Ports in a storm: why is Apple making it so hard to choose a new MacBook Pro?

Instead of solving problems, Apple has created more

There are three things I want from a new Apple laptop. I want it to be thin and light. I want it to have a lovely high-resolution display. I want it to connect to the other devices I own. I don't think I'm alone in those wishes.

That situation has left me in something of a bind for several years now - I can only have two of those three things. If I buy a Macbook, I lose connectivity. If I buy a Macbook Air, I lose the beautiful display. If I buy a Macbook Pro, it's not so thin and light.

I hoped that situation would be resolved yesterday. All I wanted was a slightly slimmer Macbook Pro that retained its excellent connectivity. But my hopes were dashed - the new models are indeed thinner and lighter, but almost every port I regularly use on my 2012 model is gone. 

Gone is the SD card reader that I use to get photos off my camera. Gone is the mini DisplayPort that I used to hook my laptop up to my TV and to projectors in class for presentations. Gone is the simple, out-of-the-box cable connection to my iOS devices. Gone is the MagSafe connector that prevented so many nasty accidents. 

Splashing out

Speaking of accidents, there's a complicating factor here, y'see. About a month ago an incident with a glass of apple juice (fate does have a sense of humour) rendered the keyboard on my existing Macbook Pro inoperable. I foresaw its inevitable death back in March, but this isn't a problem I can just sit on for much longer.

Unfortunately, none of the solutions to that problem look good. Solution one is to get my existing model repaired. That would cost about £500/$605, my local repair store tells me, and while I like this approach from an environmental point of view, it would leave me with an almost five-year-old machine that's showing its age.

Solution two is a new Macbook Pro. If I didn't care unduly about adding more snakes to the snake pit that is my spare cables box (every home has one), then I could replace all my old USB-A cables with shiny new USB-C ones, along with a handful of dongles for special occasions. But jeez, when I'm spending so much on the computer in the first place, why should I have to spend even more to simply make it work with the devices I own?

I mean seriously. I costed out the machine that would fit my needs, and it's about £3,200/$3,800, plus whatever the cornucopia of dongles and accessories I'd need would cost. That's insane. After a few years of disappointing, short-lived PC laptops, I've come around to the idea of paying more for Apple's high quality standards. But more is not £2,500/$3,000 more over a Windows machine with comparable specs.

Then there's solution three, which is compromise, and there's several routes I could go here. I could opt for a lower-end Macbook Pro, but the specs on those are hardly 'pro'. I could buy a retina Macbook, which is still damn expensive and also awful in the connectivity department, but not as ludicrously expensive as the Pro. The Air feels like too much of a step backward to be worth considering, but I could buy the previous generation of Macbook Pro (maybe second hand), which is looking like the least worst solution right now. 

Switch to Microsoft?

The new Microsoft Surface Studio is a thing too, of course. But I'm looking for a portable machine here, and my home-built gaming desktop does a great job of sitting on my desk. The Surface Book i7 is closer to what I'm looking for, but it's still expensive and I'm fairly invested in the MacOS ecosystem. Plus, I feel like it would overlap too much with what I use my ten-inch iPad Pro for.

All of this, of course, is the very definition of a first-world problem. I'm absolutely whining that my wallet is too small for my 50s and my diamond shoes are too tight (in fact, the laptop that Joey's using in that clip only underlines how ridiculous my complaints are).

But the bottom line is that when I buy a computer, I want it to solve problems - and Apple's new Macbook Pro creates many more problems than it solves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.