MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)

When I got my Surface Book a couple of years ago, I described my perfect laptop as this:

  • 13 inch screen
  • Powerful processor
  • Ample RAM and storage space, preferably with fast storage
  • Actual ports (maybe with a docking` option)
  • Clamshell form factor
  • First-class hardware design with premium materials (no cheap plastic)
  • Good support

In theory, the Surface Book met all of these requirements. In practice, it had some issues but was a solid laptop.

But I’ve missed having a Mac. And the new 13-inch MacBook Pro checks all of my boxes.

Great Things

The model I bought was (nearly) fully loaded: quad-core i7, 32 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB SSD. It has plenty of power and tons of memory and storage. I’m going to spend most of my day in a Parallels VM running Windows. Based on the first few days, it’ll run Windows just as well as my Surface Book.

The build quality of the laptop is top-notch, as expected from Apple. The Surface Book had some build issues, where edges didn’t quite line up and lines were ever-so-slightly off. The MacBook, on the other hand, is basically flawless. I can’t find and edge or a seam that is off in any way. It just feels incredibly solid and well made.

And the cooling. There are actually fans! They’re not too loud and they move a good amount of air. The vents and exhausts are actually bigger than my old 15-inch MacBook Pro. I do miss the fact that the base of the Surface Book never got hot while it was on my lap, but I do feel like the CPU in the MacBook should stay generally cooler.

The size is also excellent. It’s small and portable, but still packs a good-sized screen. And the trackpad is absolutely massive. The fact that it doesn’t exactly “click” is fine by me, since the haptic effect is convincing enough. And the size makes up for any weirdness with the click since there’s just so much room.

Not Great Things

As I said before, I don’t love the touchbar. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. I really love the idea of a button (or buttons) that can change as the context requires. But the touchbar is a screen and not a button, which means you have to actually look at it before hitting something. Muscle memory is not enough because there’s a good chance that what you want to do has moved or is just not there. There are cool uses for the touchbar, but I don’t think any of them actually justify its existence over a normal row of function keys.

Also I miss ports. Specifically, I miss magnetic ports. I loved MagSafe and I loved Surface Connect. USB-C is fine, but it’s just not as nice as snapping something to the side of the machine.

The Perfect Laptop?

No, but this is damn close. I can fully recommend Macs again now that the keyboards have been improved, and this size and design is really excellent. But the touchbar is what makes it just miss the mark. Slap a normal row of function keys on this, keep the rest, maybe add some more varied ports, and it would be perfect.