In March I bought a 16" MacBook Pro, reasonably well tricked out: 2.3GHz 8-core Intel i9, 32G RAM, Radeon 5500M with 8G, 4T of disk. I hate it. It is slow and buggy enough that I wonder if maybe it’s a lemon? Herewith the gripes, for no particular reason other than it makes me feel like shouting at the world.

Bluetooth · It’s lame. I tried to broadcast music to the audio system in my boat and it sounds like dogshit and disconnects all the time. The car/boat audio guy said “Oh yeah, everyone knows the Mac Bluetooth is useless.” At this price it’s not OK to be useless.

Also my bluetooth mouse (Logitech) and keyboard (Apple) randomly unpair and have to be re-paired. I went and dug out an old Apple USB keyboard which has better keyfeel than the current “Magic” board anyhow, and doesn’t lose its mind.

Performance · It just doesn’t feel any faster than the 2014 15" MBP it replaced. The place this is killing me is Lightroom. Maybe the single most important keystrokes in Lightroom are “R”, which means “Bring up the tilt/crop control” and “D”, which says “Switch to Develop mode.”

When I hit either, sometimes it switches right away. Other times, the screen goes black for multiple seconds first. My images are either from my Pixel 4 or my Fuji X, both of which are twenty-something megapixels, i.e. not that damn big by the standards of modern cameras. I totally can’t spot a pattern of what makes them slow or fast.

The other irritant is when I make a change in the code that underlies this Web site, and republish the whole thing, that is the local version here on the Mac. This takes minutes, which is acceptable since as of this moment there are 5,112 entries. It’s a Perl script that reads and writes a whole lot of files and updates a Mysql instance.

It runs about as fast as it used to in 2014. Except for Perl and Mysql and Linux filesystems should all be faster in 2020 than they were then. The unremarkable Linux virt that runs tbray.org in 2020 is sure as hell faster at this than the 2014 incarnation was. Bah.

Video and browsers · I am afflicted with the well-known Chrome/Mac video glitching, which apparently Apple and Google are blaming each other for. BTW it also affects Microsoft Edge. Which means that for lots of pages I have to use Safari or Firefox. So far I’ve been trying Safari, which is alleged to be a fine demonstration of Cupertino engineering prowess. And while it’s got some nice features (CMD-Shift-\, followed by CMD-F), there’s a lot to hate. Time after time, it just locks up or goes unresponsive on some multimedia-intense site or another (especially Twitter) so I sigh and switch back to Chrome, where it Just Works. Except when the video goes haywire.

Plus when I hit a previously-unvisited URL I get horrible initial latency that smells like DNS to me. Plus I get really annoying spurious refreshes; after Safari has laboriously loaded a big complex image it’ll refresh it just to make sure.

I’ve started poking around Firefox, maybe it’ll be better.

Interfaces · To make professional use of a MacBook Pro, you need a CalDigit TS3+ or equivalent Thunderbolt hub. It’s not exactly exotic to want an outboard screen and some USBs for keyboards and mice, and to look at SD cards, and to talk S/PDIF or line-level for high-quality music. You might get lucky and have them all be USB-C and there be 4 or less of them, but I’m not.

Most of us work from our sofa or a café sometimes, but much professional time happens at a desk that has a keyboard and mouse and screen and audio and so on waiting to go. With the CalDigit, you plug one wire into your Mac and you’re good to go.

Apple should bloody well buy CalDigit and ship one of these with every high-end MacBook because it’s just not a complete product otherwise.

MacOS · I’d like Apple to gather all the Product Managers for this software and put them on paid leave for a couple of years with no network access, to stop them pissing in the swimming pool. In particular the ones who work on Finder. It’s still the best general-purpose computer user experience available from anyone, but I see little evidence that anyone with their hands on the steering wheel understands why the good parts are good. I can’t think of any really great Mac apps aside from Preview and Keynote.

Meh · Yep, the screen has loads of resolution (not sure if there are more bits than the 2014 model) but the brightness could be way better, this is not a thing you can hope to use anywhere near sunlight. You still can’t play any meaningful games on it.

The keyboard is neither better nor worse than my 2014 machine. Shouldn’t I expect progress in five years?

The case is an ostentatiously neutral gunmetal grey. By the time I bought this I was on the way out of Amazon and thus it is unadorned by any stickers. It’s certainly not offensive but I can’t imagine anyone looking at it and thinking “that’s cool.”

Good stuff · The speakers are remarkable. They are not terribly accurate — that would be too much to expect from this form factor — but they include the important parts of speech and music and omit things that are omissable, while generating remarkable volume when that’s what you need.

The thing that’s called a “Touch Bar” at apple.com but “Control Strip” in the System Prefs (a little amateurish, that) is pretty brilliant. Lots of people have apparently not customized its system area. I have and you should; mine shows Sleep, Mute, Volume, and Brightness. It could be a touch more responsive, I have to tap a little harder than I’d like. And quite a few of the apps haven’t figured out how to make good use of it.

I could forgive all this shit · Yep, if only it were faster. Is it possible I have a lemon?



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ole Eichhorn (Oct 03 2020, at 22:31)

Hi Tim, it's interesting to me that you used "hate". There's an anger there. I think many old time Mac people share it. A feeling that the new crowd now running things don't get why the Mac is so good and hence are busy messing it up.

I don't have a Macbook to hate but I do have a new iPad, and I feel the same way about it. Most definitely the essence which made iPads special is being diluted. Multiscreen in particular is an unforgivable mess.

Cheers and onward :)

[link]

From: Bryan (Oct 03 2020, at 23:48)

Yeah, I don't love my mac. I have it because I got sucked into a couple of Apple ecostem apps. But, I know you realise the only way things get appreciably faster now is via parallelism under the hood. So blame the software _you_use. I love all those cores, and I have enough memory to run a Linux VM to do the good stuff. In parallel.

[link]

From: Grahame Grieve (Oct 04 2020, at 00:24)

Do let us know what's better. I have to buy a new laptop soon

[link]

From: davide (Oct 04 2020, at 01:23)

I feel like you but I really like MacOS and I can't drop it, I feel so comfortable with it.

I tried Windows but I don't like, any Linux UI (gnome, kde) doesn't make me productive like I am on MacOS and I tried to use Linux for an entire and very long month.

... and I love the magic trackpad I use with the iMac and the mac mini and the MBP trackpad is better than any laptop I tried (also the Dell are not so great)

... but I hate my iMac 2020 because I can't connect my MBP to it, I need a second monitor!!!!

I want to drop any Apple product but I can't find a valid alternative, I know this is related to my own habit and maybe Linux Gnome is better but not for me, not now, not yet.

It is very hard to continue to buy Apple hardware, you are not alone mate

[link]

From: Geotti (Oct 04 2020, at 01:24)

RE Bluetooth:

Just make sure you have a bluetooth receiver capable of AAC streaming.

Not sure, what is available in your part of the world, but I’m using an InLine receiver, with an AKM AK4396 d/a chipset that cost me around 80 bucks. It’s certainly not highest end, but good enough for my studio monitors.

You could also stream to a mini computer that is hooked up with cables via airplay, if you have onboard wifi.

You could also try enabling apt x:

sudo defaults write bluetoothaudio "Enable AptX codec" -bool true

Then just option-click on the bluetooth menu bar icon while something’s playing to verify the used codec.

I also get random bluetooth disconnects from the magic keyboard, however.

[link]

From: Vidur (Oct 04 2020, at 01:44)

You should see whether the performance downsides you're seeing are a result of thermal throttling. Newer MacBooks have terrible thermals IMO. The thermal design seems to be tuned for extremely short bursts of high performance usage, which I'm sure works out best by some metric Apple has, but can be very annoying when you need consistent performance. If it is thermal throttling, there's a variety of things you can do, from changing the processor power management settings to fixing what is likely a bad paste job on the CPU and GPU.

On my own (Dell) laptop I found I actually increased performance in many cases by turning off Turbo Boost, because although the CPU could no longer boost up to 3Ghz, the thermal 'savings' meant that it would no longer begin to throttle the CPU heavily after 10-12 minutes of heavy usage. I later repasted its heatsink and that made a huge difference - idle temps were reduced by 8-10 degrees, and turning Turbo Boost did not cause throttling at the mere sight of a video game.

[link]

From: Phil Shapiro (Oct 04 2020, at 01:56)

Install Linux on that thing and watch it fly.

[link]

From: Indy (Oct 04 2020, at 02:20)

The edit studio where I work has the recent 16", top of the range speed, mbp.

I have the 2015 15", top of the range speed, mbp.

There is no discernible difference in speed, that being processing of video and audio files.

[link]

From: s kitz (Oct 04 2020, at 02:33)

Just be glad it isn't one of those 2010 mpb with the intermittent black screen. I had one of those. Found out about the replacement program. When I filed a support ticket, at first they would only cover the replacement if I brought it in to a genius bar. It took several days of arguing over the phone that since the nearest one was 300 miles one way, traveling 600 miles was out of the question. Eventually they issued another one. Identical model, identical problem.

To add insult to injury, my best friend who also bought the same laptop, his did the same thing. My neighbor across the street -- her laptop also developed this same issue. Both of those people got 2014 models as replacement for their 2010s whereas my replacement was actually worse that what it replaced.

Apple extends the warranty for another year. I find out with one week left. I open a ticket and choose 'call me' but they don't call until after the extended replacement program is over. Another several days of arguing, I get the second replacement and immediately sell it on craigslist without testing so I can avoid the karma of 'knowingly' selling a defective laptop.

[link]

From: Yasha (Oct 04 2020, at 02:42)

yep, for these reasons combined plus repairability (or the lack thereof) I have moved out of the mac ecosystem. I am now using a System76 machine. They design machines for engineers, working on Linux out of the box. It is a pity the harder is what it is, I really liked MacOS, probably why I stayed on Mac a couple of year more than I should have. Things have really gone south at Apple in the past couple of years in terms of product leadership, unfortunately.

[link]

From: Carlos (Oct 04 2020, at 02:52)

Macbooks are bullshit. and with the new arm are going to be worse..

Not sure what is the best alternative for photo editing is out there but for everything else trust me you won't miss anything from mac. Actually you'll be happy that is not from apple so it won't be expensive or non-sense.

[link]

From: Nabeel (Oct 04 2020, at 02:57)

I think you’ve got a lemon, I have a 2017 MBP which is a much less powerful configuration than yours and I’ve never experienced any of these problems. I agree with the Safari stuff about the latency and the spurious reloads, those started happening in the latest version of Safari. I’ve never noticed the locking up though. It’s unfortunate that people have such experiences with brand new Macs, if Apple wants to keep their customers they really ought to focus a bit more on quality control.

[link]

From: Fran Varona (Oct 04 2020, at 03:06)

I hear you! It is *really* difficult to find a good device nowadays, even if you are willing to pay for it. They try to build 'stories' and 'experience' around products, but they forget all about them the minute they are in the market. You just pray to find a 'decent and running' unit, because you will be left crying in the desert if there are problems. And Apple, they always claimed to care about their products... but they don't, apparently.

[link]

From: Thor (Oct 04 2020, at 03:47)

I find it so hard, even though I've tried multiple times, to get off the macbook pro, simply due to its touchpad superiority. I've tried using thinkpads, and I've tried other windows laptops, but none has as good a touchpad as on macos.

[link]

From: Cole Maclean (Oct 04 2020, at 08:30)

I also think you have a lemon. I have a very similar configuration (purchased in March as well, less storage and video memory but otherwise same). I am coming from an older system, a 2013 13" MacBook Pro, but mine feels _much_ faster. Maybe try running GeekBench or a similar benchmark?

My Logitech Bluetooth mouse and keyboard work fine. I've been using Firefox, but I used Chrome for a few months and didn't have issues with it (maybe prior to that issue being introduced?).

My main complaints are thermal design (it gets hot, and the fan takes off, quite quickly) and macOS bugginess — just yesterday the `accountsd` process jumped to 500% CPU and stayed there. Seems to bee Apple ID related.

I don't love the Touch Bar (although Touch ID is nice).

[link]

From: trynewideas (Oct 04 2020, at 09:23)

The bluetooth issues ruined my 2018 MBP. They're all Catalina. The same hardware on Mojave had no problems.

It's been an issue since Catalina shipped, and there's a bunch of witchcraft you can try to do to fix it, and some of it might work until the next Catalina update undoes whatever inscrutable fix you applied and prevents you from doing it again.

The only fix that worked for me was manually downgrading back to Mojave. No idea if that's possible on hardware that shipped after Catalina did.

[link]

From: Patrick Gibson (Oct 04 2020, at 09:28)

I have the first generation TouchBar before they Did the Right Thing™ and made the Esc key a real key. I like its utility quite a lot, but I feel it would be improved 100% with haptic feedback.

[link]

From: Icycool (Oct 04 2020, at 10:19)

I use a monitor with a hub which has a thunderbolt interface. So, just one cable to the monitor suffices to charge and connect all my peripherals. I wouldn’t recommend my monitor as the colors are washed out, but you could buy a similar one instead of an additional hub.

[link]

From: Joshk (Oct 04 2020, at 12:10)

MBP 2015 user still on Mojave here. Bluetooth on that model is also bad. I have the apple touchpad that I cant use it because of disconnects.

[link]

From: Osvaldo Doederlein (Oct 04 2020, at 12:50)

I've been using MBPs since 2012, all corp-issued – I'd never pay this price for that level of HW from my own dime, not now with Windows 10 being ten times more OS than the Mac in every possible aspect. Anyway, the Bluetooh problem is certainly a problem and I've had it with more than one MBP. In my experience, the frequency of random disconnects makes it completely unusable in the following setup: MBP + mouse + external trackpad + external keyboard, all those being the expensive "magic" products from Apple so there's no possible blaming of third-party hardware or drivers. But I only have this problem if the Mac's lid is open i.e. when I need to use its own screen, which I do only for videoconf due to the camera. If I keep the lid closed, which is my normal setup (I like to use exclusively my dual external displays), then Bluetooth seems to be perfectly robust.

Speaking of external displays, that's another perpetual source of irritation. Every time I open the lid, therefore activating the Mac's own display, it seems to scramble my windows around, at least windows that weren't open since the last time that display was used. Much worse, sometimes one of my external displays freezes (I have to power-cycle it), or the MBP crashes and needs a cold boot, every time this happens OSX decides to completely ignore my careful arrangement of open windows (which also involves multiple virtual desktops per physical displays), it just shuffles the configuration like a deck of cards and puts the windows in random places so I have to reorganize everything. Sometimes it also inverts the logic positioning of the external displays 9which one is "left" ad "right") and sometimes it even loses the preferred resolution/scaling so I also have to set up that again. You would expert smooth, "it just works" support for multiple monitors to be table stakes for any professional laptop sold since 2010.

And yeah, the crashes. Average 1-2 per week. I don't run ANYTHING other than Chrome and terminals... sometimes a local copy of Eclipse or command-line build tools for some open source Java work (Maven builds etc) but that's about it. I rarely get "live" crashes while I'm using the thing, but I get tons of "sleepy" crashes - when I try to wake it up for in the morning to start a new day of work but it doesn't respond until I force a power-on. Meanwhile in the next room to my office's, my kid's Wintel box never crashes despite his heavy usage of games, video editing tools, and a good variety of junk apps, utilities and browser extensions that he insists to install (my kid is already "I cannot micromanage his computer" years old). It's like the old days of Win95 x Mac comparisons except with the shoe in the other foot.

[link]

From: Gord Wait (Oct 04 2020, at 13:11)

I'm on a 2014 iMac, noticed weird lags in the latest lighroomcc then read there's a bug in the graphics acceleration somewhere that bothers Lightroom. Mind you I haven't seen that screen blank thing..

[link]

From: David Anderson (Oct 04 2020, at 13:12)

My magic trackpad randomly unpairs itself, and the MBP won’t go to sleep if firefox has more than one tab open. These are, admittedly, minor problems, but arrrrgh.

[link]

From: John (Oct 04 2020, at 13:27)

There is something not quite right with that Mac. BT is rock solid on my last of the 15” MBP’s. And it’s most certainly rapid ( it can spin up logstash, wand compile external Ruby / grok, in under a couple of seconds ). Sounds like it could be a candidate for a rebuild, at the very least, or a return....

[link]

From: Quasar (Oct 04 2020, at 13:44)

My experience is that the Catalina OS slowed lots of things down. I don’t know if it’s security ‘features’ or what but it definitely affected performance. Hopefully Apple focuses more on speed and stability in the next OS upgrade.

[link]

From: Michael Miller (Oct 04 2020, at 17:12)

I feel roughly the same as you. Due to my work environment, I am forced to be in Windows from 8-5, but I do not like it as I always seem to be battling software and an OS which wants to be as unproductive as possible.

For personal projects, I far prefer Linux, and most of my home machines run some variant (usually Arch). *For the use cases which fit*, it is amazing and I wouldn't trade it for anything. However, I don't want to make the required Linux tradeoffs in every single case.

This is where the Mac enters. MacOS, as a design, is fine. At this point, it's far past boring, given it hasn't changed appreciably since 2002. However I'm fine if the OS just gets out of the way. Except that it can't seem to get out of the way. I hadn't had a Mac for 4 years, my last being a 2013 MBP, which is still one of the best laptops I've ever had. I have needed to use Lightroom/Photoshop/Illustrator again, and I won't buy a Windows laptop for this, so I'll use the Mac. There are Linux versions of all these, but my use cases require the Adobe ecosystem itself.

I bought a 2020 13" with 4 Thunderbolt ports, so it has the 2Ghz i5 and 16GB RAM. For the use cases I need, this should be plenty. I won't gripe if I do something in Photoshop which makes it chug - it's an i5, I'm not expecting miracles. But there are just so many times where it seems like it can't survive the daily grind.

I also use the exact same Caldigit box as you. I found that Optical out for audio doesn't quite work right, and I had the issue on 2 boxes. You can't just "unplug" the box from the Mac without doing at least a full suspend first. That makes me stop and think if it's worth unplugging and carrying it to the couch. While I do like being able to charge all of my iPad, MacBook Pro, and Nintendo Switch with USB-C, the lack of *any* other options for the MBP is infuriating. The f'ing Caldigit box cost 1/4 the price of the entire laptop. But it's probably a good investment compared to the 8 dongles it replaces.

The fan curves for the laptop are set way too quiet, and that has been the case for all 3 MBPs I have owned. Normally I wouldn't complain about "too quiet", but when t_die is reporting near 96C and the fans are still at a whisper, what gives? Sometimes the fans kick in at 80C, and sometimes they wait to 100C. Again, every MBP I have owned over 12 years has done this. I love a quiet computer but don't melt!

There's just not another option. I have Linux laptops which run terrifically well, when I have the case to use Linux for a project.

[link]

From: Andrew (Oct 04 2020, at 20:44)

I haven't had much luck with laptops lately, either. Last year I had work issue me with the then-new 13" MacBook Pro (awful keyboard model) and I hated it so much that I insisted that they take it back, replacing it with a ThinkPad yoga something. I'd forgotten just how awful Windows is, and the machine itself is no faster, and the screen is worse and the trackpad _much_ worse. The keyboard is better though. Sigh. Luckily I only need to use it when out of the office (like, since March...)

My new iMac 27" is _exactly_ as nice as my previous one (wife needed one, so I bought a new one of matching spec) despite being five years younger. That is, really, really nice, which makes me think that the problem with laptops is the thermals.

Which is why I have significant hope that the new Arm models will be a significant improvement: the cores are already faster than laptop x86 cores, and they run cooler. And Apple have a much better story around software availability on Arm than Microsoft does (that is, they have vendors trained to keep up and keep current, or the OS will render them un-runnable before long).

Browser-wise: I use and like FireFox. I like it for ecosystem diversity as much as anything: we can't all just use a webkit variant. The gecko has lots of rusty servo goodness, and they keep working on the javascript/wasm engine. Just like in the bad-old-days there are a couple of sites/services that are now showing prejudice against it, which is sad. Performance and amenity (shard * across all devices, including Android) are great, IMO.

I really, really want to be able to suggest switching to Linux, but the 12 year Wayland project doesn't feel like it's landing, and some of the new directions (snap apps in particular) are, IMO, completely insane. Sigh.

[link]

From: Gavin B (Oct 08 2020, at 05:18)

Another reason ...

Apple's T2 custom secure boot chip is not only insecure – it cannot be fixed without replacing the silicon

https://www.theregister.com/2020/10/08/apple_t2_security_chip/

[link]

From: Bilgehan (Oct 14 2020, at 23:43)

Switching back to Mojave may solve some of the problems. The last two iterations of Mac OS is extremely buggy.

[link]

From: Ricardo (Nov 10 2020, at 08:29)

I'm so glad I came across this. I feel the same way on my 16 inch Pro but thought it was just me.

I had been away from Apple's computer line for a few years and built my own PCs that you can play meaningful games on and much more. I originally left because they were selling 3-year-old machines at insanely high prices and that was just not acceptable to me.

Fast-forward to now and, on paper, their MacBooks and iMacs have better specs and seem to be in line with current technology.

Everyone told me if I'm serious about photo editing, I had to get a Mac or Macbook. I pulled the trigger and within minutes of setting it up was hit with endless messages saying I'm not allowed to do this or that and if I must, go here, here, and there and change the following settings. It seems MacOS has become quite the electronic bureaucracy. This irritated me and was the catalyst for my displeasure.

It's hot, it's not as fast as it ought to be but not slow. Likely thermal throttling. And not pleasant to use at all. The experience of using a Mac is supposed to be a pleasant one. It's why I stuck with them for over 20 years. Things now seem soulless. Cold. Restrictive.

I am considering selling this machine off and getting a more powerful and less expensive PC laptop. I believe the conjecture of using a Mac if you're a serious creative to be a fallacy. An old wives tale.

The mighty Macbook has fallen but I agree, the sound on it is spectacular.

[link]

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
October 02, 2020
· Technology (86 fragments)
· · Apple (2 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.