The new MacBook has me most excited about the next-generation MacBook Pro

The Spring Forward event brought us things like pricing and more details on the Apple Watch, but to me the most exciting part was the brand-new Retina MacBook. Not because of what that computer is — and it is an interesting piece of hardware — but for what it means for the future of the MacBook. In particular, the future of the MacBook Pro.

Let's be perfectly clear: the new MacBook is a specialized forward-looking machine. While I'm certainly lusting after it and keep going back and forth on whether or not I'm going to buy one, it's not the machine for me. That doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be your next Mac. For my purposes — working with a large external monitor, Ethernet, several USB devices, and SD card on a regular basis (and all but the monitor while on the go as well) — it doesn't suit me. I require more physical input options than the MacBook afford me. And I need more power to do what I do in a timely manner than the Core M processor inside it can offer.

Conversely, I go to the coffee shop and I see people sitting there with their laptops and nothing at all plugged into them, or maybe just a pair of headphones. For them, the ultra-light and ultra-portable MacBook might be the perfect machine. Even with that Core M processor will be adequate — they're not processing video, rendering 3D models, or even playing games much more intensive than what you'll find on Facebook.

There's been a lot of angst about the new MacBook from the "technorati". A lot of us have MacBook Air computers that aren't quite powerful enough to do what we ask, or we have a MacBook Pro that has all of the power and a gorgeous screen, but its weight and size makes us lust after those we see pulling Airs out of their bags. I saw it myself at MWC 2015 just last week — I think my first-gen 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is a fantastic machine, though it's starting to show its age. I saw my colleagues with their lighter MacBook Airs and wished for the lesser weight on my shoulder, but then all I had to do was look at their screen and watch them try to process video to push myself back from the edge.

MacBook render

In the minds of those that lust for powerful and thin, the long-rumored and much-longed-for Retina MacBook Air was supposed to solve that. But the new MacBook isn't that computer. It's a machine of compromises. Getting it as thin and light and long-lasting as it is required opting for a less-powerful processor and cutting out the multitude of ports we've grown accustomed to. There's nothing wrong with that; it just means that the new MacBook is not the computer for me.

But it does set the stage for the future of the MacBook Pro (I'm not certain about the future of the Air, since this new MacBook is both thinner and lighter than the current Air and I don't know what Apple could possibly do to make an even thinner and lighter computer right now). I look at the new MacBook and I imagine the design innovations that went into it — the slimmer keyboard, the terraced battery cells, the thinner display — going into the next-generation MacBook Pro.

The MacBook isn't designed for people who need power and ports, and in retrospect it was rather insane of us to project those expectations onto even a MacBook Air with Retina display. The next MacBook Pro is the computer I want. Alongside the introduction of the new MacBook, Apple refreshed the internals of the current MacBook Pro design with a new set of fifth-generation Intel Core "Broadwell" processors and faster memory. These are better computers than the one I own, yes, but merely in that they're more powerful and get a longer battery life.

The new MacBooks

I've resigned myself to wait. The new MacBook isn't for me, and the updated MacBook Pro line isn't enough of an update over what I have today. I'm waiting for the next generation Pro, with an Intel Skylake processor and a design that follows the lead of the new MacBook, all while retaining things that I need to accomplish my job like a Thunderbolt port and an SD card slot. I hope it will have those, but maybe it won't.

I'm a pro user and I use my Pro computer as a pro ought. I push it to the brink and make use of nearly everything it has to offer. I run live video conferencing for hours on end, I do 3D modeling and video rendering, I hook up a multitude of peripherals (with just one plug thanks to a Thunderbolt dock), I pluck my SD card out of my high-powered camera and slip it into my computer.

All of these things mean that the new MacBook isn't for me. And that's okay. Just in the same way that an entry-level Moto G is not the smartphone for me or a single taco is not enough taco for me. It can be the computer for somebody else, and I'll gaze longingly at its slim profile and effortless weight while pondering for the umpteenth time if I could get away with using it as my primary machine (and eventually dismissing that thought after realizing all of the adapters I'd have to carry around).

And that's okay. I'll wait for the computer that is for me, and to my friends that take photos with their iPhone and never do any heavy lifting with their computer but with it wasn't as heavy to lift, I'll recommend the new MacBook without hesitation, but with the caveats that it comes with. It's first computer to head down Apple's new computing design and philosophy. A lot of it's ahead of its time, some of it might be rolled back.

For now I'll just sit here and dream about my lighter, slimmer, SD card slot-bearing, future MacBook Pro.

macOS Sierra

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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

50 Comments
  • Exactly what I thought when I saw the MacBook. Me being a developer, just cannot have a machine of that power. And I've been holding on buying a new MacBook Pro because it was showing its age and a redesign is eminent. But the MacBook showed me where it could go and I am excited. If only for the keyboard and trackpad. And the new battery tech might also afford it a more contoured design.
  • Nice write-up and I fully agree!
  • Errr...I don't see anything in the text saying what about this machine has you excited for inclusion in a new MBP... Sent from the iMore App
  • Then maybe you should read it again, Sent from the iMore App
  • Yes - "not for me" and "resigned" screams excitement
  • The last sentence sticks out for me;
    "For now I'll just sit here and dream about my lighter, slimmer, SD card slot-bearing, future MacBook Pro."
  • Seeing how much this MacBook costs, I'm too terrified to imagine how much more the next-gen MBP will be.
  • Why are you terrified about the cost? The new MacBook is exactly the same price as a 13" MacBook Air with 8GB and 256GB SSD.
  • I'm talking about the next-gen MBP the writer of this article is predicting.
  • Not sure why you think it will be any more at all Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple will not likely raise the price of the next Macbook Pro.. if anything, it will stay the same or less.. They rarely raise existing lines prices.. That said, they could create a new line of 'Pro' type laptops.. but, I just don't see that.. It's likely we'll see this technology just 'migrate' over to the MBPro line (new, thinner screen, trackpad, keyboard, 2 or 3 USB-C ports, but with addition of Thunderbolt 3 that would support 8k screens and 40 GB speeds).. TB 3 (40 GB bus) is supposed to be with Skylake.. so thats why I think thats where it's going. Thunderbolt is really a Pro technology, and what were seeing is the differentiation between Pro and future Air products, most likely. I use Thunderbolt 2 all the time in my work.. USB just does't cut it, need PCI bus for extension video card bays for transcoding, true eSATA, which USB cannot add, but Thunderbolt can because it's a PCi-e slot on a cable.. Thunderbolt also doesn't load the CPU.. If you read up on any testing, USB is CPU intensive, where TB has it's own chip. They've drawn the line I think - Air vs Pro.. This fall release of the new MacBooks will be very telling.
  • I'll be more worried than anything. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I have to agree. As a designer I need my ports!
  • But don't you think Apple's eventual goal is to just have one MacBook where specs determine whether it's a "pro" machine or not? It seems feasible within the next 10-15 years.
  • I also think we will see additional options for the MacBook while the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro eventually go away.
  • It's Apple doing what they do best, boldly pushing forward. I don't look at it as what Apple has done now so much as more of what Apple is trying to do further down the road. It's a rather exciting step, in my opinion.
    On a lighter note, I can't help but wonder as to how long it'll take until we start seeing stories of users with bent MacPros.
  • I'm looking for a 5K display, and a new MBP to drive it.
  • I want them to refresh the Retina Pro line so I can grab a greatly discounted 2014 15" Retina in the Apple Refurbished Store. Although if there is a overhaul of the design and it gets thinner and lighter I'd be tempted to go new. Sent from the iMore App
  • Ditch MagSafe 2, HDMI, SD ports, have 3 USB 3.1 Type-C ports, 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports. Have more power efficienct Retina Display, and overall thinner chassis. That's what I predict for a major refresh in 2016.
  • Thats already impossible to add more ports on an already thin design. My idea is to just be all thunderbolt 3 ports so it has the same design as usb c and have two at the most. I wouldn't mind making the chassis a little bit thicker, so we can have 2 thunderbolt 3 ports and more room for the battery.
  • Still no touch display, or pen computing and they took away inputs? How does anyone present this new hardware and a roomful of people cheer for something like that?
  • Because for many of us, touch screen isn't a dealbreaker. If you need this input, get the proper machine like SP3 (which is thinner/lighter than this new Macbook) or even an iPad if you can handle it. That's the beauty of having multiple choices, you can choose whatever fits your need, which is exactly what Rene is trying to point out in this article. If you don't need a touch screen and weight/size is more important to you, the new MacBook is a better fit. I have a Dell machine with a touch screen and I haven't even touch the display once, I find it more quicker to use my keyboard/mouse. Even Microsoft realizes that and are working to perfect this in Windows 10. I still think 2015" Dell XPS 13 may be the better machine in the long run until SP4 comes out later this year.
  • I believe Derek Kessler is the author, not Rene. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thank you! My apologies to Derek, this is definitely his article.
  • I don't want a touch screen laptop. Thanks. I'd like an LTE option but I'll do the touching on the iPad. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm Not a fan of touchscreen laptops, and pen input means nothing to be either. Conveniently, I can point you towards the Yoga line and the SP3 since both handle what you requested. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Fiber in Nashville? Save me based Google.
  • Never knew people wanted touch screen on a laptop.. Thats part of what peopled hated with windows 8... I dont want to take my hands off the keyboard just to smudge up my screen with finger prints. Its not a tablet. Sent from the iMore App
  • OS X is not designed for Touch, anyway. Why don't people get that? Sent from the iMore App
  • Never once while using my MacBook have I thought: man, I wish I could touch that screen it would make things easier. Not to mention, good luck with the touch targets in OS X... Not made for that! Sent from the iMore App
  • I don't think it was wrong for people to expect these changes to the MacBook Air instead of Apple creating a new laptop with lower power and battery life. Apple could have easily made the Air thinner, added two of the usb-c ports (one on each side), added retina, and maintained the i5 and i7 chips. This could have all been done with the Air keeping its same price. Sent from the iMore App
  • Well, these people need to realize that Apple cannot break the laws of physics and they're trying to do just that but they need future improvements to come first. A thinner chassis with no fans is very difficult to do with a much hotter and powerful i5/i7 CPU. Surface Pro 3 has an i5 or i7 chip and there are overheating issues for some people who pushes these hardware hard. That's in a thinner chassis than this new Macbook and it also has a good fan system in it. Instead of waiting 2-3 years for technology improvements that could enable Apple to build what these people want in the Air with i5 chip, Apple created a new machine for a new market for people who will find the new Macbook a better fit and doesn't care for everything else that could be used in MBPs or Airs. A new Macbook Air is coming with all of these wishes but not any time within the next two years because of the thermal constraints.
  • But the what is the point of the 13" rMBP? Those products would be too close together in terms of specs. And you really think Apple would add a retina screen to the Air and keep it the same price as a non-retina Air?
  • I think this new MB demonstrates great accomplishments in engineering. The logic board 1/3 the size of the 11" model, 24% thinner, about 30% lighter, retina, a superior keyboard and trackpad...It is a wonderful machine for the purpose of a portable machine. If you are a power user, this or the Air was probably not the machine for you anyway. I travel for a living and look forward to toting around a 2 pound machine. My perspective is it is almost as light as an iPad, but I prefer this greatly to an iPad. If I need power or a bigger monitor, I come home to my iMac. As Derek said, why compare it to a MB Pro? I think Derek wrote a great article, but would love for someone who is passionate about this machine to write an article from their perspective.
  • I believe this is prototype for the next Macbook Air generation. Macbook Pro needs ports and powerful processor. Yes next generation Macbook Pro will be thinner and a 4k retina resolution. Sent from the iMore App
  • Kinda pointless to have a 4k display on a small laptop screen. I doubt youll see that soon Sent from the iMore App
  • I remember when people say 1080p on a phone is pointless. Honestly I am happy with my Macbook retina display resolution. Sent from the iMore App
  • This Macbook might be the right SECOND computer for me, along with my fully tricked out iMac. What I would enter into a scoring program on the satellite laptop at a piano I could then export to the iMac and apply fancy instruments to. Rough work on a sleek laptop, final work on the more powerful machine. And I get something to wander around the house and out of the house for simpler things, like casting a Keynote presentation at a meeting. I think people are missing the point by looking at this new Macbook as their ONLY Mac instead of as their other more mobile Mac. I do need to see benchmarks and real-world usage, as well as putting my hands on the thing before making any final decisions. I'm going to be prone to buy the thing because it is something I could really use now with exactly what it offers. I wanted a retina Macbook Air but this might do the trick for my purposes.
  • +1
    I built a beast of a tower with 3 displays for the real heavy lifting, and the laptop is for the times when I need a computer at a job-site or meeting. Often I feel the laptop is more powerful than it needs to be for on-the-go, but it's definitely not powerful enough to be my main work-station. Also consider, a laptop that can drive 7,680x1440 smoothly would likely cost as much as my two PC's combined.
    .
    Having all of my files online and accessible at any time on any machine is crucial. They even mentioned this in the Keynote, most portable needs are met wirelessly, at least they CAN be. Storing files, sharing files, printing, listening to music, even transferring photos from a DSLR can be done wirelessly. Certainly not as fast as a cutting edge cable technology, but again, that's what the desktops are for, IMO.
    .
    I'm not saying everyone must buy two computers, but it's nice to not have to drive around the V8 E-350 work van when all I need is my little sedan. Sent from the iMore App
  • "And I need more power to do what I do in a timely manner than the Core M processor inside it can offer. Conversely, I go to the coffee shop and I see people sitting there with their laptops and nothing at all plugged into them, or maybe just a pair of headphones. For them, the ultra-light and ultra-portable MacBook might be the perfect machine. Even with that Core M processor will be adequate — they're not processing video, rendering 3D models, or even playing games much more intensive than what you'll find on Facebook." "I'm a pro user and I use my Pro computer as a pro ought. I push it to the brink and make use of nearly everything it has to offer. I run live video conferencing for hours on end, I do 3D modeling and video rendering, I hook up a multitude of peripherals (with just one plug thanks to a Thunderbolt dock), I pluck my SD card out of my high-powered camera and slip it into my computer." What a techno snob! Yes, I agree with you and I am going to wait for the Skylake laptops as well (mines a 2008 unibody) but, we cannot deny that any computer that Apple sells is very capable of doing 3d or video to a professional standard. I am doing projected theatrical 3d, graphic design and iOS Apps. Foresight and optimisation can do wonders for any speed issues.
  • You sound like me, "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute panic on mine." :-)
    .
    I do get his point, though. Sometimes you just need the right tool for the job. A lack of connections & seemingly infinite render time while facing unforeseen and immediate circumstances can be a hindrance for some people & their workflow.
    .
    "Better to have 'em & not need 'em than need 'em & not have 'em!" Sent from the iMore App
  • I've noticed that Apple didn't update the 15 inch MBP. Could they be delaying it until the summer to show us the future of the MBP with all the nifty features of the new MacBook. Hopefully it does. My Macbook Air is on the edge and I am wanting a MBP, and a redesigned one would be perfect =P Sent from the iMore App
  • BTW, this is claiming 9 hours wireless web as all day long, yet both MBa models last longer. So it isn't the longest lasting laptop, if that's what you're looking for. Sent from the iMore App
  • I really wonder if they will ever grant us with what you ask. As I see it, I might be pessimistic, your SD card slot will be thrown away along with the discrete GPU and other useful stuff for the sole sake of thinness and lighness. Sure, they'll give you force touch and other gimmicky features in exchange, but putting a "pro" label at the end of the name won't be enough. I'm in the same case as you, having an aging rMBP 15"" 1st gen, and I'm more and more convinced I'll end up like Alex Lindsay, go the Surface Pro route: a real workhorse for the pro on the go.
  • I go to MBA 13 inch 2015 or Pro. MBA 12 worthily to buy.