There's no perfect MacBook anymore—and Apple doesn't care

Every single MacBook today has at least one major flaw. Why?

The 2016 MacBook Pro is a fine laptop, but it's no longer the best-in-class. Credit: / Brendan Nystedt

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Over the past few years, it's become increasingly obvious that Apple's future is all about the iPhone. But while the iPhone has been ruling the smartphone market, Apple's MacBooks have lost their luster.

While mobile computing is the future, many users and Apple fans depend on Macs to get their work done every day. But despite loud, repeated, and clear complaints from the Mac userbase, Apple has spent the last two years reinventing the wheel instead of listening to its customers.

That's a shame, especially considering that just a few years ago the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro were a 1-2 punch that forced every other laptop maker to significantly up their game. Though Apple's prices keep it from dominating laptops the way it dominates smartphones, the Air in particular was just about the perfect laptop for most people, with a design that left little room for improvement.

The problem is that Apple's last meaningful update to the Air was back in 2015, the 12-inch MacBook is a niche product dressed up as a mass market flagship, and the new MacBook Pros have hardly been a home run among actual professionals.

MacBook Pro Keyboard
Credit: / Brendan Nystedt

The 2016 MacBook Pro isn't a bad laptop, but there are some startling execution issues that are unlike Apple.

Of course, there are plenty of people who will love these new MacBooks for what they are, but there are just as many people who dislike them for what they aren't: proper successors to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro that so many Apple customers fell in love with.

For me, the ideal is still the 2013 13-inch MacBook Air. It's the perfect combination of power, style, size, and battery life, with a fantastic trackpad and a keyboard that's as comfy as it gets. The screen was kind of crummy, but it was usable because the rest of the experience was so top notch.

Typing on a new MacBook and then moving to any of the older models is like thumbing through an old yearbook and wondering where things went wrong.

For years, anyone who asked me what laptop to get received the same response: If you wanted a Mac, just get the MacBook Air. Outside of a few specialty cases where the Pro (or something from Windows) was more appropriate, it was almost always the place to start.

In 2017? The current Air is far past its sell-by date. It still has that poor screen, the processors are all two generations behind, and the $999 starting MSRP is absurd when there are $500 Windows PCs that run circles around it. It's not just the Air, either—every MacBook model these days has at least one critical flaw, if not more.

Macbook 12-inch
Credit: / Brendan Nystedt

The 12-inch MacBook Pro didn't "replace" the MacBook Air, but it seems like Apple wanted it to.

The 12-inch MacBook is fine for users who care most about portability, but only if you don't mind the sluggish processor and keyboard that feels like tapping on a solid block of wood. The new MacBook Pros are neat, but they're all significantly overpriced, have a keyboard that is only slightly better than the MacBook, and are missing major ports requiring you to live the Dongle Life.

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What makes the change so jarring is that you can still walk into an Apple store and mess around with the entire lineup of MacBooks, including the older models before the designs changed. Typing on a new MacBook and then moving to any of the older models is like thumbing through an old yearbook and wondering where things went wrong.

And while the Windows ecosystem is as fragmented as ever, there are at least several models—the HP Spectre x360 and the Dell XPS 13 jump to mind—that I can confidently recommend to most people without going over all the things they'll have to deal with. That those models are also significantly cheaper than comparable MacBooks is just gravy when the only real downside is they don't run macOS.

I would gladly pay more money to get versions that did. Unfortunately, the only company that can deliver on that seems to have lost interest.

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