Bullet-point 2015 MacBook quick review

The list below reflects the 1.2 GHz/512GB SSD model of the 2015 MacBook.  I mostly use it for web browsing, taking notes, research, and writing, so keep my use case in mind.

  • Performance is great on El Capitan.  Scrolling through photo-heavy sites in Safari suffered a bit in Yosemite.  That was resolved in El Cap.  The Core M CPU was really the only tradeoff on this computer that I wasn’t sure would be a non-issue, and so far, so good.  Future OS X updates will tell if this holds true.
  • It’s so thin and light that sometimes it’s hard to believe there’s a fully-functioning computer in there.
  • Battery life is amazing. 9-10 hours and can be recharged from a battery pack and a USB-A to USB-C cable if you need more absolute portability for some reason.
  • The keyboard is a love it or hate it thing.  I love it, despite the lack of travel.  If you don’t like it immediately, I’d say give it a day or so of casual use.  It’s very satisfyingly clicky.
    • Note: Of the ~60,000 words into the novel I’m currently writing, I’d estimate a third or so was written on the MacBook.  So, I have used it substantially.
  • If you try to run a game on it, it’s going to get pretty hot.  I don’t know why you’d buy an ultraportable laptop to game on, but Steam in-home streaming actually works amazingly well if you have a decent PC to stream from.  I played Fallout 4 for a few hours like this on ultra-high settings.
  • The trackpad is incredible.  Apple has always had the best trackpads in the business and they keep making them better.  Easily the best trackpad I’ve ever used, twice as good as the one on my 2010 MacBook Pro.
    • Note: Force touch is neat, but kind of gimmicky other than to allow the laptop to be so thin.
  • The display is gorgeous, exactly what I’d expect out of a pixel-dense Apple display.  I usually keep it around 60% brightness just because it’s so bright.
  • I’ve used the USB-C port with an adapter only one time in a month and a half (to install Windows).  Having one port is a non-issue for me.
    • Note: USB-C is awesome.
  • I haven’t even used the webcam, so the 480p resolution is a non-issue for me.  No other comments there.
  • The hinge and magnets are so utterly perfect.  The machine opens and closes with exactly the right amount of resistance.  Apple’s attention to detail really shines in these kinds of things.
  • This machine is kind of stupidly expensive.  I only bought it because of some great promos on my Discover card that allowed me to save about $500 off of the retail price of $1599.
    • Note: The less expensive/cheapest model is $1299, which is honestly still a bit much, even for the model I got.  But, you know…Apple.
  • Filed under most surprising feature: the speakers are phenomenal, especially given the amount of space they’re in.  Seriously, they sound better than the speakers on my 2010 MBP by a long shot.
  • I got Space Gray, and it’s a super cool color for a MacBook.  The Gold (which is actually more “champagne”) is surprisingly nice and much more subtle than you’d expect in person (this would’ve been my second choice in color).

I don’t like subscription music streaming services

I tried Apple Music, Google Play Music, and am now currently working my way through a 3-month free trial of Spotify, and I have to say…these subscription music streaming services just aren’t for me.  I think the best of the bunch was Google Play Music, with Apple Music being the worst solely because of the app, but it’s not really so much any of that as it is that I think it’s a bad deal financially for me and a lot of others.

For a family of two or three that doesn’t already have a music collection, I get the perceived value.  $15/month for three people to have access to unlimited music is a good deal if at least two of those people normally buy at least an album a month (or spend the equivalent ~$10 on individual tracks).  It’s probably also a pretty good deal for a single person to pay $10/month if they usually buy three or more albums in a month.

The major problem to me is that even with a subscription to one of these services, you still might have to buy music somewhere else.  Want to listen to Adele’s latest album on Apple Music?  Nah, gotta buy that.  Want to listen to Taylor Swift’s 1985 on Spotify?  Nah, you gotta have Apple Music or buy it.  Heck, there was this album by a no-name band (Allstar Weekend) that Amazon Prime Music and Google Play Music have but that Apple Music doesn’t.

So no matter if you’re listening to mainstream stuff or little unknown bands, you’re never guaranteed that your service is going to 100% fulfill your listening needs.  So suddenly, you might be paying $10/month for streaming plus an extra $10 to buy an album that’s not on your streaming service.  And then, you might not be able to listen to all of that music in the same place if you have something like Spotify, so you’re juggling collections between two apps.

Oh, and if you cancel your subscription service in, say, three years, you’ve paid $360 and have nothing to show for it except memories.  And hey, maybe that’s worth it to you.  But the thing is, in 2006, I was buying two or three albums a month, and now, I’m buying one album every two or three months.  So nine years ago streaming would’ve made sense to me, and now, it doesn’t.  So if I had been using a streaming service for the past nine years, I couldn’t even cancel it now or I’d lose all of my music (which, yes, I do still listen to my old catalog – everything from random 90’s country to my amazing 2006 pop-punk bands).  People’s music listening habits change, so what you do now might not be what you do next year.

So yeah, I’ll pass on these services.  Right now, buying albums I like (sometimes on sale for $0.99, $7.99, or half off sales), then uploading it to Google Play Music so I can stream it anyway is the best option for me.

You can’t make nerds happy

Yesterday, Apple introduced a “smart battery case” for the iPhone 6 and 6S, and the techs sites on the Internet went completely nuts.  I had to write something about this whole situation somewhere, because it’s so ridiculous.

For a while now, a specific segment of the phone market has been wanting Apple to make the iPhone slightly thicker to incorporate a larger battery.  The complaint is that Apple always puts form over function, despite the iPhone 6/6S already having an all-day battery life.  So, Apple finally puts function over form, and people still won’t stop whining.

And then on the other side, you’ve got the Apple apologists that try to explain that you can’t put a bigger battery into the iPhone because there’s heat and RF signal issues to deal with, despite, you know, basically every flagship Android handset not having those issues.  I’ve also seen people say that Apple already makes a phone with a bigger battery, it’s called the iPhone 6S Plus, which is an utterly stupid thing to say, because of how wide and tall that phone is.  The apologists’ argument is basically that Apple can’t make an iPhone that’s the thickness of the iPhone 5 at the size of the iPhone 6 “because physics” (which is total BS).

Being in Apple’s position is so interesting, because no matter what they do, people whine.  Clearly – as the world’s most valuable company – they’re doing something right.  The Internet just won’t stop complaining about everything they do.