While quarantining myself, I decided to replace the ThinkPad W541.
The ThinkPad W541 has worked well since I bought it back in November 2018. However, it was starting to develop some issues. Most importantly, I was no longer able to run Adobe’s Premiere Pro on it, so I was having to use some of the labs at my university to do video editing for classes.
I’ve been wanting to switch back to macOS for some time now, as well. While Windows 10 is a stable operating system, I feel macOS met my needs better. Plus, my department is primarily based on Macs.
So, I decided to finally replace the ThinkPad and switch back to being a full-time Mac user.
This MacBook Pro has many firsts for me: my first completely new (not refurbished or older model) laptop, my first built-to-order Mac, and my first 16GB machine. Also my first computer to feature Thunderbolt 3/USB C.
I built my MacBook Pro to order. While I could’ve went to the nearest Apple store and purchased the base model, it wouldn’t have satisfied my needs. Having upgraded storage (256GB minimum) was a must, and having upgraded memory (16GB) was a high-priority want.
On Friday, March 13 I pulled the trigger and purchased the 13″ MacBook Pro.
After ten days of waiting, the MacBook arrived on March 23.
There really isn’t anything special to discuss when unboxing this computer. It comes with the standard things: a power adapter with the Thunderbolt cord, and the instruction pamphlet with the warranty information and the ubiquitous white Apple stickers.
Removing the wrapping from the computer revealed a nice, shiny “Space Grey” MacBook. Unlike my dad’s early 2014 MacBook Air, the Apple logo doesn’t light up – but has a shiny, mirror-like finish.
Opening the computer automatically turns it on. Setup of this MacBook Pro is very similar to setups of almost every other Mac I’ve used. This is also my first Mac with a fingerprint scanner – so now I can enjoy TouchID like I do on my 2018 iPad and iPhone 6s.
Now let’s talk about my first impressions of the 2019 MBP.
I’m going to be brutally honest here: I was super hesitant to buy the 2019 MBP. The butterfly keyboard is well known in the industry for being unreliable and uncomfortable to type on. Since Apple released the 16″ MacBook Pro back in December, Apple aficionados and communities were ablaze with rumors that the new, improved Magic Keyboard – along with Intel’s newest chips – were going to be packaged into a new 14″ MBP. Many rumors said the changes were going to come by the end of March. I was really wanting to wait for that rumored model.
I waited until March 13 to pull the trigger on purchasing the 2019 13″ MacBook Pro. By that point, things looked very bleak. Coronavirus forced many technology companies to close their factories in China – Apple’s OEMs (Foxconn) included. Rumors were out that Apple was cancelling their March event.
Of course, while waiting for my ordered MacBook to arrive, Apple announced the newly-refreshed MacBook Air alongside the refreshed iPad Pro. (Later, I’ll talk about why I’m not planning on returning my MacBook.)
So, here’s my first impressions.
The Butterfly Keyboard
Let’s start out with the most controversial part of any 2016-2019 MacBook: the keyboard. The 2019 model features the controversial butterfly keyboard. After talking to numerous people who owned MacBooks with these keyboards, I got a mixed bag of responses: some liked them, some disliked them but most didn’t care. Only a couple of people I spoke to had issues with them.
It didn’t take long for me to get used to the butterfly keyboard. Personally, I don’t mind it. While it’s no Model M or other type of mechanical/clicky keyboard, it isn’t too bad to type on. Since I just got the MacBook, I obviously can’t comment on reliability. However, Apple has an extended repair program that will replace any broken keyboard free of charge. (I also purchased Apple Care Plus with my MacBook.)
I haven’t noticed any compromises in typing speed or the amount of errors with the butterfly keyboard. Probably the biggest problem so far is accidentally touching the control button instead of the command button, but this should work itself out as soon as I get more used to the keyboard.
If the butterfly keyboard wasn’t controversial enough, the TouchBar is also controversial. Some people love it – others find it useless and horrible.
Personally, I find it a cool concept. But so far I haven’t used it much: just for adjusting volume, etc. Obviously, I might find more use for it as I use the machine more.
If there’s going to be one thing I miss from my ThinkPad, it’s going to be the trackpoint. The trackpoint was a good point device, and I got really used to using it as a primary pointing device when I didn’t have my wireless mouse connected.
However, the MacBook Pro makes up for it with one of the best trackpads in the industry. No, seriously, this is my opinion. I have not found a laptop that has a trackpad as nice or well-built as the ones featured in the MacBooks.
My only complaint with the 2019 trackpad is you actually have to press down on it. With my dad’s early 2014 MacBook Air, you can just gently tap on the trackpad. That threw me for a slight loop when I first started using the machine.
I’ve always loved the Retina display on the iMacs used in my classes. The Retina display on the MacBook Pro is no different. Everything looks pretty good on it. It’s bright and clear, and the 2019 model features the TrueTone display, which the iMacs in my classes don’t feature.
Ports and Thunderbolt/USB-C
Perhaps my biggest dislike for the 2019 MacBook Pro so far is featuring only Thunderbolt ports. I purchased the base model with only two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
All of my peripherals – keyboards, mice, external hard drive, thumb drive, etc. – use USB-A. I’m currently waiting on a hub that will allow me to use those, along with allowing me to plug in a HDMI cable for an external display.
While it’s too early to tell and I haven’t done any real tasks with it yet, it feels quite snappy. With 16GB memory, I no longer have to constantly worry about accidentally bumping into the memory ceiling for most tasks.
There really isn’t much else to say about this laptop except it is pretty solid. It feels well-built, and I’m glad to be back to macOS.
This system came pre-loaded with macOS Catalina. Catalina is another controversial topic, but I’ll have to deal with it. So far, it seems like almost all of my apps are compatible with Catalina except Audacity. Thus, I’ll have to use Adobe’s Audition for editing audio files.
The speakers on this actually sound pretty good. Since my classes are going online for the rest of the semester thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, we’ll have to wait and see about the video and microphone quality.
Why Not Wait? Why Not Return It?
Before purchasing the laptop, I monitored what others were saying about the 2019 model. Ever since the 16″ model released, people have been saying to hold off on purchasing a 13″ model.
Primarily, the keyboard is the hold-up. As mentioned earlier, I was super hesitant to buy now – partially because of the keyboard. Other reasons to wait include better Intel chips and the possibility of Apple sizing it up to a 14″ display.
And then, in the middle of waiting for my machine to arrive – it happened. Apple released the new 2020 MacBook Air. People were saying the MacBook Air was a great value and would be a much better bargain since it included the new Magic Keyboard.
While I’m not disputing the power (and definitely the value) of the Air, it doesn’t fit my needs. As mentioned, my classes have video editing components in them that the Air would struggle with. The Pro has slightly better horsepower under the hood, especially for graphics-intensive work. (I couldn’t afford the 16″ model, but the 13″ Pro is still a better machine than even the new Air when talking about graphics.)
I also could not wait for the new 2020 13″ (or 14″) MBP models. While rumors from respected leakers are pointing toward a Q2 release date (likely around late May/June), I needed a machine now to cope with the load of online classes. (All of the computer labs on our campus have closed.) This release date may be pushed back even further, depending on coronavirus and other factors.
For me, I’m trying to be happy with what I bought. I did my homework and feel pretty confident that I’m making the right choice.
The 2019 13″ MacBook Pro is an excellent replacement for the ThinkPad W541. I’m happy to be a full-time macOS user again. As for the machine itself, it seems to be a pretty snappy machine that will help me get my work done faster without having to worry about going to a computer lab.
This post was written on the 2019 13″ MacBook Pro.