real benefit to us.

My last 15″ MacBook Pro was a 2008 model. It was a bit thicker and certainly wasn’t as fast with it’s Core 2 Duo CPUs, but that machine lasted me for almost 8 years. It managed to include a slot-loading DVD, a full Ethernet port, a discrete GPU, Firewire, and two USB ports. At the time, I purchased it for under $1000 and the retail price was around $2500. By comparison, the newer laptop has two USB ports, an HDMI port, a Thunderbolt port, power, no optical drive, or, critically for me, Ethernet. This is the biggest of Apple’s laptops and it doesn’t include the one port that any network or systems person would want. I get this in the MacBook Air, but it is a major omission for this larger machine.

The keyboard on the 2015 MacBook Pro is fine. It’s essentially the same keyboard that they’ve been using since the Unibody design introduced in about 2010. I still don’t love it, but it is entirely adequate. I much preferred the 2008 silver keyboard. It was one of my favourite. However, from what little I’ve read of the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro keyboards, the 2015 is much better to work on for any length of time. I consider it the last of the decent Mac keyboards.

The speakers are great. The Trackpad is great. The screen is stunningly fantastic and is the best feature of the machine.

Performance-wise, it is a very fast machine. My system has 16GB of RAM, a quad-core i7, and 256GB of disk that isn’t easily upgradeable. The machine flies and easily handles multiple VMs. macOS works brilliantly on it, of course, and the machine is absolutely my fastest Mac. The other Macs I use routinely are a 2011 11″ MacBook Air that I love but is starting to show it’s age, and a 2010 27″ iMac at home that, as far as I am concerned, is the best Mac desktop they’ve produced to date.

However, one area that isn’t great performance-wise is the GPU. This Mac features Intel Integrated graphics. It’s fine for my needs at work but forget about doing anything graphics-intensive with it. Without a dedicated GPU, games are out for sure. This is fine in a $1000 MacBook Air, and even in the 13″ MacBook Pro, which approaches the portability of the Air. But for north of $2000, I expect better. The current equivalent to this model, again with Intel graphics, is $2449. Apple now charges $3199 for a model with a dedicated GPU. Two years later, my exact model is available through the Refurbished section of the Apple store for $2079 (15% off!!)

In my opinion, these prices are ludicrous.

I like macOS, I like Apple hardware, but I have had a very hard time recommending Mac laptops to most people for some time. Unless you are wedded to Apple hardware and macOS, you can do much better for the money. Equivalent models from Lenovo or Dell will run you about half the price, will often have a better (touch) screen and keyboard, and will provide more ports, have a dedicated GPU, and will generally be faster.

It is clear to me that, while Apple is still clearly innovating with Mac hardware and macOS, they are taking the hardware and software in a direction that is in contrast to my needs or the needs of the people that I support. The 2015 MacBook Pro, while flawed, was the last MacBook Pro I would choose to own. It’s a decent machine that I will use for years, but unless something changes in the lineup, I wonder if it will be the last Mac laptop I own. And even still, I don’t think it’s a great machine.

I needed a current Mac, both for my own use and education, and to support the people I work with. This machine easily satisfies these requirements and I do appreciate the system. However, I am not a big fan of this machine and have no interest in the newer models. I would not have purchased it personally, and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.

GoSaBe Blog - Sep 15, 2017 | Hardware, macOS