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10 ways Apple could improve the MacBook Pro

2019 January 19
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Apple’s MacBook Pro has been my personal computer of choice for almost a decade now, and while I’ve loved every upgrade along the way, I can’t help but feel like Apple could do better.

Given just how expensive a MacBook Pro becomes as you start pegging out the specs on Apple’s website, it seems like Apple could do more to help me justify the price point. With that in mind, I’ll discuss at least ten ways Apple could improve their flagship notebook in this piece.

1) More Connectivity & I/O

Starting in 2016, Apple ditched all standard I/O ports on the MacBook Pro in place of four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports and a single 3.5mm headphone jack. While I’ve had no complaints thus far because I do most of my work at my desk where my Thunderbolt 3 dock sits, I still wish there was a better solution for when I put on my traveling hat.

The MacBook Pro was originally designed to provide professional performance in a thin and portable package, and it certainly achieves what it strives to be. On the other hand, one must eventually stop and ask the question: how thin is too thin?

The MacBook Pro is so slim today that most standardized laptop I/O ports wouldn’t even fit on the chassis. USB-C has all but replaced USB-A on a variety of modern laptops, but competing platforms such as the Razer Blade Pro are almost just as thin and provide significantly more integrated I/O, including HDMI, mini DisplayPort, SD Card, and USB-A in addition to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C and a headphone jack.

For the most part, carrying a dongle around doesn’t bother me, but lugging a whole bag of them for the sole purpose of using my computer while traveling does. At the very least, I’d like to see a built-in HDMI port and an SD card slot such that I can connect to large monitors for business presentations and/or import my DSLR photos on the go.

2) Face ID Integration

The iPhone X revolutionized mobile biometric security by replacing the standard Touch ID fingerprint scanner with the TrueDepth facial recognition hardware required for Face ID. While some remain loyal to Touch ID, I think the MacBook Pro is the perfect type of device for Face ID integration, and it could benefit from an upgrade.

While I sometimes use my iPhone in awkward scenarios that would hinder Face ID, such as laying sideways in bed, that’s generally not the case with my MacBook Pro. More often than not, I’m sitting in front of it, either at a computer desk or with the machine on my lap. Apart from using my MacBook Pro in clamshell (closed display) mode, I can’t imagine a scenario where Face ID wouldn’t be beneficial.

Much like the 2018 iPad Pro, Apple’s MacBook Pro sports a large enough bezel around its display that it could house the TrueDepth camera system without an unsightly ‘notch‘ obstructing your view. That said, I think Face ID would make a fabulous addition to the MacBook Pro.

3) A Sturdier Keyboard

When Apple made the jump to its new butterfly keyboard mechanism in the MacBook Pro, you could almost hear a slapping sound as a considerable percentage of the global facepalmed in unison.

The 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros are notorious for keyboard problems. Dirt and debris can become lodged in the butterfly mechanism, preventing a key from depressing as it should. This actually happened to me in 2017, warranting an expensive full bottom case replacement on my MacBook Pro – I’ve used my MacBook Pro in clamshell mode ever since to avoid headaches like that in the future.

Apple modified the keyboard slightly in 2018 model with a translucent membrane, noting how it was intended to reduce keystroke noise. Off the record, it also supposedly reduces the chance of stuck keys akin to the situation I experienced not long ago. To me, this is a band-aid, and the MacBook Pro deserves a better and more robust keyboard.

Other manufacturers, such as Razer, are developing some of the world’s first ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboards for slim laptops. I’d expect a premium company like Apple to step up the plate and offer something similar, especially in a professional machine like the MacBook Pro that will likely see years’ worth of demanding use.

4) A Chillier Cooling System

The MacBook Pro, especially the higher end models, house a lot of power. Their hexacore Intel Core i7 and i9 CPUs and powerful discrete AMD Radeon Pro and Vega GPUs process a lot of data at a time, but a byproduct of such heavy computing is excess heat.

My 2017 MacBook Pro produces enough heat at full load as it is, and from what I’ve read, the fully-loaded 15-inch 2018 model gets even warmer thanks to its additional computing cores and faster graphics. In some cases, the temperatures become hot enough to invoke thermal throttling, a sure-fire sign that the current cooling system pushes these processors to their thermal limits.

The MacBook Pro is still a ‘laptop’ by nature, and Apple should know that these machines will be used on laps in addition to tabletops. With that in mind, Apple needs to up their cooling game. I don’t know anyone that likes having a hot frying pan on their lap, much less a computer that generates similar temperatures. After a while, the heat creates a burning sensation on the skin, making it uncomfortable to use on your lap.

I’d applaud the day that the MacBook Pro adopted a modern cooling system – perhaps with an improved thermal compound for the processor, a robust new vapor chamber design, and cooling fans with improved static pressure.

5) Touch Screen Integration

Not everyone’s going to be in agreeance with me here, but I think the MacBook Pro could benefit from a touch screen.

Many higher-end Windows laptops sport touch screens out of the box, and despite popular belief, it doesn’t add much bulk to the display panel. To top it all off, the Windows operating system plays very nicely with a touch-sensitive screen, and it seems to me like macOS would do the same with some minor optimizations.

But instead of providing MacBook Pro users with a full-fledged touch screen, Apple gave us the silly Touch Bar, an awkward touch-sensitive OLED panel on the keyboard half of your notebook that requires you to look away from your screen during operation.

Personally, I’d rather just touch my MacBook Pro’s display to perform actions than interface with the seemingly out-of-place Touch Bar near my machine’s keyboard, but that’s just my opinion on the matter.

6) A Better Front-Facing Camera

I’m at a loss for words regarding the front-facing FaceTime camera on the MacBook Pro. The 2018 model still sports an antiquated 720p FaceTime camera; comparatively, iPhones have come standard with 1080p front-facing cameras for several years now.

If Apple can pack a 1080p front-facing camera into something as tiny as an iPhone, then it seems evident that size constraints aren’t preventing Apple from putting a 1080p front-facing camera in something as substantial as the MacBook Pro. Instead, it appears to be an overlooked factor.

Given the circumstances, I’d like to see a higher-quality front-facing camera in the next MacBook Pro. This seems like a silly limitation that Apple could fix with a snap of their fingers.

7) Upgradeable Storage and Memory

One of the characteristics that I miss regarding my first MacBook Pro was the upgradeability factor. Upon opening the chassis, you could easily upgrade the hard drive to an aftermarket SSD, replace the RAM modules for more memory, and even swap out the CD/DVD drive for a secondary SSD with an adapter.

Apple’s latest MacBook Pros lack this aftermarket customizability, and Apple charges a premium for storage and memory upgrades from the factory. Comparable PCIe NVMe SSDs are plenty fast and cost a fraction of what Apple wants for similar soldered storage configurations. More importantly, PCIe NVMe SSDs are low-profile enough for Apple to uphold its ‘thinness’ obsession.

Through Apple’s current system, you either pay Apple tax on every upgrade from the factory or you forever hold your peace with inferior hardware configurations; but it shouldn’t be that way. Apple should allow the consumer to upgrade storage and memory with aftermarket options such that someone on a budget can still tailor their machine to fit their needs.

8) OLED Display Integration

Only a handful of laptops on the market have OLED displays, and sadly, Apple’s MacBook Pro isn’t one of them.

OLED displays are lovely, not just because of their color accuracy, but also because they pair nicely with Dark Mode-centric features like those found in macOS Mojave to corroborate notable power savings.

Despite the bad rap that OLED displays used to have for screen burn-in issues, this is mostly a non-issue today. Manufacturers have since developed viable methods for mitigating screen burn-in, and they’ve gotten so good at it that OLED panels are now found in smartphones and smart TV sets in addition to laptops.

I would love to see an OLED display in the MacBook Pro, and Apple would score bonus points with me if they integrated iPad Pro-like rounded corners into to accentuate the curves of the machine’s bezel.

9) Durability Enhancements

The MacBook Pro’s industrial aluminum unibody construction is perhaps one of the most elegant designs on the market today, but those good looks only last so long before everyday abuse presents itself as wear and tear later down the road.

Aluminum is both cost-efficient and lightweight, two characteristics that make it an ideal construction material for a premium computer brand like Apple. On the other hand, aluminum is also very malleable, so bumps and scratches tend to present themselves in the aluminum surface somewhat easily, scarring the machine for life.

I’d urge Apple to explore stronger aluminum alloys, or perhaps different metals altogether in the future. Titanium, for example, is both lightweight and robust, even if it is pricier. On the other hand, it will stand the test of time, taking everyday abuse without even blinking.

10) Better Graphics Support

Perhaps my biggest gripe with the MacBook Pro is its limited graphics support.

While many uncompromising manufacturers integrate NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 or 1080 Ti discrete graphics in their laptops, Apple has always opted for mid-grade graphics in its MacBook Pro. To make matters worse, the lower-end MacBook “Pro” configuration doesn’t have discrete graphics whatsoever; instead, it gimps along on Intel’s CPU-integrated graphics.

For a laptop at this price point, I’d like to see better discrete graphics built into the machine for on-the-go editing or gaming. Personally, I prefer NVIDIA graphics over the AMD variety; unfortunately, Apple hasn’t tapped into NVIDIA for many years now because of a quarrel between the companies.

Thunderbolt 3-based eGPU setups can help a little bit in this department, but they’re only relevant when you’re at your desk. Most aren’t going to lug a massive eGPU box around while traveling, and so better discrete graphics would offer the optimal solution for those seeking a graphical push while away from the desk.

While I don’t expect Apple to put something as beefy as the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti in the MacBook Pro anytime soon, it’d still be pleasant to see something at least as powerful as a 10-series graphics card instead of these silly Radeon Pro and low-end Vega offerings from AMD.

Conclusion

While there are some ways that I’d like to see the MacBook Pro improved in the future, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad machine. Its good looks and reliability have earned the MacBook Pro a place by my side as my daily driver for most computer-related tasks, and I’m sure many others feel the same way about their investment.

Also See: My favorite accessories for the MacBook Pro

Everyone has their own vision of what makes for a perfect computer, and with that in mind, I welcome you to share your thoughts and opinions about the MacBook Pro in the comments section below.

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