A few thoughts about the 2018 mid-range MacBook Pro 15″

Good grief, the SSD on this thing is fast.  Thanks to the T2 co-processor which offloads encryption and disk controller functions from the main CPU (amongst many other things), the SSD performance is the fastest I’ve ever encountered.  2.5G/bits write and close to 3G/bits read.

The keyboard feels a little spongier thanks to the debris-blocking membrane, but it’s still a good keyboard to work on.  Still won’t be everybody’s cup of tea.  Neither will the touch bar which remains only partially useful to me.  Partially because I keep the lid of the machine closed when it’s hooked up to the monitor and use an external keyboard and mouse.

CPU, cooling and throttling performance.  About as I would expect having used previous incarnations of the 2017, 2016 and older MacBook Pros.  Having 6 cores greatly improves everyday tasks.  Importing and sorting all my photos and videos (~11,000)  back into Apple’s Photos app was made faster by having that extra CPU power.  That plus the speed of the SSD.  When playing back video via YouTube, backing up to Backblaze and doing a Time Machine backup did cause the fans to spin up – but the noise wasn’t bothersome and kept the unit pretty cool around 69 degrees C.  I haven’t really pushed CPU-bound tasks yet.  Neither have I really bothered to check CPU frequencies.  But everything seems to be in order.

Additionally, wireless seems to be a lot more stable than the Alienware machine, despite having the latest and greatest Killer chipset.  Apple has apparently done very well with the placement and number of antennas in the Mac.  So there’s another positive right there.

Epic Megagames’ Fortnite, however, is a miserable failure on these 2018 MacBook Pros.  The AMD dedicated graphics card isn’t really meant for gaming.  But even so, I’d have expected average or better than average performance from the world’s most popular game.  For £600 more, one could purchase the Blackmagic Radeon Pro 580 with 8Gb graphics external GPU, but this is a bloody stupid idea for anybody wanting to play games.  I’ll stick with the Xbox One X, thanks.

iTunes is now a delight to use now that I’m back on MacOS.  It’s responsive, fast and does what it says on the tin.  Having access to the underlying BSD infrastructure is a great help with work – and it didn’t take me long to set-up everything that I need to work from home.

I do wish the MacBook Pro came with a couple more Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports either side to accommodate the many dongles that you may need to attach to the machine, but otherwise, connectivity is generally very good.  Here’s hoping the 2018 iPhone Whatever comes with a USB-C connector, or at the very least, USB-C cable rather than (or in addition to) a USB-A to Lightning cable.  Apple needs to make a bigger commitment to USB-C connectors.

The 2018 MacBook Pro mid-range 15″ model is a beast that is definitely going to last a good few years (we’re not going to see 10nm chips until late 2019 and Apple are unlikely to get those into production until mid-2020 at a minimum), but upgradability is limited through the USB-C connectors and any repairs will need an Apple specialist (I remember the good old days of the plastic MacBooks which allowed you to swap hard drives and memory – and even the battery – alas, those days are long gone).

Back to Apple’s luxury (throttled) prison

Nobody is going to be surprised by this blog post.

Windows is okay, but it’s no MacOS.  And as much as I enjoy playing Fortnite on the glorious Nvidia GeForce 1080 Ti, I much prefer to listen to my Apple Music, watch YouTube videos, trying to write madcap screenplays about ridiculous things, do things for work involving writing Bash and Perl scripts, testing images before they’re deployed to a variety of cloud environments, and generally doing .. well .. general things.  I really, really do not play games often enough to make the justification of such a high-end graphics card worthwhile.  I am bemused, even, as Nvidia’s game companion kicks in whenever I launch the Twitter app for Windows.

Then I miss having a decent text editor such as BBEdit for Mac.  Or Highland  2 (screenplay software, but can also be used to write any other kind of document in Fountain/markdown formatting) for Mac.  And although as much as I love the Linux subsystem of Windows – it isn’t perfect.  and as the number of Macs at work increase, I find as I spend my whole time around Windows that I begin to forget things Mac related.

But most of all I miss Apple’s Photos app and – yes, a big shock here, iCloud Photo Library.  It kept things organised and I could easily backup photos locally through Time Machine, Backblaze or manually copying the photos document bundle somewhere.

So, in short – the workflow was significantly better with MacOS.

So, having paid off the desktop PC I’m going back to the Mac.  The 2018 MacBook Pro, in fact.  But not the Core i9 model.  I don’t see much point of sticking in an overclockable processor in a chassis that has never been built to cool the processor down like you can a desktop PC.  So I’m sticking with the mid-range 15″ model with 1Tb SSD and 16Gb RAM.  This has to last me at least 3-4 years.  Having sold my previous 15″ MacBook Pro model last year to make up for lost wages as part of moving to a new job (remember folks: holiday entitlement costs you if you use it all up before moving to a new job!), it’s going to be nice to get better performance from the 13″ MacBook Pro I had earlier this year.

So I’m going to be selling my Alienware machine to part fund the cost of the MacBook Pro.  I’m looking for around £1,650 and that includes a three-year on-site warranty.  If anybody is interested, please drop me an email.

Will I be moving back to the iPhone?  Probably.  In September my annual upgrade kicks in.  I’m going to probably move back to the original iPhone X to reduce costs while the new iPhones are released.  Then, next year, I can move up to the latest and greatest.  Here’s the thing with Apple – the latest and greatest usually means that you’ll have to wait a good couple of iterations until the software you’re using on the fancy new gadget is fully optimised.  So I’m not as eager to rush out to get the newest Apple doodad anymore.  Besides, the iPhone X wasn’t a bad phone at all, but if only Apple could put better cameras in their phones!  Google’s computational photography truly is wonderful.  I am rather enjoying Android right now, but after the EU’s ruling against Google with regards to bundling their own software with the OS (which is what the EU caught Microsoft doing – yet they’ve yet to go after Apple), things could change for the worse within the Android community.  Having an iPhone with a Mac also makes sense.  So we’ll see.