March Apple Event 2015

For reference, I have the 15″ Retina Macbook Pro, 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB ram + 1tB hard drive. It’s hard for me to compare Apples to Apples (quite literally) when you have a high specification machine like that.

My good friend Jessica Hische convinced me back in 2013 to stop working between an iMac and a laptop, and instead get a high-spec laptop and a display. She was right, I haven’t looked back since.

The portability (read: weight) of the Retina Macbook Pro, for someone who travels a lot, is the main issue for me. It’s heavy, it doesn’t fit well in any constrained space like airplanes or train tables, and I spend my entire time on a plane, worried the person in front of me is going to recline their chair and break my screen. Battery life runs at about 3 hours for me, and always has, even if I’ve only got a lightweight code editor open.

Watching the Apple Event yesterday, I don’t think I’ve ever yo-yo’d so much over their products. My initial glee at the unveiling of a gold Macbook wore off a few hours later when I imagined designing on that for 10+ hours per day, and wondering how that would affect how I would see colour in my designs, or whether it would affect it at all.

After the whole Gold/Blue/Black/White dress debacle, I’m taking no chances.

Yes, that was a joke.
I saw gold and white.
Moving on…

The main issue is, while I would love a new shiny; I want to feel the butterfly keys, and the Force Touch Trackpad – I just don’t think it’s got enough power for working professionals? It seems good for recreational use, but I keep reading reports that it’s just not got enough power if you want to work from it day in day out and that the power inside that Macbook is comparable to an iPhone 6?

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who is a UI designer who’s been using a machine with similar specs to the new Macbooks, for day-in-day-out design work. There’s been times my MBPr has gone into fan-overdrive, so I’m a little hesitant in switching.

The Watch? I’m disappointed that they went to a $10,000+ version. It seems to go against the fabric of Apple, in my opinion, but hey – to each his own.

I personally like the navy blue regular version. The watch doesn’t give me warm fuzzies as yet – as I know we’re a little way off what they’re going to be capable of, but as a UI designer who specialises in iOS platforms, it’s a must; it is representing an intriguing and fascinating new era of design to me. That, I’m exceptionally excited about.

When I spoke at AEA Orlando this year, and had to wear the Disney MagicBand it gave me a taste of what I think we’re about to head into with Apple Watch; except Disney has its own ecosystem, and thus much easier to roll-out to, and control, than the big wide world.

If payment, door access and all the other demos shown to us yesterday, are truly on their way to the masses, exciting (and trying!) times lay ahead for all designers, everywhere.

There’s some good discussion happening around this over at Designer News.

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  • Ben Willmore

    Nice article Sarah.

    I have the same rMBP with the same spec as yours but with the 500GB SSD. Like you can’t see how the new MacBook had enough power for day to day use. Especially like you said.. my MBP sounds like a jet plane about to take off sometimes! I turn the brightness of mine right down if I am not doing design work to try and gain as much battery life but your right normally 3-4hrs is about right.

    The first thing that sprang to my mind when I saw the new Macbook was it would be great for my wife at university.. Enough power for what she needs and very portable, but then again the iPad Air is pretty good for that, so I decided it wasn’t needed! Maybe they’ve tried to make something here that doesn’t need to exist or in my eyes is not quite there yet. Creating something just to show it can be done?

    I will still like to feel the new keyboard and trackpad but I’ll wait for a new rMBP before committing to a new shiny.

    The apple watch is a beautiful device, I am sure I’ll get one! And your right on the $10,000 versions, doesn’t seem very Apple but they know they’ll shift them and thats the base line for them. I will need a trip to the Apple Store to use one first before buying just to get a grasp on how nice it is to use.

  • Have you thought about a 13 inch MBP? I have a 13 inch Air. At first I was worried the screen would be too small, but within a day I was used to it. If it means anything my eyes are older than yours and I’m sitll ok on the smaller screen.

    If you’re connecting to a large monitor it shouldn’t make a difference when you do work where you need the extra room, since you’ll likely be on the larger monitor.

    The 13 inchMBP is a pound less (3.48 lbs vs 4.46 lbs). My Air is 2.96 lbs light and easy to pack into anything and pull out on a plane. Dropping screen size might be exactly what you need and a nice compromise.

  • I had the same fears when I converted to a MacBook Air (2012) a few years ago. I used it as my primary machine for design and coding and had hardly any issues with it. I could run Photoshop, Illustrator and Coda all at the same time. I even was able to use it to edit a few Final Cut and Motion projects without driving me insane.

    I’ve since purchased a iMac that I use at my office but I still use the same Air at home (with an Apple Display) and there is little difference.

    Considering that the new MacBooks have better specs than my Air (and Retina display) I would have no hesitation to get a new one and use it for full time UI work.

    The only thing I would recommend is getting the bigger SSD. I only have 128gb on my Air and that goes really fast.

    Plus, how awesome would that gold or space grey be?

  • I have a late 2014 spec 13″ retina MBP with 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 250GB SSD, which is, for me, the right combo of portable and power. I have to carry it to and fro every day, and hook it up to a 27″ apple display at work and a 24″ samsung display at home. I was using one of the older style 15″ non retina MBPs and it was entirely killing my back, and meant I had to use a rucksack as well as a handbag every day. Now I can just put my machine in my (admittedly fairly large) handbag along with everything else I need for the day (sketchbooks, etc).

    That said, I’ve now entirely switched over to Sketch and don’t have Adobe software (other than flash) installed at all.

    I guess it depends how many apps you have open at once, and what you’re doing in them.

  • This is clearly a first generation device, exactly like the MacBook Air was when it was launched. It was also under-powered with a high price but with subsequent iterations of it the price came down and gained decent specs.
    The new MacBook is not a machine for anyone that requires anything but web surfing at this time, but I can see the new MacBook becoming “the” MacBook with the Macbook Air disappearing. As with many Apple devices the first generation is never the one to buy…
    As far as the watch goes, the $10000+ watch is not for everyone, but that is the point of it… 😉

  • Re: MacBooks, would a 11″ or 13″ Macbook Air not be a good choice for you, at least when travelling?

    I’m not a graphic designer or a photographer, therefore I’m yet to feel it essential to have a retina screen on a laptop or desktop – I can still test retina images for websites are the correct size using the emulation settings in Chrome Devtools, then check the actual quality on my iPhone/iPad. Also, though maybe irrationally, I think it better to preview things on a more “average” screen than an “amazing” one (e.g. you don’t want your choice of webfont or gradient to look wonderful on retina but horrible at standard definition).

    I think choosing a new 12″ MacBook at this stage would be a massive compromise – it’s a big drop in screen size as well as performance. Available screen area is a key reason I use a desktop Mac Mini and a Dell monitor, lots of room to fit code and terminal windows on the screen, or to have a browser window + devtools open without running out of space. Also if I did need to work somewhere else for a prolonged period of time, the Mac Mini is light enough to put in a bag and take with me, along with keyboard + mouse, and make arrangements to borrow a monitor / compatible TV at the destination. Also I hated the idea of a massive iMac ever breaking down and the hassle it would be to box it up and ship it somewhere.

    I don’t do app development, so I don’t know how much memory Xcode eats. For me, CPU performance has mattered a lot *less* (especially as Flash has become less common) than disk I/O speed and available RAM – 16GB on the Mac Mini is essential for being able to comfortably run all my usual programs plus virtual machines for IE browser testing and a virtual linux dev server. Macbook Airs and this new one can only be upgraded to 8GB. Also 512GB for my main computer wouldn’t be enough (the Mac Mini could be configured with a hybrid 1TB drive so it was a lot cheaper than a 1TB SSD.)

    By the way, you may find this site handy if you just want to compare raw CPU benchmarks: http://browser.primatelabs.com/mac-benchmarks

    Re: the watch. As a consumer, no intention of getting one yet (I already use my iPhone all day long, I’d just be transferring my usage from one device to another. Plus I actually rather like my existing watch, it’s looks nice, is simple and solar powered so I never have to take it anywhere to get the battery replaced.) If I were an app developer I’m sure I’d buy one, although I’m unclear on the business model for watch apps; will people be prepared to pay extra for them or will they expect watch support for free from their existing apps. Will it be worth it if the watch already shows notifications and can give you multiple choice responses? And how long will people be prepared to use a watch app before the desire to have a bigger screen to do whatever it is you’re doing takes over?