Posted on Wed 17 February 2021

Apple M1 MBP micro-review

My work-issued MacBook Pro (Retina, late 2013) began to break down: the speakers fried, it was running out of memory (8GB), and then it started rebooting spontaneously. I mentioned this and work bought a replacement. Since I’m capable of working around exciting new bugs, they sent me the newest M1 MacBookPro, with an Apple-designed and -produced M1 8 core CPU.

Herewith, a micro-review.

Physically: it is slightly smaller than the 2013 MBP. The screen bevels are a tiny bit shorter on all sides. The hinge has been moved further back, and the trackpad is annoyingly larger. It now has more physical movement, which I consider a bit of a minus. The ESC key is where it should be, but the rest of the function key row has been replaced by the touchbar, which is, as far as I can tell, 100% gimcrackery. Mostly it shows spelling suggestions and helpfully informs you when it thinks you are typing into a password box.

Total ports: 2 USB-C / thunderbolt! ports on the left, one of which has to be used for power. One headphone/mic combo jack on the right. That’s it. No more SD card, USB-A ports, HDMI, or nice row of LEDs to let you know the battery charging status.

Operationally (after about an hour and a half?): this does not feel significantly different from the 4-core i5 in the old machine. The extra RAM is good. The camera is doing a little better job with brightness levels. The speakers work.

It really doesn’t feel faster, and I have the seven-year-old one right next to it.

The new processor is supposed to be roughly on par with my house server’s Ryzen 3600. It doesn’t feel like it.

But let’s face it: I don’t stretch these machines. They run web browsers, terminals, WireGuard, and LibreOffice.

If the old one could get a RAM upgrade and the speakers fixed, that would have been just fine.

Annoyances: the wasteful touchbar thing. The excessively large touchpad, which I keep brushing by accident while typing. The lack of useful ports.


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