Why I use a MacBook

In this article, I want to explain why I use a MacBook. I am convinced it is the superior desktop OS, but I also think everyone should use what suits them. In my case, that would be macOS.

It’s familiar

Even though I’ve been using macOS for less than 6 months so far, I find it a very familiar and comfortable experience. Apart from the GUI, which may take a little bit to get used to, the OS is Unix-like. It ships with bash, vim, and many POSIX utilities, this means I can apply my ample experience with Unix-like OSes, such as different Linux and BSD distributions.

Lots of commercial software available

I love and use Linux regularly. I think it’s a very solid operating system for the desktop, but the truth is… It just doesn’t suit my needs sometimes. Sure, there are open-source alternatives to most commercial software, for example, GIMP is an Adobe Photoshop alternative, LMMS is a Fruity Loops/Logic Pro alternative, Inkscape is an Adobe Illustrator alternative, LibreOffice is a Microsoft Office alternative… But the reality is that these tools aren’t up to speed and lack many features that make working with them unproductive. One example is the lack of non-destructive filters on GIMP, LMMS doesn’t have nearly as many third party commercial plug-ins as the other two, LibreOffice has a TERRIBLE user interface (although this seems to be improving), and this lack of features is generally true for most open-source software. Even if I like open-source, and really want to use it and discard closed-source software, it simply doesn’t work for me. I’m less productive on open-source software than on their closed-source counterparts.

Great trackpad

MacBooks have brilliant trackpads. Considering they are the primary input device on laptops, this is a huge deal. Before this MacBook, I used to carry a little mouse around because that trackpad was simply atrocious. Now I like it so much, I actually prefer it. It’s much more precise, and with its huge surface area combined with accurate palm rejection, I really have no need for a mouse.

USB-C all the things!

People complain because this laptop has no “normal USB ports”. What they are referring to is “USB type A ports”, which are very badly designed (non-reversable), big, bulky, and obsolete. USB-C (actually, Thunderbolt 3), supports Ethernet networking, power delivery, video output, USB 3.1, digital and analog audio… I can charge my computer or output video from any of the 4 ports. USB-C is the future, and a USB-C to USB-A adaptor isn’t expensive, in case I need to use legacy hardware. I want this laptop to last me a while. In 5 years, nobody will be using USB-A, and people will carry that port on their older laptops like some still carry VGA, HDMI and ethernet ports around.Thunderbolt 3 does all this and much more, including external GPUs.

There’s no Linux laptop alternative

I paid good money for this laptop, but I’m very willing to pay even more for a better Linux laptop. It simply does not exist. Sure, there are companies like System76 which build very powerful laptops, but, let’s be honest, their design is ugly as hell. And, after a little investigation, I found that other laptops may outperform the Mac in a certain area, but not all. For example: One might be better at battery, but only because it has a Core i7 U CPU, which offers poor performance for my needs. Other computer might have a beefier GPU, but also be much more thicker, I carry this laptop everyday and I don’t appreciate any extra weight, my back suffers. Other laptop could have a much higher resolution 4K touch screen, but also be made out of creaky plastic. Hell no!

So, I love POSIX and Unix, and this is as close as I can get while also owning good quality hardware. I don’t wish to use Windows. Windows is an objectively inferior OS, and Microsoft’s pathetic attempts at attracting Linux users by including a Bash shell and some other stuff are definitely not enticing me to use Windows if I can help it.

Apple is global

Where I live, the only Microsoft Surface product I can buy are the non-Book variants. There are very good Samsung laptops, but they don’t sell in Europe anymore. Razer has a great laptop: The Razer Blade Stealth, but, again, not available in Spain. Asus, MSI, only sell a few laptops, and, to be honest, their lineup is insane: too many models to choose from, where Apple only offers a few base models, with customisations. Sure, I could probably buy them through Amazon, but I want to buy them on their respective official stores, directly. Even if that means paying a little bit more in shipping prices, I really don’t want to deal with a third party. Apple allows me to buy every single product on their line-up, both online, and in a physical Apple store. Apple allows me to configure my product with a US ANSI keyboard, which, in my opinion, is a must for us programmers, and that’s what I have done.

The only real alternative I have to this MacBook Pro is one of the newest Dell XPS 15, which I can buy on their official online store, but I finally decided on the MacBook Pro because the XPS 15 only supports Windows officially (the Developer Edition, which runs Ubuntu, is an XPS 13 model, too small for my needs).

It’s well designed

The model I own, the MacBook Pro 2016 15 inch with Touch Bar, has received very tough criticism for a few things, and I would like to comment on that:

Battery life

This machine has received lots of hate due to some people claiming ridiculous battery runtimes: As low as 4 hours of continuous use. Battery life was something Apple used to be proud of, MacBooks have always maintained a great balance of processing power, and thickness, so some people were worried and annoyed this MacBook performed worse than before.

This has not been my experience, however. This machine lasts me from 8 to 11 hours of usage, editing code, compiling, and even opening virtual machines, but it’s true that when I use the GPU intensively, battery life decreases significantly faster than before, this is because the GPU is a very power-hungry AMD card, which, by the way, also produces a lot of heat, that must be quickly dissipated by the integrated fans. This is expected behaviour, as GPUs consume more power than CPUs when working hard, so, if you’re editing video, you’ll see worse battery life, obviously, but, think again: Do you REALLY need to edit video on the go? If I were to edit video, I’d be in a room, with a wall plug nearby, probably, so I don’t think this is an issue.

Butterfly 2 keyboard

When the Apple Butterfly keyboard mechanism was first launched (on the standard MacBook), many people disliked it due to the lack of feedback: Me included. It feels as if you were typing on a glass surface, and because there’s basically no key travel, fingers hurt after a while in my experience, due to the fingers constantly hitting a hard surface. Butterfly 2 is much different, though. It has a very satisfying, but not obnoxiously loud clicking feel. The key travel has been improved, although not dramatically, but enough for me to love it. I’m starting to like it even more than my Cherry Red mechanical keyboard, and I’ve used this for more than 10 years now! I would definitely like to see this mechanism on more keyboards.

Touch Bar

Not only it allows you to perform certain quick commands easier (such as clicking “OK” or “cancel” on typical dialog boxes, accessing your bookmarked sites on Safari, switching tools on Affinity Photo, Pixelmator, Apple Pages, Microsoft Word, etc), but it also adds an extra layer of security. Because the Touch Bar has its own isolated CPU, it cannot be infected by normal means, and only talks to the OS through a dedicated bus (USB I believe), it means authentication dialogs cannot be forged, especially the ones that ask for your fingerprint, like on the App Store, which, by the way, is a very fast and convenient way of authenticating the user, and also allows for quick unlocking.

The lack of function keys is irrelevant, as the Touch Bar provides a far quicker and flexible way of operating the computer.

It simply is pretty

The truth is that design is a very important part of productivity: a study found that when people worked in well designed offices, and used nicely designed hardware and appliances, were much more productive than on ugly environments and devices.