- Apple’s laptops that come with USB-C ports are bad.
- They have unreliable keyboards, they’re difficult and costly to repair, they only have USB-C ports, and high-end models don’t achieve their maximum potential.
- I’ve been using Windows laptops, and I’ve been loving them, although they’re not perfect either.
- But at least the Windows laptops I’ve used have been cheaper, and there’s a huge range of Windows laptops to pick from. There’s surely a perfect model out there for all of us.
- If Apple is going to charge a premium for their laptops, they should be better than they are now.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Recently, Apple blogger John Gruber blamed departing Apple designer Jony Ive for the keyboard issues on recent MacBook Pro, saying it was Ive’s obsession with making thin devices that led to a poorly designed keyboard.
In his post, Gruber also said “today’s MacBooks are worse computers but more beautiful devices,” and I couldn’t agree more — my 2016 MacBook Pro is better to look than it is to use.
It’s all well and good that Apple’s laptops are powerful, beautifully designed, and that macOS is a great operating system. But there are four things that put Mac laptops towards the bottom of my wish list. Three of those things can actually be attributed to the thin design of Apple’s recent Mac laptops.
Recent Mac laptops, starting with the MacBook in 2015, the MacBook Pro in 2016, and the new MacBook Air in 2018 are the worst laptops Apple has ever made. Here’s why:
1. The “butterfly” keyboards and faulty keys.
When I experienced issues with a phantom “G” key on the butterfly keyboard on my 2016 MacBook Pro, it deeply affected my workflow. I became so frustrated that I wrote an article without correcting typos from my phantom “G” key. Here’s an excerpt from my article with the affected words in bold:
But back in late 2017, I started ettin similar keyboard issues to those that others were reportin, including my colleaue Kif Leswin. My “” key became unresponsive. I even went to CES with the defective keyboard, which proved to be difficult. Imaine tryin to type “oole”with a defective “” key as a tech reporter.
To be fair, not every Mac owner with a butterfly keyboard has experienced issues. My colleague Ben Gilbert, who bought a 2018 MacBook Air when it was released in November, said he hasn’t experienced any issues with his butterfly keyboard.
The company has set up a repair program specifically for faulty keyboards repairs. Funnily enough, even the latest 2019 laptops Apple released were prematurely included in the program before anyone had enough time to discover their keyboards were faulty.
But even then, even without keyboard issues, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Apple’s recent thin laptops are more beautiful and better than any previous model.
2. Repair costs can be astronomical for the tiniest problem.
In Apple’s apparent quest to make thin gadgets, it also made repairs a lot more difficult and costly.
Sometimes, the tiniest problem, like replacing a single inexpensive part, actually means replacing a huge part of the laptop. There are two big examples of this.
One of the examples brings me back to the keyboard. If a single faulty key can’t be fixed with compressed air or other methods, the entire “top case” of the laptop needs to be replaced. The top case is the whole surface where the keyboard lies, and Mac laptop batteries also happen to be attached to the top case. Think about it: a single faulty key — a sliver of sub-$1 plastic — means replacing the entire keyboard surface and the battery.
Then there’s “flexgate,” where vertical plumes of light and darkness start to show up around the bottom of a Mac laptop’s display. The “compact design for the display’s flex cables is prone to fatigue and failure, leading to a host of display problems that can’t be easily (or cheaply) fixed,” gadget repair site iFixit said in a post.
IFixit tells it as well as I ever could:
“Apple designed the cables as part of the display, so they cannot be replaced. This means that when (not if) those cables start to fail, the entire display unit needs to be replaced, as opposed to one or two little cables — effectively turning a $6 problem into a $600 disaster.”
3. They only have USB-C.
Triple dongle! (This is real life if you want to charge your MacBook and iPhone and use headphones) pic.twitter.com/sbHGNN9zRR
USB-C is great, no doubt about it. Faster transfer speeds, more power, more devices — the promise is real. The vision here is that you can have a USB-C dock on your desk that lets you plug in your monitor and various other regular USB accessories, and even power, all into one USB-C port on Apple’s latest Mac laptops.
But I’m going to assume that not everyone is using their laptops at a desk at all times. There have been countless times when I need to plug in a regular non-C USB — also known as USB-A — device into a Mac laptop when I’m out and about, and the option just isn’t there.
The problem here is that there’s no regular USB-A port for your regular USB-A devices. And I don’t think I’m making things up when I say USB-A devices are still very much relevant. In fact, Apple’s own iPhones still comes with a USB-A Lightning cable. Just think about this: you can’t plug in an iPhone XS directly to a USB-C Mac laptop. I need an adapter, which Apple sells for a petty $19, and I have to remember to bring that adapter with me, and I have to not lose that adapter for fear of paying Apple another $19.
It’s like paying Apple for taking away connectivity, versatility, and functionality. It’s financially rewarding the company for doing a bad thing by removing the USB-A port altogether. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you ever had to pay to plug in a regular USB-A device into an Mac before 2016.
4. For the most powerful models, the design is too thin to cool them properly, and owners don’t get the most out of their laptop.
Back when Apple introduced a MacBook Pro that ran on Intel’s powerful Core i9 chips in 2018, it was discovered that the laptop didn’t have the proper cooling systems to keep the chip cool during workloads.
For reference, for chips to work at their utmost potential, they need to be well cooled.
YouTuber Dave Lee put his Core i9 MacBook Pro in a freezer to keep the chip cool enough to work at its full potential.
Apple addressed the issue with a software update fix, and the problem was improved. But the MacBook Pro chassis is still too thin to properly cool a powerful chip like the Intel Core i9.
Essentially, it means anyone with Core i9 MacBook Pros isn’t getting their money’s worth: They’re not getting the maximum performance from their laptops for a sustained amount of time.
It doesn’t matter what the reason behind the bad Mac laptops is, whether it’s Jony Ive, Tim Cook, or whoever. Apple’s recent laptops are just bad.
Phew. Thanks for letting me vent.
Thankfully, I’m in a position where I can use different Windows laptops while I wait out this streak of bad Apple Mac laptops. And you know what? I’ve been loving my experience with Windows laptops. I may actually fully make the switch.
I should be fair here: Windows laptops aren’t perfect either. Some I’ve used only have USB-C ports as well, but they’ve come with an adapter included, at least. And I haven’t experienced a repair episode with a Windows laptop yet, so I don’t know for sure if the repair experience is any better or cheaper.
But so far, the keyboards have all been reliable. The laptops have been significantly cheaper, too. And there’s such a wide range of choice to pick from that there’s surely a model that’s perfect for me and you.
I just think that if Apple’s going to make you pay a premium for its laptops, they should be better than they are now.