I currently own the late 2013 MacBook Pro 13". I am an undergraduate science student who plans to go to grad school. My computing needs have recently increased because I have learned to code and I now use development software like MATLAB for image analysis and data processing. I’m also an enthusiast photographer who enjoys using Lightroom and Photoshop. I rely on my computer every day as a student.
Therefore, I’ve been feeling the need to upgrade before Grad school. However, I am wary about the negativity surrounding the MacBook keyboards. Even though Apple just reduced the keyboard repair time to 1 day, I do not want to spend $$$ on a new laptop that will have to be repaired every few months. Based on the information above, I have the following questions:
Based on my computer usage listed above, would I benefit from the extra cores that the 2018 MacBook Pros provide?
Has the keyboard problem been made bigger than it actually is? It’s been difficult for me to filter the noise online since the most vocal people are going to be the people who have had problems.
Ultimately, would you recommend the 2018 MacBook Pro 13"?
I got a 2016 MBP with Touch Bar a few weeks after it came out and in 30 months of use, I’ve had keyboard problems for a few weeks - but that was after a toddler dropped a handful of sand on the keyboard. Repeated blasting with a compressed air canister cleared it up. Other than that it’s been fine.
Whether more cores will help really depends on your discipline and what you’ll be doing. If you’re studying Roman history, probably not. If your crunching lots of data, for instance fMRI or “big data,” maybe. Check into the software packages you’ll be using to see if they support parallel processing. If you’re writing your own code, you’d probably use something like MATLAB’s parfor to parallelize your code. R, Python, etc. have their own parallel processing libraries.
Now, having said all that, usually if your discipline requires a lot of processing power, the institution will have a cluster you can process data on. If you’re doing neuroscience, there are even clusters with free access, such as the neuroscience gateway (NSG) at UCSD.
Also consider that a lot of processing is being moved to GPUs. For example, DeepLabCut for markerless motion tracking. Unfortunately, deeplabcut can only use NVidia GPUs at the moment (it can run on CPUs, but maybe 100x slower), meaning Apple GPUs (typically Radeon, AMD, Intel) don’t help.
What’s your discipline, and what kind of computing do you anticipate?
I have a silicon keyboard cover to protect my MacBook Pro keyboard. Yes it’s an annoyance that the keyboard is prone to debris under the key caps. But I’ve gotten used to typing with the rubber cover. Better to be safe than sorry.
I bought the 13” size. It’s portable enough. I realized that I didn’t need the bigger screen when I am out of the office or house. Whenever I do need an extra screen, the iPad with the Luna Display provides the extra screen real estate if I needed it while traveling.
iOS 13 rumors have made it exciting. Supposedly we will gain the ability to connect our iPad as an external display without needing an adapter such as the Luna Display.
I connect my MBP to my external monitor at my home office and work office.
My current discipline is molecular biology and I plan to apply to neuroscience grad programs. I forgot to consider that most labs likely have dedicated powerful computers for any analysis. I currently attend a small liberal arts college that has a very small departmental budget which is why I currently do not have access to better computers.
Currently, I do computations on 2D images of Neurons in MATLAB (thresholding, edge detection, etc). I also do some statistics as well. It’s difficult to predict what my computing needs will be in the future because it depends on which lab I join.
I suppose though that, no matter what, the institution’s computers with their good GPUs will be used and the only thing I might do on my laptop is write code and do some minor tests? If that is the case, do you recommend moving down to the 2017 Dual Core MacBook Pros or even the new MacBook Air?
I have the MBP 2013 15in i7. I am running data and image analysis (using Igor Pro and ImageJ … MatLab is a poor cousin to this combination of apps … but that is a different story) for a portion of my work. I also have Parallels installed for some odd-case Windows apps.
I might recommend that you upgrade to at least an i7. Otherwise, I recommend that you wait until you see what you will have for your computer system in your grad school. You do not want to overbuy because you soon be working entirely on a more powerful (desktop) system at your lab, and you may not want to buy something new at all (and instead try to max-out what you have at hand) when you decide that you won’t need to work at home in any case.
I feel your pain. My son started college last fall (Marketing major with minor in Film and TV) and I told him I would buy him a new laptop for school. He wanted an MacBook Pro but last summer we were looking at Microsoft Surface laptops and Dell XPS laptops because of the keyboard issue. Apple released the new 2018s late summer and I studied the iFixIt tear down with the new membrane shield. We crossed our fingers and bought the new MacBook Pro (with AppleCare) hoping the 3rd gen would be the charm.
Luckily for him, he finishes his freshman year next week and did not have any keyboard issues so far. He makes good use of the laptop everyday and it travels around campus with him in his backpack.
Reading the comments on the 3rd gen keyboards, I’ve been apprehensive this year but glad to see Apple speeding up the repair time. I am extremely disappointed in Apple for letting this reliability issue continue for so long. It goes against the whole reason we buy Apple products and pay a premium price for them.
All that said, my son is very happy with his laptop and hasn’t had any issues. We got the educational discount on it and that package comes with the option to get all of Apple’s pro tools for $200 which we also took advantage of and he makes good use of them.
Based on your use case, I would recommend the Pro over the Air. Same keyboard but I think the additional processing power will server you better and longer than the Air.
Based on this, I think I would second @DrJJWMac’s advice and hold off until you get a better idea what your needs will be.
From what you’ve said so far, I would lean toward a MacBook Pro, and probably better than a dual core. This will give you better processor and disk performance than an Air, and be more future proof as well.
When it comes to CPU (as I’m sure you know), MATLAB is a gluttonous pig. People in my lab and my students have tried Airs and been frustrated with how long MATLAB takes to open, slow processing, etc.
I have a MacBook Pro 2016 at work, and a 2017 at home. While I’m not in love with either keyboard, both have worked. Assuming you get AppleCare the keyboard issue is one more of getting used to its feel than reliability, IMO.
It would seem that you should wait until you’re in grad school to figure out what machine meshes well with your future studies, but I see that you also are a photography enthusiast. I rely heavily on my mac portables to process photos, and given what I understand to be subpar coding in current photography programs I don’t think it matters much which mac you’d get.
However, I like the MacBook Pros because they feel a bit more future-proof than the Airs – I rely heavily on the thunderbolt connection to mass storage while also driving a 5K external monitor, so (at least in my mind?) I like the extra horsepower.
The processing speed of the CPU does make a difference … e.g., RAW file preview generation is faster on my portables than, e.g., on my old cylinder MacPro. I’m not up on the '18 specs, but I assume the processor is even better than the '17 and '16s … for so many tasks, top CPU speed is what you want.
You can find a wide variety of keyboard covers by typing ‘MacBook Pro keyboard cover touchbar’ or ‘macbook pro keyboard cover without touchbar’. They have different colors if you’re into that. Most of them are pretty much the same. It’s molded to fit both the 13” and the 15” MBPs.
From some brief research, it seems that Photoshop and Lightroom do not take advantage of extra CPU cores very well which is disappointing. However, like you, I plan on getting an external 4K monitor eventually, so it’s probably wise to go with the Pro to drive those pixels without trouble.
OH YES, MATLAB likes to drive the fan even when just sitting idle. I like to hold onto my computers for a long time, so I’ll probably stick with the Pro for future proofing but may not upgrade much past the base CPU and Ram depending on what I find myself doing when not using the lab’s powerful computers. Thanks for your input!
My 2016 MacBook Pro has had the keyboard replaced twice. The last time it was replaced, the Apple Authorized repair shop said that the display and battery could be replaced as well, without cost, even though it was out of warranty. I said “sure.” For me, it’s the spacebar and left shift key that keep going out.
Work issued me a MacBook Pro 2017 a couple of years ago and I use this Mac daily at work and moving about (I am in sales, so I use it in cafe, park, every where you can think of) and fortunately for me, the keyboard have not failed once. I was unlucky enough to have a MacBook Pro which as a potential SSD failure which Apple have issued a recall. So, my office asked me to change it for a 2018 MacBook Air and I believe this Air has the 3rd gen keyboard, so here’s hoping my luck stays. It’s really infuriating to see the quality of Apple going down the drain. For a laptop that’s so expensive and premium, I don’t expect that I have to worry about the machine I am using. If this Air ever fails, I think I will ask for a Lenovo.
I’ve got a 2017 15" MBP, it’s not a work/business machine but gets quite a bit of use every evening. So far the keyboard has been fine, the 9 key went a little squidgy at one point but it sorted itself out.
Now, not that I’m suggesting that students have a reputation for leaving their projects until the night before / last minute… () but… if you’re really worried about the keyboard issue, perhaps a spare desktop / external keyboard tucked away in a cupboard would give you some peace of mind?
If, as you say, you end up with an external 4k screen, should you put the Mac on a stand so the screen is in line with the 4k monitor then perhaps you’ll end up with a desktop keyboard & mouse anyway?
I use LR/PS quite a bit too, as has been already commented, LR doesn’t (didn’t?) really get much of a boost out of more cores thought for more detail on that this made for some interesting reading:
Note: this is over a year old now though it certainly seems that LR is trending towards better utilisation of multiple cores as time goes by.
When I got mine I also debated going with a dual core though opted for the quad as when I’m in LR I’m also using the machine to do many other things at the same time (i.e.: web-browsers, mail clients, RSS reader, backups and loads of other back ground tasks). I figured the extra cores would help balance that workload. Also, (and perhaps more importantly) the quad-cores have a higher turbo boost which probably suits something like LR a little better (depending on your editing style).
Certainly in my case, I tweak something in an image which will cause a quick flurry of processing power then things will spool down again while I review the image, ponder my aesthetic choices and consider the next artistic adjustment… or a beer!
I am also using a late 2013 MBP (15 inch) and am due to upgrade for various reasons. Given the season I’m waiting because we’re around the time new MBP’s are generally announced. I think the wait will give you a little more time to find out what you need plus benefit from the hardware upgrades that will likely come, as well as possible price changes that could come as well. While we may not see a total redesign we may see some processor improvements that could benefit you and your needs.
I plan to trade in my 2013 MBP with Apple directly through their upgrade program. Over the past year the price they are offering me has stayed the same so if you’re thinking of doing the same the value of your trade in should be OK over the next few weeks.