2016 is over halfway through and the Macintosh line of computers has been all but abandoned by Apple it seems. The Macbook Pro last saw an update in May of 2015, which is eons ago in the tech world. Despite the current 16 month wait now for an update, there seems to be nothing imminent on the Mac rumors websites. Apple seems to be all in on the iPad Pro and Emoji’s this year, leaving the company too stretched to do anything at all with their computer line.
The MacRumors Mac Buyer's Guide as of August 7th, 2016
Old and Outdated Hardware is the Common Theme
It would be too lengthy of an article to go through every product line to explain why it is outdated, so I will focus on the Macbook Pro. The Macbook Pro, the signature Apple notebook experience, does not feature that latest and greatest hardware in nearly any way. Apple’s failure to update to Intel Skylake’s architecture means slower compute power, slower graphics, worse battery life, and no Thunderbolt 3.
CPU: The MBP’s CPU is based on the Broadwell architecture, which was replaced by Skylake back in late 2015 and Intel’s “Kaby Lake” architecture is due out this fall. In a few months Broadwell will be 2 generations behind.
Graphics: The MBP’s graphics chip (Intel Iris 6100) has been replaced has the Iris 540 in the Skylake generation (With options for even faster integrated graphics such as the Iris 550 and 580). The Iris 540 is approximately 15% faster then the HD 6100. Graphics speed is something that the Retina screens desperately need.
RAM: Intel Skylake platform also brings DDR4 RAM, which has substantially higher speeds than DDR3. RAM speed is particularly important when using integrated graphics (which the Macbook Pro uses in nearly all configerations)
Thunderbolt 3/USB C: Thunderbolt 3 has been a thing in PC notebooks for months now (Dell XPS series, Razer Blade Stealth). Thunderbolt 3 has double the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 2 (40 Gbps vs 20 Gbps), which allows for high-bandwidth peripherals such as external graphics adapters.
Body/Design: The Retina Macbook Pro was released in 2012 and since then has not received any body/design updates. I don't think that the machine looks bad or dated by any means but 4 years on the same platform is a little too long and Apple could incorporate at least some minor design updates to improve the machine such as: smaller screen margins, thinner, bigger battery, re-designed cooling system, slot for M.2 drive, etc.
A simple socket update to Skylake would not have been a challenging proposition. All of the major PC OEM’s such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo have been shipping Skylake since as early as Fall 2015. Apple saw fit to update the new single-port Macbook to Skylake, but didn’t want to spend the time to upgrade the Pro/Air. Apple is the only major PC manufaturer to not update their product line to Skylake.
Last Updated 1.5 Years Ago...
The entire Mac lineup (with the exception of the Macbook) has a "Don't Buy" rating from MacRumors meaning that updates are supposed to be imminent. Here is when the Mac linup was last updated:
- Macbook: 111 days (relatively recently - the only Mac with this status)
- iMac: 300 days
- Macbook Pro: 447 days (this marks the longest update gap in recent history for the Macbook Pro. The previous longest gap was 294 days)
- Macbook Air: 518 days (also the longest gap in recent history for the Macbook Air. The previous longest gap was 350 days since the Macbook Air was re-designed in 2010)
- Mac Mini: 662 days (Surprisingly, this isn't the longest gap - which was 723 days. The Mac Mini has often been a disowned device by Apple)
- Mac Pro: 963 days (December 2013 was the last update. Creative professionals who are willing to drop $5000+ on a desktop are thrilled to be purchasing 3 year old hardware I'm sure)
The iPad Pro is Receiving the Marketing Push from Apple
The iPad Pro is the product that is receiving the most marketing push from Apple when it comes to the professional space. Take a look at Apple’s recent video ad for the iPad Pro:
One has to wonder if Apple is intentionally holding off on updating it’s Mac product line so as to give the iPad Pro more time in the limelight. The iPad Pro is great for content consumption and very basic content creation. Anything beyond that requires a real computer.
Apple’s Approach to the Mac Makes it Seem Like They Lack the Resources
One of the most prominent excuses that I hear for Apple not upgrading the Mac product line is that the iPhone makes them so much more money. It is a true statement that the iPhone trumps the Mac in terms of total sales (the iPhone represented 65% of Apple’s revenue versus 10.1% for the Mac in Q2 2016. Source) but the Mac is still making Apple billions of dollars each year (and billions more then the iPad makes them, which represents 8.5% of their revenue). The problem with this argument is that it makes the assumption that Apple does not have the resources to target multiple platforms simultaneously.
Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world with vast resources for any number of projects. Apple’s revenue dwarfs other technology companies such as Dell, Lenovo, Google, and HP and yet it seems like those are the companies that are coming out with interesting new designs and innovation every year. What has Apple done to excite in the technology market in 2016? Some new Emoji's for iOS?
Instead of innovation we see many of their product lines stagnating while they push product updates towards the lines that they think we should care the most about. The new one-port Macbook received an architecture update to Skylake this spring . Also in the spring we saw the release of the 9.7” iPad Pro. This fall we will surely see the release of the iPhone 7. The Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, iMac, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro are all sitting on out dated hardware in at least one way. Apple it is time to care about those who use Macs for productivity.
Tim, in the extremely slim chance that you see this, please speed up the Macbook Pro update. I need a new work laptop, and the Dell XPS 13 is looking mighty tempting in the meantime.