We used to be so happy.
It all started with an escape from an abusive operating system around eight years ago. The little iBook I bought was the first computer I’d ever really loved since my ZX Spectrum many years before. The combination of the 12” screen, sleek design and hard wearing nature, married to OSX which was a dream to use, amounted to everything I needed for my literary ambitions. A few years later I moved on to a new MacBook, which never quite won the same level of affection in my heart, but served me proudly for many miles. Now I stand at the crossroads. I need a new machine, as the Windows one I had to buy – while serviceable – has me shouting at it again in frustration more often than I’d like. A Mac is the obvious choice, but at the moment the choices on offer are a little baffling.
But wait, I hear the voices of a thousand Mac blogs cry, Apple’s range is the best it’s ever been! Well, no, I think I need to disagree, and here’s why.
I don’t think I’m unusual in wanting a decent amount of bang for my buck when it comes to technology. I’m perfectly happy to accept that quality costs, and it should, but I don’t want to pay extra for something I won’t use. Futureproofing is often something of a fallacy in computing terms, as we don’t tend to hold onto our devices for nearly as long as we used to – probably due to the fact that many are now pretty much impossible to repair or upgrade ourselves. So looking for value can be a Sisyphean task.
Here’s what I want – a lightweight, small size, laptop with a good screen, solid keyboard, responsive trackpad, long battery life, and a decent but not crazy amount of power. Oh yes, and a few USB ports wouldn’t go a miss….plus an SD card reader would be cool, but not essential. There, no unicorns or time machines, just pretty standard stuff. Yet, at the moment, I can’t actually get this in Apple form.
For months leading up to the recent Spring Forward Apple event in March, there were rumours of an expected MacBook Air with retina display. This would have been the absolute sweet spot for my needs. An 11” (or even 12”) retina screen would fix the one thing that makes buying a current MacBook Air not that enticing a prospect. I love the little form factor, and its weight makes it easy to throw the device in your backpack and head off into the world without the worry of a shoulder ache a few hours later. Admittedly the small screen gets a little cramped, but I’m not planning on editing any videos on the machine, so I’m sure it would be fine – plus the retina display would make things pin-sharp, mystically creating a sense of space in that small glowing rectangle.
So here I am, money in hand, waiting for the announcement so I can once again shed the shackles of Microsoft and return to the unibody embrace of the mighty fruit. Then it announces the MacBook.
Yes, it’s light – very light. Yes it has a retina screen. The price…well, that’s a bit high, but I can see how the engineering has pushed that up. The power…wait, a Core M CPU? That’s, well, not powerful…at all…but maybe Apple has tweaked it to boost the performance? There’s a new keyboard design? Ok, but it looks very, very shallow. The Trackpad is a new design too? Oh, and there are no ports except for one USB 3.1 type C – which is also where you plug it in to charge.
What just happened?
Surely this is a new class of machine, the ultra ultra portable, and now Tim Cook will announce the Air Retina? Yes?
Instead there were minor spec bumps for the Air, and the same crappy screens remain. But, but, I have the money…I just want the machine to buy….I can’t go anywhere else…why are you doing this to me?!?!
It brought back memories of the time I had saved up for a new iMac, and eagerly awaited the announcement, only to be presented with the thin new design that could only be upgraded at the point of purchase, thus adding a far slab of cash on top of the price, taking it out of my grasp. In the end I bought a Mac Mini, which has been fine, but the sting is still there.
Now it’s happening again.
Yes I could move up the chain and buy a MacBook Pro, but that’s more than I need (I’m never going to use those Thunderbolt ports), and the weight is a fair bit more than the 11” Air. All I wanted was a retina screen in the little Air…hell, a HD screen and IPS panel would have done the trick. Why can’t that be done, especially when sub £300 Chromebooks can manage it?
Yes the new design is pretty, and it comes in black, which is awesome, but I like the existing keyboard and trackpad just fine. All it needed was the screen.
Life with Apple used to be so simple. Each machine was great, and you could upgrade it yourself to save a few pounds and extend the working life. Now, well, it’s getting where I’m screaming at the Apple web-store in frustration, rather than my Windows machine. I guess I’ll just have to wait a couple of generations and then get ready to buy the matured MacBook, but of course Apple will be waiting, hands clasped firmly on that rug, ready to pull it hard once more.