The Mac Line is Still Kinda Broken

Today’s Apple event focused on the MacBook Pro. The company shipped three new models: a 13-inch with standard Function keys, a 13-inch with the new-fangled Touch Bar, and a 15-inch with the Touch Bar:

Late 2016 MacBook Pros

They are faster, thinner and lighter than before. The only I/O beyond a headphone jack is a set of Thunderbolt 3 ports. These ports also carry USB-C, USB 3, Thunderbolt 2, Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort and more. MagSafe, SD card slots, USB ports, HDMI and Thunderbolt 2 are gone.

Be prepared for dongles.

These new systems look great. I’m intrigued by the Touch Bar. It has the potential to deeply change how users interact with macOS, and it seems to be very well done.

Likewise, Thunderbolt 3 is the future. It is amazingly flexible, and I think the power it offers will be worth the temporary trouble.

(For what it’s worth, I ordered the $1499, no-touch 13-inch MacBook Pro. I recently picked up a refurbished 27-inch 5K iMac, and couldn’t justify spending more money on a notebook that won’t see every day use. Plus, having one machine with this and one without seemed like a real recipe for disaster.)

The notebook line is pretty confusing right now. There are several machines — ahem, MacBook Air — that seem to exist to hit a price point. I understand and respect that, but I am already dreading offering buying advice over the next year.

But there’s a bigger problem. Apple may have fixed what was wrong with its notebook line, but the Mac is still broken. Just look at the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide:


Desktop Macs didn’t get a single mention, or a silent hardware update after the announcements were done. While last-minute rumors claimed that the iMac wouldn’t be ready in time, it — and the Mac mini — would have been well-served with CPU bumps and Thunderbolt 3. The 27-inch iMac has become a workhorse for professionals like me, and in a world where the Mac Pro is in the shape its in, annual updates should be a must on Apple’s part.

The Mac mini is perhaps even sadder. The last time Apple updated it, the quad-core model went away, and the company made it impossible to upgrade things like RAM later. Seeing a Skylake Mac mini would sure make a lot of people feel better about the future of Apple’s smallest desktop.

Then there’s the Mac Pro. Not sure I need to say anything that this GIF can’t say for me:

Dumpster Fire

The Retina Cinema Display didn’t make an appearance either. Apple instead has teamed up with LG to create the 5K UltraFine Display:

Priced at $1,299.95, the 27-inch 5K LG UltraFine Display features a 5120 x 2880 resolution and P3 wide color gamut. It uses multi-stream transport so it’s powered by a single Thunderbolt 3 cable, which can also charge the MacBook Pro at the same time with up to 85W of power delivery.

Three downstream USB-C ports are built into the back of the display to power additional devices and accessories, and it includes built-in stereo speakers, a camera, and a microphone. The 5K display is only compatible with the new MacBook Pro, as it requires a Thunderbolt 3 connection.

That sure sounds like a Cinema Display to me. My guess is Apple is out of the display business.

This all has left me with very mixed feelings after today’s event. The new MacBook Pros look awesome, and even though I’m not jumping into Touch Bar heaven this time around, I expect the technology will do well. And I’d love to have the option to buy a first-party screen.

However, Apple left a lot of work undone. Most of the Mac line is in as big of a mess as it was yesterday. Desktop users really have only one decent choice — the iMac — and now it is behind the MacBook Pro.

Maybe Apple has decided that the desktop game isn’t worth large investments. That would make me — and a lot of other Mac users — pretty sad. Not everyone wants a MacBook Pro and an external display.