The MacBook I Can’t Quit

Many years, many names and many stickers later, she’s still going strong

6 years and still going strong

Five and a half pounds is a lot to carry around. It doesn’t seem like it, but once you adopt to carrying something lighter for a while, going back seems dramatic.

Officially, my Early-2011 15-inch MacBook Pro weighs 5.6 lbs, a gargantuan weight for a notebook by today’s standards. My roommate’s dedicated gaming laptop is lighter. It’s nearly a centimeter thicker and 2.5lbs heavier than a modern MacBook Pro. The battery life has gone to hell. The screen is washed out and pixelated. It sounds like a jet taking off when it boots up.

It’s also a fucking tank. And I can’t bear to part with it.

In September my computer celebrated its sixth birthday. It is officially the longest lasting computer I have owned. Usually, by year four on a computer, I am swearing and smacking the thing as it strains to perform. I spend my days wistfully building new configurations on the Apple website. But now, I’m still satisfied with this big hulking slab. It’s a pain to take with me, but around the house, its my rock.

The spec-obsessed tech nerd in me wonders how I’m content with an officially vintage computer. After all, I’m the one pleading for friends and family to upgrade their old hardware; but I can’t take my own advice.

Every generation of computer I have owned has quickly become obsolete by the march of progress. My first computer, a grape-colored iMac G3 (natch), preceded the rise of the digital hub — it was never intended to handle streaming video, vast photo collections, or rich internet applications. The second computer, an iMac G5 permitted these new experiences; but was quickly made obsolete in the same year by The Transition: Apple’s move from PowerPC to Intel chips.

My third and current MacBook Pro finally bucked the trend. It’s still going strong.

What changed? For one, Moore’s Law (and by extension Intel), has begun to show its progress. Chips no longer benefit from doubled performance every two years or so. My 2011 computer still has the raw brunt of a much newer laptop.

With a Geekbench score of over 10000, my computer still beats any new shipping MacBook Pro under $2400

More to the point, the 2011 MacBook Pro was one of Apple’s finest. The case design allowed you to replace RAM, storage and even the battery with just a screwdriver. The 2011 model was a perfect mixture of very powerful hardware and significant internal updates that provide a wider range of after-market changes.

Over time, the computer changed. More RAM added, hard drive replaced with flash memory. Even the DVD drive was removed to make space for a second storage volume. The computer I have today has evolved and changed with me

I’m not here to bemoan the lack of upgradability in the current generation MacBook Pros. Others have beaten that point to death. However, I am faced with a dilemma: I am not faced with a generational leap in performance or features. A new Macbook Pro today would be a bit faster, have a better display, and weigh less true; but it all ostensibly runs the same software the same way.

My needs have changed as well. I’ve abandoned Mac gaming and haven’t rendered video since college. My day job as a web developmer requires less computational power than other programmers. I value portability and battery life more than before. In many ways, a 13-inch notebook suites my needs (indeed, that’s what was provided by work).

So while I could buy a modern 13-inch MacBook Pro today and be happy, it would not have the generational difference that 6+ years should have. Until I purchase a car or home, a computer stands to be the most expensive purchase I’ll ever make, and I want it to last as long as possible.

Much smarter and more prolific writers have discussed the problems with the current generation of MacBook Pros. From an unreliable keyboard to poor battery life, there are many nits to pick on the new machines. I’m less concerned with these issues than the shear lack of must-have features. It certainly isn’t a hom-hum touchbar.

Where is the ProMotion Display? What about HDR or thin bezels? Where is the Apple Neural Engine? FaceID? Can’t all the remarkable additions that iOS has received be passed on to the Mac?

And I won’t even go into the USB-C port. Or the 16GB RAM limit.

The good news is that maybe the right pieces are starting to fall into place for real innovation and leaps on the MacBook Pro. Kaby Lake-R and Intel’s recent deal with AMD signal the company is starting to take performance gains seriously. A rumor today states that the forthcoming iMac Pro will have an Apple A10 Fusion to perform Siri calculations, with perhaps FaceID coming later.

Until then, as long as this machine boots up, I don’t see myself upgrading.

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Gurupriyan is a Software Engineer and a technology enthusiast, he’s been working on the field for the last 6 years. Currently focusing on mobile app development and IoT.