This week, two key flagship laptops have been launched. Both have been a long time coming, both communities were eager to see what would be delivered, and both have reasons to be cheerful.
Monday 4th May saw Apple launch the update to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Design wise very little has changed on the outside – the touch bar strip remains, the expected move to a 14-inch screen did not happen, and the use of your iPad as a second screen and graphics tablet is prominently on show.
Inside saw the addition of Intel’s tenth generation chipset, the integrated graphics card upgraded from the Intel Iris to the Intel Iris Plus, and (perhaps the one area where the geekerati have cause to celebrate) the butterfly keyboard finally replaced five years after its debut with the scissor-switched Magic Keyboard.
Wednesday 6th May saw Microsoft update the Surface Book, with the 13.5 inch and 15 inch Surface Book 3 announced. Much like the MacBook Pro, the design on the outside has not changed – the fulcrum hinge is retained, the 3:2 screen can detach to become an oversized tablet, and support for the Surface Pen is still a key selling point.
Inside you once more have Intel’s tenth generation chipset across the board, more power in the graphics cards, and revolutionary support for SD cards and 3.5mm headphones (sssh…),
The Surface Book 3 range does not feel the need to compromise the specs to create an ‘entry level’ Surface Book. That’s the job of the Surface Laptop. Apple has made such a move by using the eighth generation chipset in a ‘Pro’ laptop for 2020, causing confusion by crashing into the MacBook Air portfolio.
For all that Apple focuses on the iPhone and iPad, it has delivered a MacBook Pro that meets the expectation of the geekerati. It’s tailored to the work that the existing user base is focused on. But the ‘Pro’ designation doesn’t feel earned. This is the MacBook that most MacBook owners want. That’s not enough to be pro machine in my book.
Being pro is more than just having slightly higher specs than the mainstream model. For me a ‘Pro’ machine needs to have the confidence to push the envelope, to not only meet the expectations that users have, but to meet the expectations they didn’t know they had. It has to be ready for the future and face it with confidence.
To mix brands for a moment, the Surface Book 3 is best described as Microsoft putting its own spin on the emotion that the MacBook Pro is trying to sell.
Well played, Microsoft. Well played.