Regular readers, will probably have worked out, that I love trying different tech gear. Especially photographic gear and usually Apple products.
This wasn’t intended to be quite as long, so apologies before hand for the length of this post, but I hope you find it a worthwhile read.
I have been using Macs, in one form or another, since early 2003, when I purchased my very first PowerBook G4. A little 12″ model, which, thanks to some build to order options, I maxed out. Looking back now, maxed out with 768MB RAM does sound a bit paltry, but that little laptop was my go to device for years. I absolutely loved it.
Until, after transitioning to Digital photography with the Canon EOS 10D and then the EOS 1Ds MKII, my little PowerBook G4, just didn’t have the oomph for editing the files the 1Ds MKII was producing. It struggled to batch process images. I was gutted. It was time for a new laptop.
I’ve had many different MacBook Pro offerings, I won’t even get into the number of PowerMac G5, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and iMac I have had and purchased for other friends and family, but each was perfectly capable and improved, generation over generation, but none ever captured that ‘connection’ I had with my PowerBook G4. I loved that little computer. But all, could be opened up and either fixed (within limitations) or upgraded by the end user, whether Apple officially said so or not.
Need a new battery? Easy(ish) depending on model. Earlier MacBook Pro, had easily removable batteries. Just a simple flick of an unlock switch and out popped the battery. Nothing could have been easier. More RAM? A doddle. Want to increase that HDD or swap it for SSD? Done in minutes.
MacBook Pro, were investments for the future. You could upgrade them (within limitations) as your needs changed. Once Apple had fully switched over to Intel CPU, with 64-Bit CPU and EFI, the investment for the future, was pretty much assured.
Until, that is, Apple released the MacBook Air. That, was a true PowerBook G4 12″ replacement. It was gorgeous, small and capable (within limits), but that slightly smaller 16:9 screen, wasn’t great for editing images on the go and the TN display, was awful for colour accuracy, not to mention the well documented viewing angles, but I loved that little 11.6″ model computer.
The MacBook Air, was the template for what Apple was planning to do with all their computer offerings. Non upgradeable and non user serviceable. You had to pay Apple the big bucks to get the upgrades you ‘might need’in the future, at the time of purchase. Apple forced you to pay their inflated prices on RAM and extra storage as a means of future proofing your purchase. And boy did they inflate those prices.
The MacBook Air, did also come in a larger 13″ form, which continues to this day (sort of), but hasn’t seen an internal update in over a year or a redesign in many years.
With the help of the graphics from MacRumors’ ‘Buyers Guide’ Site, I give you. . .
As you can see from the graphic above, the MacBook Air, hasn’t seen an update in over a year (at the time of the graphic being created).
The 13″ MacBook Air, still comes with that rather under whelming display, but has at least had ‘some’ internal updates, which is more than can be said for most of Apple’s other offerings.
As camera gear has become more technologically advanced and sensor resolution has improved exponentially, from the earliest digital SLR offerings, demands on portable systems have increased significantly and so, having a portable device that is capable of handling large RAW files from modern sensors and cameras, is a must.
Software too, has become way more advanced, offering smarter editing capabilities, with multi layer edits, corrections, composite constructions etc. and so, hardware requirements, have become even more relevant. Efficency and battery life balanced with performance, more than ever.
It’s a bit of a misconception that an image taken with a 24MP sensor, will be the same size regardless of the camera it is taken on, but this isn’t technically true.
Image sensor size is relevent here. You see, on a Micro Four Thirds 20.3MP sensor, each pixel is smaller and therfor less able to capture the same ‘data’ that a 20.3MP APS-C sensor can capture. The APS-C sensor has physically larger pixels which are capable of capturing more light data. Likewise, an APS-C sensor, can’t capture the same amount of data as a full frame sensor like the 24.3MP found in the Sony A7 series of cameras. The pixels are physically bigger, allowing for more light data to be captured and stored.
This gets complicated even further, when colour space selection and bit depth are added into the mix. A 12-bit sRGB RAW file on a 24MP APS-C will be smaller than the same APS-C sensor producing a 14-bit sRGB RAW file, which in turn will be smaller than a 14-bit Adobe RGB RAW file. As sensor size increases, data captured generally increases too, putting even more strain on mobile systems capabilities.
While the difference in the amount of data captured, may be argueable to the naked eye, when it comes to post processing, the larger full frame files, allow for a greater amount of ‘tweaking’ as it’s now called, or processing as it was called in the days of the dark room.
A RAW image froma m4/3 20.3MP sensor, may be typically @14MB in size, an image file from a 24.3MP full frame might typically be @34MB in size. Obviously, these file sizes vary, depending on the complexity of the subject / scene captured. More objects in the scene, require more written data to differentiate between them, compared to a shot of a clear blue sky say. So, the figures are just guess-timates.
Recently, I’ve written about my transition from laptop, a retina MacBook Pro, to the new world of computing, well if you believe the hype at least, of post pc-ism, which involves tablets, as the go to device, instead of the trusty old laptop or desktop computer.
I have been transitioning my predominantly photographic workflow, from my retina MacBook Pro, onto the second generation, 10.5″ iPad Pro, which, wasn’t as hard as I first imagined.
There was a bit of a learning curve, searching for Apps to replace my Mac desktop workflow etc. But alternatives were there to be utilised, in fresh and exciting new ways. Ah, the age of discovery! Bring it on. . .
It wasn’t painless and was actually quite invigorating. Creative types (or any person for that matter) really should have a good clear out every once in a while. We should all get rid of that digital ‘fluff’, that’s been on the ‘to do’ list, and embrace a fresh start. It does somewhat centre the attention. . .
Those applications, that were installed with the best of intentions, which, you never did get round to learning fully, or, the applications that were installed but forgotten about., the digital detritus, bogging down and hogging valuable disk space, running unbeknown tasks in the background, stealing valuable system resources. Some, sharing everything you have been doing on your system, with their developers, without your knowledge, need to go.
Clear them out. Your system will thank you for it, as it suddenly feels faster and fresher and, well, like it did when it was new.
Readers of this blog, will know that I have written a few posts detailing my experiences transitioning to the iPad Pro workflow, including my first post asking Apple, if it was time to kill the Mac. The transition, has been a mostly positive experience, until that is, I hit a rather unpleasant brick wall. . .I needed more storage.
Physical on device storage.
Now, I know iPad Pro can be configured with additional storage, my budget allowed for the base 64GB, with Smart Keyboard and Pencil (both of which are necessities if you’re going down the post pc route), but ‘hoping’ that I could utilise more cloud options was (and is) a saving grace, (it has been working really well), but available space was an issue.
The main bottleneck to my entire library being in the Cloud (on two different Cloud services), was my ultra pathetic broadband upload speed. But, internal storage on the iPad Pro was becoming an issue for me too.
I knew I would probably need more physical space, but in fairness, I didn’t expect to get so much done as quickly as I did, as a result, the transition to iPad Pro, was really going faster than even I expected.
So, I started looking at the 256GB or 512GB options and they are great, but expensive. Especially when I thought really long and hard and decided that the little bit extra real estate of the 12.9″, might actually be more welcome than I had originally thought. So, as ever, being the budget conscious person that I am, I turned to the hit and miss world of eBay. . .
Thousands of iPad Pro from all over the world, in varying states from pristine (with a smashed screen: huh?) to parts only and virtually every option in between. I searched and searched, hour after hour, looking for just the right thing. . .the perfect mobile solution. Obviously, if I were to opt for the larger 12.9″, I would need to get another Smart KeyBoard to go with the larger iPad Pro. At least the Pencil is interchangeable, so, I kept looking. . .and, after many days, hours, bleary eyes and headaches. . .
I found it. . .
Screen? Over 12″.
Keyboard and pencil? Included.
Internal storage? 256GB SSD.
Internal RAM? 8GB.
Expansion slots? Micro SDXC card reader built in, USB 3.0 port. Mini Display port. I could add more storage on fast Micro SD cards whenever I needed it. I could connect external SSD drives via fast USB 3, whenever I needed it and, I could connect a larger display via Mini Display port, whenever I needed it.
Apple, you have made a really wonderful product. I absolutely love the iPad Pro. It is a great device, but unfortunately, you didn’t make the perfect device for on the go workflow, in this post pc world. . .
The above graphic, taken from Microsoft’s UK online Store, shows my configuration of Surface Pro. Core i5, 8GB RAM with 256GB SSD. As you can see, at the time of writing, there’s a special £100 off the RRP.
I found a near new condition one on eBay, still under warranty, complete with a Type Cover and the latest gen Surface Pen, significantly less than the price shown in the graphic above. It does pay to shop around, unless you’re desperate, just buy one. You won’t regret it. I certainly don’t.
Next to my Sony a7ii, I reviewed just recently, this is a great purchase. It really is an incredibly capable machine, but if you need more oomph, there is a Core i7 offering too for some extra horse power if your budget / demands require it.
Readers of this blog, will know I have dabbled with Microsoft’s ‘mobile 2 in 1’ offering on a few occasions. I started with a Surface 2, running Windows 8 RT, which I really liked, but the lack of Apps made it a limited and unfulfilling experience overall.
Some time later, I happened upon a really cheap Surface Pro 2 on eBay, that was well battered but fully functioning, so I thought, ‘let’s have a looksee’. I loved that little Surface Pro 2, but eventually moved back to using my MacBook Air, because it was slightly bigger, familiar, with much better battery life, keyboard and TrackPad.
I got another Surface Pro 2 later on, again at a bargain price. This one was in much better condition having been carefully looked after and again, I found, with the newer Windows 10 updates, that the Surface was becoming a really promising and enjoyable device.
I wrote some reviews on here about the Surface Pro 2. I really did enjoy using it, but there were some niggles (TrackPad and keyboard were fairly terrible and battery life, while much improved over the first Surface Pro 2, was only delivering @5 hrs of casual use).
But, as ever, the niggles started to set in and dominate my experience. The type cover keyboard was ok, but noisy. The small built in Trackpad was. . .useless, so for extended periods of non direct on screen interaction, it started to become a chore.
Sometime later, I had the chance of a Surface Pro 4, which I really did like. The screen size, flexible storage etc, but the one I grabbed to try out, only had a Core M CPU, which, for everything other than image editing or CPU intensive stuff, was absolutely brilliant. It flew along without issue and unlike many Surface Pro 4 owners out there, battery life was a huge improvement on previous experiences. That thing would last @9 hours easily with casual use. If you did attempt anything more strenuous, obviously the battery took a hit as things gradually ground to an almost halt, but for every day lighter tasks, the Core M was a huge surprise.
But, image editing is mostly what I do, so, despite my enjoyment of the Surface Pro 4, the improved battery life, the Surface Pro 4 was sold on. I looked for a higher spec option, but they were just too expensive to justify the outlay.
All of this was before I started my serious transition to a tablet based, post pc world, type future.
Time passed, as it does, and all the while I was sure Apple would do something to tackle the threat that Microsoft’s Surface Pro was raising. Then came the Surface Studio desktop beast, the Surface Dial . . .Microsoft were innovating?
Huh? When did that happen????
I knew vaguely, that Microsoft had launched a new Surface Pro in 2017, but a quick glance at the prices, was a little off putting. The base model came with a 7th gen Core M CPU, which, based on my Surface Pro 4 experience, was never going to manage Lightroom or Photoshop. The next hike up, with Core i5, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD, was into the £1000 GBP mark. Too much to outlay on something I knew showed promise, but from previous experience, had some niggles. I also knew that 4GB RAM, just wasn’t enough for my needs running desktop class software, so, 8GB would need to be the minimum.
Then, iPad Pro 2nd Gen arrived. . . This was it. The device I had been waiting for. . .and it was. . . mostly, for @85% of what I needed to do, but there was some software I use a lot, which just has no iOS equivalent and the developers, aren’t showing any signs of making it on iOS, so, I had to keep returning to my Mac desktop to use the desktop apps I relied on for certain ‘looks’.
So, here I am, typing on my 2017 model, Surface Pro, which Microsoft decided, didn’t have enough changes in the specification, to warrant a number upgrade, so, the sequal to the Surface Pro 4, is the Surface Pro (2017).
How and ever, this Surface Pro, is as far as I can work out, a huge upgrade over the previous generation Pro 4 designation. Virtually every single component is new and or redesigned.
For starters, it contains a 7th Generation Intel Core i5 (Kaby Lake), which runs at 2.6GHz, dual core with hyper threading and Turbo boost. It has faster 8GB RAM, faster 256GB SSD and a better on board GPU Intel HD 620 (in the core i5 models).
Most importantly, the core i5 models, like the Core M based offering, is now totally fanless.
Yup, you heard that right.
The Surface Pro (2017) Intel Core i5 models have no fan, desite the CPU being the real U designation, which requires a fan by design. Microsoft engineers, found a way.
It’ll overheat and burn out! I hear you cry. . .
Nope. It won’t.
The innovative engineers at Microsoft (a phrase I honestly never thought I would see my self type or utter aloud), have created a weird spider’s web type heatsink, which distributes the heat out over a greater surface area, which combined with Kaby Lake and redesigned cooling vents, keeps the CPU cooled within normal parameters.
The difference no fan makes?
This thing is totally silent.
My Surface Pro (2017) is quick. Noticeably quick. It just whizzes through whatever I throw at it. When pushed, yeah it does get a bit warm to the touch, but so far, has never got anywhere near to that ‘it’s gonna melt’ point. It gets warm and that’s pretty much it. Never hot hot (unlike some MacBook Pro models of days gone by. You might remember when Apple stopped calling their laptops, laptops and started calling them notebooks instead).
That 12.3″ display, is gorgeous to look at. The colour accuracy is pretty spot on and the almost complete sRGB colour gammut, is good enough for most image related editing needs. It may not have the same gammut as the iPad Pro, but the difference side by side? You can’t tell.
The contrast. black point and white point, is really good on the Surface Pro display. And the resolution? Is pin sharp. It is a gorgeous display to work on.
And. . .battery life is much improved over previous generations. Of course, battery life is a very subjective and based on personal needs, thing. Depending on what you’re doing on your Surface Pro, mileage will vary, but with the excellent power managment features in Windows 10 in combination with the Kaby Lake CPU / GPU, Microsoft has managed to produce something that will last you all day.
Heavy video editing, multi layered image editing or other CPU / GPU intensive tasks, will obviously eat your battery power more quickly (depending on settings used), but for most every day tasks including lighter image editing, this thing will last between charges.
Now, I had the 10.5″ iPad Pro, which I felt was a better size for everyday carrying and while that remains true, the increased size to 12.3″ of the Surface Pro, is actually a very welcome addition.
The Type Cover, is as ever, a very expensive add on, which you don’t actually need unless you do a lot of writing, because thanks to a redesigned Kick Stand (yeah the thing every body laughed at, including me, when Microsoft launched the first Surface Pro), range of movement has been increased over that of the Surface Pro 4 and will now extend (rotate /swing/flex) outwards until almost flat (165 degrees). This is now what Microsoft call the ‘Studio’ mode.
Studio mode is brilliant for drawing /editing and for typing, on the highly capable on screen touch keyboard. That’s where that extra screen real estate really makes a big difference over the 10.5″ iPad Pro.
If you do opt for the physical Type Cover, you can enjoy a full sized proper keyboard. Having got used to the 10’5″ iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, which costs more than the Surface Pro Type Cover, it does feel a bit huge, but after adapting to the size increase, is a joy to use. Backlighting on each key and a built in track pad, whilst not as good as the track pads you’ll find on any Apple Laptop, is a welcome addition.
The now ‘optional’ Surface Pro Pen, is the latest generation, with over 4,000 pressure sensitive capabilities, which makes using the pen an absolute joy. It’s fluid with minimal lag and while it may not be quite as technically proficient as the Apple Pencil, the size, weight and build, actually suit me better than the thin pencil that Apple offers. The slight difference in lag times is for any normal person, imperceptible. If you video and watch back in slow-mo, yes you can see there is a slightly longer lag with teh Surface Pro Pen compared to the Apple Pencil, but between the two, I actually prefer the Surface Pro Pen.
Pens / pencils are, like any writing instrument, a personal thing. Finding the right pen makes all the difference to handwriting quality and comfort. I personally prefer a smaller, chubbier writing instrument and the Surface Pro Pen satisfies that and feels great in my hand.
The Apple Pencil, if I had to be critical, is just a little too thin and a little too long for my taste. It is in no way horrible. It is wonderful to use, but I like the feel of the Surface Pen just that little bit more.
So, what am I prattling on about this for, when I’ve written about transitioning to the iPad Pro?
Something resonated with me when I started using the Surface Pro (2017). My experiences with the previous versions I detailed earlier, also started something I didn’t like to admit at the time. The experience with the Surface 2 and the Surface Pros I’d had started an uncomfortable niggle in my mind, that after 15 years of being a Mac user, having spent a small fortune on Apple computers, both desktop and laptop, iPads, iPhones, Airport Extreme / Express, keyboards, trackpads, mice, not to mention the amount of software I’d purchased, Apple had moved away from where their products and I had journeyed together.
My switch to Apple back in 2003, when I bought my first 12″ PowerBook G4, maxed out and cost a small fortune, was the start of a creative journey where the Apple products I’d purchased had assisted in my creative workflow. Apple gear and I had become a competent unit for my photographic journey.
But, that started to change with the loss of Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs, knew how important creatives were to Apple. They are the group of individuals, that had remained loyal to Apple through the Jobsless period. They were the group of people, that had the money to invest in Apple gear on a long term scale.
Steve Jobs, made Apple, loyal to creatives and in return, creative types, stayed loyal to Apple.
This was why, Apple made software like Final Cut, Aperture and Logic Pro, to name just a few. This is why these titles became industry standards, but after the loss of Steve Jobs, Apple effectively dumped innovation for creative types, but abandoning Aperture and the photographic community that had become reliant on Aperture’s unique way of processing RAW files and the unique toolset Aperture included, Apple had set their stall out for all to see. Creative types, were no longer a consideration worthy of Apple’s time.
Sure, there were new offerings of Final Cut and Logic Pro, but they are really only now getting back the feature sets they had before they were redesigned from the ground up for a 64-bit world. When the first Final Cut X 64-bit was released, the number of professionals who jumped ship due to a lack of the features they had come to rely on, spoke volumes. Apple, it appeared, just didn’t care enough about creatives.
Aperture, my favourite image library app, is long gone, despite my spending over £1000 on the various ittertions and updates that were launched. Things like that leave a sour taste in your mouth. Even if you find alternatives, but the taste lingers. Time doesn’t remove that sense of being cheated.
Mac computers too started to feel overlooked.
The Mac Pro, the long term investment and basis of so many creative industries was ignored for years with out dated internals, yet no price reduction. When finally Apple did release a new Mac Pro to the world, Phil Schiller stated “can’t innovate? My ass” during the keynote. Prices for a 2013 Mac Pro, start from £2999.00, for a 5 year old (tech wise) computer!
As you can see, the Mac Pro, hasn’t had an update in 1,698 days (that’s over 4.5 years!).
When Apple did finally get round to revealing their all new Mac Pro in 2013, sure it was gorgeous. It was amazing, but, it was tiny. It had virtually no internal expansion options and was pretty much disregarded by creative types.
That virtually same 2013 Mac Pro, is still available to buy today but a sightly reduced cost. No huge reduction and no latest generation tech. As a technical project, the Mac Pro is a phenominal design and engineering feat. It is gorgeous to look at, but, it’s 5 years old!
The Mac Mini, that much loved and hugely versatile little computer, which always hit above it’s weight, has remained unchanged since 2014. Sure it has a 4th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, but Intel are now onto the 8th Generation of Core i CPU.
Mac Mini has increased in price, despite having 4 year old internal components. Prices start from £479.00 for a 4 year old (tech wise) computer.
The MacBook Pro, virtually unchanged since 2012 when Apple launched their first retina models, was finally given the redesign many wanted in 2016 and. . .
It had a Touch Bar! Whoop whoop.
And it came in different colours. . .whoop!
And you couldn’t upgrade any parts yourself. EVER.
The MacBook Pro, has just received an internal update recently, so one almost modern computer is currently available from Apple. Prices start from £1249.00, but increase rapidly when you start to select the spec you might need in the future.
The 13″ with TouchBar, starts from £1749.00 and increases with upgrades and the 15″ model, starts from £2399.00 and increases with the updates you ‘might’ need to future proof your ‘investment’.
The relaunched and redesigned MacBook, with it’s underwhelming Intel Core M based CPU/GPU, are expensive, compared to what MacBook used to be and are significantly impaired when it comes to doing any serious CPU/ GPU intensive work.
The MacBook, hasn’t seen refresh in over a year! The MacBook is available in a range of fancy colours to suit your taste at the time of purchase, for a mere £1249.00. Optional upgrades are available at an inflated price at the time of purchase.
The iMac. The favourite all in one desktop, always allowed the user to upgrade internal memory, so that you could imprive the performance as your needs adapted.
In 2012, when Apple launched the ultra thin (depending on what angle you’re looking at it from) iMac, the 21″ had no user upgradeable memory. As you can see above, the iMac hasn’t had an update in over a year.
Up until the 2011 model iMac, an adventurous owner could remove the screen and replace internals should they wish. The display glass was held on by magnets, so any adventurous owner could replace that awful slow Hard Drive, with a latest SSD for a huge performance boost, with the right tools, steady hand and some care.
I did the SSD upgrade on my mid 2011 27″ iMac. It wasn’t that hard and with care it was easy enough to do. It made my entire machine feel like a new machine. It was blazingly fast, combined with 16GB of RAM, it handled anything I threw at it. Imagine my excitment when Apple announced the new macOS Mojave features to the world. It even came with a Dark Mode.
Bliss. At last.
Compared to the current 21.5″ iMac, which starts at £1049.99 with optional ‘build to order’ upgrades, which as you would expect, bump that price up even higher. A 4K displayed version, starts at £1249.00, or the 27″ iMac, which starts at £1749.00 with 5K display and increases as you bump up your specs. my iMac is repairable and upgradeable (with limitations regarding GPU etc). Good luck getting the current offerings open, should something go wrong.
Now, this is frustrating, because I have been requesting a dark mode for OSX and macOS for years. Apple have never obliged, instead insisting on blinding us with ever brighter and brighter displays. Now they do decide to put a dark mode into the latest OS and. . .my iMac has been excluded from the macOS Mojave roll out. Thanks Apple.
I have to buy a new computer to get it. . .
And here’s what Apple want you and I to buy. . .
Now, sure, if you have a few thousand sitting around and you want an all in one which, like the cheaper standard iMac, can only have the RAM upgraded (27″ models only), then the iMac Pro is a steal at £4,899.00. But for almost £5K, I want a system that I can get into and upgrade and/ or fix when the warranty has long since run out.
I can open up my iMac, I can replace components. From 2012 onward, Apple have made their computers almost impossible to open.
Buy a Mac for a long term investment?
I bought my 27″ iMac in the spring of 2012, despite it being a mid-2011 specification model, it was built to order with some upgraded internals. Having taken it apart and installed a Crucial MX300 (3D NAND SSD), it was a completely new and still powerful machine, well capable of current and future needs, but, if I want the latest OS with Dark Mode, I have to buy a new computer.
Currently, Apple have three desktop computers on offer. A five year old Mac Pro, a four year old Mac Mini and an iMac which hasn’t seen a redesign since 2012, but has been upgraded internally at indescriminate times, so it isn’t ‘that’ old.
But, Apple still offer the iMac and Mac Mini, with 5400rpm internal hard drives. That can’t easily be changed to SSD because either the display is now glued onto the body and can’t easily be removed without breakage, or the base plate of the Mini, has been fitted with specialised tamper proof screws. The 27″ iMac does allow the end user to increase the RAM, but any chance of repair is virtually removed.
So much for long term investment then.
As a comparison, my mother has an almost ten year old HP desktop. It has a Quad Core Intel CPU (pre Core I) a Q9660 (or something like that), it has 8GB RAM installed (motherboard supports much more) and it has GPU slots for upgrading the graphics, should needs demand it.
It was a Windows 7 machine originally, which runs the latest build of Windows 10, effortlessly. It zooms along and almost never misses a beat.
Microsoft, launching a new OS (Windows 10 is now a few years old and has had many new update builds released, which improve and add new features) and here her ten+ year old, off the shelf PC can run the latest OS without issue.
My more powerful iMac from spring 2012, is not being allowed to run the latest macOS, despite being able to run macOS High Sierra, without issue (other than the bugs within the OS).
Apple are ensuring forced obsolescence, by deliberately preventing more than capable computers from accessing their latest operating system. This isn’t new, Apple has been doing it for a long time, but not quite as blatantly.
Apple’s portable offerings, yet again, show a similar pattern. A MacBook Air that despite having had a slight internal bump, is the same design as the updated version from 2010. An 8 year old design.
MacBook are over priced, under performing, multi coloured clamshells, which have awful keyboards and one USB-C port.
MacBook Pro are expensive, especially once you factor in additional RAM or higher storage SSD offerings, or both, then they get stupidly expensive.
Some may argue, that at @£1400 RRP the Surface Pro core i5, 8GB RAM 256GB SSD, that I have now, is as overpriced as the MacBook Pro, I could have got for the same money. It’s a fair point, but there are differences:
Surface Pro has a multi angle kickstand.
Surface Pro has Touch input.
Surface Pro has pen input.
Surface Pro has expandable storage, thanks to that little dinky Micro SDXC slot hiding under the kickstand. I can easily add additional storage when I want to. And that little Micro SDXC reader, supports todays highest capacity cards. That’s potentially 400GB + installed with a slight push into the Micro SDXC slot. Job done.
The MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, don’t.
As you can see from the Macrumors’ Buyer Guide Graphics, only one of Apple’s current computer offerings has been updated in the past year. The rest are well overdue a refresh and their latest ‘pro’ offering, is a vanity project for people who have too much credit and not enough common sense. Bragging rights rule, with the iMac Pro.
Where did Apple’s innovation go?
And that was the uncomfortable feeling I started to get when I first tested the Surface 2 way back when it was about to be replaced by the Surface 3 (I got it on a deal)
The iMac, has remained unchanged since 2012. The 27″ is expensive. Apple has recently launched the iMac Pro, which is far too expensive and as difficult to upgrade as the normal less expensive, but still expensive iMac.
Microsoft, has launched an expensive (iMac level price) Surface Studio, starting at £2999.00 with various upgraded options. Screen shot below is from Microsoft’s online store here in the U.K.
It’s an all in one.
It has a touch screen.
It has pen input.
It has add ons like the Surface Dial which adds a whole new interactive layer to input.
It has a tilting display, just like the iMac? No, the Surface Studio display, can slide down to become a huge Wacom Cintiq style workspace for creatives to get down and do their stuff.
The Surface Studio, is what Apple should have evolved the iMac into.
But they didn’t.
The Surface Pro, starts at £799.00, (there’s currently £50 off in the U.K, so that brings it down to £749.00 with the 7th Gen Core M CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD), is what Apple should have evolved the MacBook Pro into long ago.
But they didn’t.
A software company called Microsoft did. They made the hardware.
So, my Surface Pro 2017, with 8GB RAM and 256SSD, Surface Pen and Type Cover, would cost new today, over £1400.00 all in.
I found one on eBay, like new, hardly used, someone looking for a very quick sale, that I got for well under the retail price. Complete. All in. Only 11 battery cycles. It’s like new and came with Type Cover and latest Surface Pen, all boxed. Pristine.
That is a bargain.
What I make selling my iPad Pro, Smart Keyboard and Pencil, will cover that and I have a completely versatile Desktop system to us. Free from constraints of Apple and their walled garden.
I’ve only had it a week or so, but using my old style workflow with Windows versions of my trusted desktop software, I fell straight into old mode and was getting things done way faster. Muscle memory kicked back in and I was on a roll.
The Surface Pro, is a premium device. The build quality is excellent and the subtle tweaks to design make it all the more enjoyable to hand hold. Performance is impressive and I have yet to encounter a single issue. Everything on it, just works.
Microsoft really have improved their attention to detail on this Surafe Pro. It is an absolutely fantastic device to use for long periods and never feels tired or under pressure.
The Type cover is a refreshing change from the Apple Smart Keyboard and has full sized, backlit keys. I did miss backlit keys on the Smart Keyboard, as thanks to a sensitivity to light, I often work in darker environments, so a baklit keyboard is much appreciated.
TrackPad interaction and capabilities have been improved and the TrackPad has had a size boost. Nowhere near as big as the current offering from Apple, nor as fluid, but is almost there. The Pen input is brilliant. There is no other word for it.
The iPad Pro is an incredible device. It is a beautifully made and powerful tablet. But, I’m afraid to say it, I have found a better way of doing the post pc thing. . .on a pc.
The Surface Pro is a fantatsic device. I have finally given in to what started to niggle at me when I got my first Surface 2, to try out the whole Windows 8 thing. Just to see.
Inside, I knew Apple were moving away from me, I just didn’t want to accept it. They weren’t innovating in the direction they should have been going. Instead, under Tim Cook, Apple have focused on milking the cash cow of iPhone and iPad whilst essentially exploiting and paying nothing but lip service to the people who kept Apple afloat during those dark days, when Jobs was ousted from the firm. It is an uncomfortable realisation, but one that I have now accepted.
Steve Jobs, never publicly at least, forgot those creative types. He rewarded them with great hardware and brilliant software. When Steve passed away, that legacy at Apple died with him.
It really pains me to say this, being a dedicated Mac user for 15+ years, but it looks like what remains at Apple, is a hollow shell of a company, that is nothing more than a greedy corporate, milking the suckers (customers) with fake promises of devices which don’t do as much as other manufacturers, at an ever increasing cost, for older and outdated (by todays standards) internal components.
The Mac Mini, comes with a 4th Gen Intel i5 / i7 (depending on your build to order option), when Intel have already launched the 8th Generation Core I CPU.
My Surface Pro, comes with a 7th Gen Intel Core i5 (Kaby Lake), so is still pretty ‘current’ and more than capable. It is a great device.
Microsoft, on the other hand, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, has reinvented itself, from those dark Balmer days, into an open, listening company. Just the sort of place Apple was under Jobs. Microsoft, want to play well with Linux, Android, Mac, iOS and Windows of course, but their hardware devision, is really on fire with the Surface line.
The release of the smaller and very capable Microsoft Surface Go, with prices starting at £379.00 for a 10″ tablet running Windows 10 S, with Pen support and it’s own Type Cover, with built in TrackPad, should be a warning to Apple.
Microsoft, expanding their Surface range, are going after not only MacBook / MacBook Pro, with their Surface Laptop, Surface Book and Surface Pro, but the iPad Pro business too. The Surface Pro and their newest Surface Go, are more capable than Apple’s latest iPad with pencil support or iPad Pro, because they aren’t hampered with a restrictive mobile OS. Instead, all Surface run a real desktop OS even when running as a tablet.
The Surface Pro and Go, both support Pen input and have real sized and fully functioning keyboards, that are vastly superior to the Smart Keyboards currently offered by Apple.
The built in Kickstands on the Surface Pro and Surface Go, offer real stability and real positioning capabilities over the triangular one position offered by the iPad covers Apple offer.
I look forward to a Surface Phone, so I can retire iPhone into a niche item from a company that used to be great.
Windows 10, is familiar, yet new. It is fluid with some incredible features. Unlike macOS, which is being dumbed down to iOS levels, Windows 10, is evolved and evolving into a powerful and stable operating environment. Microsoft got it right with Windows 10, just as Apple got it right with Mac OS X, and look what that led to for Apple. . .over a decade of innovation and dominance.
Apple’s run is over. Microsoft are the new kings of innovation in the digital age.
Now that, is a bold statement, coming from a loyal Mac user for some 15+ years.
Apple and Apple users, should be very worried, because more people like me, are making that switch. The switch back to Windows, because of Microsoft hardware.
Now, who does that remind you off?
Just over 15 years ago, I bought a piece of hardware for access to better software. PowerBook G4 by Apple. Here I am doing the exact same thing 15 years later, but in the other direction, from Apple, to Microsoft.
I never, ever thought that day would come. But here it is and I am loving the new Surface Pro running Windows 10 Pro. It is a fully functioning desktop computer with tablet features, which just work. It’s compact, light and can be taken anywhere, yet it gives me the full desktop environment and capabilities on the go.
The Surface Pro, along with the entire Surface range, is what Apple should have introduced long ago. Being honest, Microsoft have got a much better name for their devices, yet Apple’s obsession with ever thinner, ever brighter and more locked into their ever increasing walled garden, device offerings, are moves, which enslave their customers, to Apple’s long term cloud service plan.
When Apple launched the MacBook Pro with TouchBar, it may have been a technical marvel, but for what sort of person was it intended? I don’t need a TouchBar to show me emoji. That’s what the emoji keyboard is for.
A MacBook Pro, with pen input and a touchscreen, now that might have been worth a purchase, but Apple, in their infinite wisdom (delusion) will give the customer what Apple wants, not necessarily what the customers want, because Apple know, that their customers can be milked for years because that Apple cool aid, once sipped, is very, very addictive.
I started this article stating I have been a loyal Mac user for 15 years. I have. But since Steve Jobs passed away, my loyalty to Apple and the products that Apple offers, has been shaken. Some, like the HomePod are fantastic. The iPad Pro is fantastic. but side by side, capability by capability, the fact is, the Surafce Pro, is a much more capable machine, with no compromised mobile OS, to hold it back. It is a simple fact, by design.
The Microsoft Surface Pro, runs a full desktop operating system, which runs full desktop class software. No ‘special alternatives’ need to be found. All the leading software for Mac is also available for Windows 10. No relearning (well other than basic layout differences) is required (unlike the changed workflow on the iPad Pro).
If your entire digital life is in Apple iCloud, like mine has been since the early dotmac days, come the day that you can’t access it on anything other than an Apple device, what will you do? Have a whole new life on another platform, or keep being forced into buying more expensive Apple devices, most, with years old tech inside them, to get access to YOUR data? Or, look to someone else who is innovating and offering products which offer a more involved, immersive and personal way of interacting?
It really does pain me to type these words, but Microsoft, the company I first encountered with my first Compaq PC and quickly learned to despise under Gates and then Ballmer, has changed. It needed to.
In a bizarre twist of fate, Apple is becoming what Microsoft were and Microsoft, is being reborn as the new Apple. Cool iconic products, which do things differently, but are immersive and dare I say it, fun and exciting to use.
Windows 10 Pro on the Surface Pro, feels like a solid offering, with great features from the get go. Signing in with Windows Hello, is effortless and takes virtually no time to set up. It works every time, even when wearing my reading glasses.
Of course, there are some things that macOS has, which Windows 10 doesn’t, but that works the other way too. Windows 10 has features that macOS doesn’t have. With each update that Microsoft release, more refinement and new features are being added at quite a rate, from what I have read. The next big update is due pretty soon, which I am looking forward to using.
Apple on the other hand with macOS Mojave, have done some refinement, but when you consider that they are offering a Dark Mode, when Windows has had that for years (which is a joy to use), you have to start questioning the commitment Apple has for the Mac.
When new models are released, the big news is that they come in a variety of colours. That is when you should know that the game is almost up. The silver MacBook Pro was iconic, the white MacBook was iconic. You could have any colour you wanted as long as it was silver or white respectively.
The latest MacBooks and MacBook Pro, are being offered in Rose Gold, Gold, Space Grey etc. is a sign that desperation has set in. When any manufacturer offers a variety of colours, while it may be appealing to some, usually signifies that the fresh ideas the company once had, are drying up.
With the MacBook relaunch, Apple could quite easily have offered a white aluminium version and a black version, to match the most iconic mix they had of MacBook in days long gone. Instead they offered simply too many colours, as if the MacBook (and to a slightly lesser extent the MacBook Pro with fewer colour offerings), was a fashion accessory instead of a capable computer.
With the generation of Core M the MacBook is equipped with, the MacBook is effectively an expensive note taker. For significantly less financial outlay, I would buy a Surface Pro, with 7th Gen Core M, Type Cover and Pen, have fun using it and feel great that I’d saved myself @£400 on a way more capable machine. Note taking with the Surface Pen, is a fantastic experience. One the £1249.00 MacBook, can’t even begin to challenge, regardless of the colour you opt for. The Surface Pro, comes in a beautiful and classy looking magnesium alloy, silver colour. It is rather striking. Iconic you might say.
It does, at least to me, suggest that Apple really have lost their sense of priorities, as well as their way. The lack of innovation and direction, a clear path layed out for the future of the Mac, combined with the stagnant selection of computers that they do have on offer, should have investors and customers worrying.
I do love the Unix based macOS, but there have been too little real innovations software wise, as more and more iOS ‘features’ are brought to the Mac, all while Apple, insist there will be no merging of operating systems.
You have a Mac which can’t get Handoff, because it only has BlueTooth 2? Add a Bluetooth 4 dongle, right? Wrong. Apple doesn’t support that option. But, with Continuity in Windows, depending on the type of system you have, you can add new hardware, if and when you need it to get additional functionality. The same goes with the Windows Hello camera. Don’t have one built in? You can buy USB Windows Hello compliant cameras and add it to your system, if you want that functionality.
With Apple, you can’t. You want additional features, without having to buy a new machine? Good luck with that. You could try hacking your current system, but then that affects future upgrades and compatibility.
It seems clear that Apple’s priority lies with iPhone, iPad and iOS, along with the companion pieces like Apple Watch, AppleTV and HomePod. The Mac’s days are pretty much over.
The loyalty Apple enjoys, will be milked for all it is worth, as the Apple off shore bank balance continues to fatten, as taxes are avoided being paid in the different countries around the world, all thanks to loopholes and clever accounting. Eventually, more and more people will start to make the realisation, that Apple has moved away from them and what they and Apple’s devices, had been achieving together.
Like me, they will find a solution to the challenge they have had, from a different manufacturer. In my case, Microsoft, who just as Apple used to do, make software and hardware, which excites, innovates and encourages creativity. The Microsoft Surface range of products, are exciting. They are challenging the old norm of interaction with the PC. They are leading us into the touch based future and when combined with VR /AR headsets, a different future of interacting with vision and touch.
By comparison, Apple’s idea of a touch computer, came in the form of a TouchBar (sounds like a place to consume alcohol, whilst being manhandled). Whoop-de-whoop. Technologically excellent, but lets face it, not quite up there in regards interaction levels. Icons change depending on app being used. Wow. How did we cope before a TouchBar?
It’s been a pleasure, for most part, but now my transition has changed. Instead of laptop to iPad Pro, the transition is now from Apple to Windows 10 Pro on the Surface Pro by Microsoft. I’ve already started saving for a Surface Studio. It is a beautiful piece of technological innovation and, like the Surface Pro I’m typing this on, is a premuim and well put together device.
Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, clearly have more Steve Jobs’ ethos running through them. They are now playing nice with different platforms and are actually listening to customers and critics in equal measure. Apple, could learn a thing or two from Mr. Nadella and his business ethos. It appears Microsoft has more Apple DNA running through it than Apple currently does.
Mr. Nadella, I read somewhere, would like Microsoft to be loved, like Apple has been. I would say he is well on the way to achieving that if, under his leadership, the software and hardware can tempt a loyal Apple user like me to make the switch, I would wager many, many more will discover the path I have found and will find it a very inticing one, with products that will amaze and delight in equal measure.
A Surface Pro for on the go, combined with a Surface Studio for more serious studio based projects, will make quite an unbeatable combination for years to come. Both will cost less than a base model iMac Pro, yet combined, will offer so much more versatility.
It is early days, but it looks like Microsoft’s Surface Products, are the real investments for the future. My Surface Pro and I have already connected, just as my little PowerBook G4 and I did all those years ago. Small, light and hugely capable. I look forward to using it every day and discovering more of what I can do with this highly capable, powerful post-pc, pc.
Times? They are a changing. My Surface Pro, is now my take everywhere companion. My new(ish) Sony A7ii files (impressions piece just posted), look awesome, on that stunning 12.3″ Pixelsense display. Editing is fun on the Surface Pro.
For the first time in quite a long time, I am seriously looking forward to a more productive mobile future.
Thank you Microsoft and a huge thank you to the Surface Pro team, who have made a range of fantastic devices. If you can tempt a loyal Apple user of many, many years, to eagerly adopt your devices, I would say the future is looking very, very bright indeed.
Now, if you could just release a beautiful Surface Phone, my iPhone would be next to go on eBay.