MacBook Pros or PCs — what laptops should we cover in stickers next?

New MacBook Pros were released not too long ago. I, like many happy MacBook Pro users, had been waiting for a while to see what our next computers were going to be like. It’s been many years since they’ve seen any fundamental changes. A new look would be great. And more power. You can never have too much power.

So the new ones were released and let me tell you, they look … pretty terrible, actually.

For me, it comes down to the ports, price and power. They’re too few, too high, and too low, respectively. I’m hardly alone.

The Touch Bar thing looks like a neat toy I suppose, and could be handy, but I’m not gonna use a laptop with 4 USB-C ports and nothing else for work. Eff. That. I have a 12” MacBook (the one with only a single USB-C port) for home and it is very very annoying to only have USB-C ports. You can buy adapters all you want, but there will come a day when you won’t have the right one. It’s the headphone jack all over again.

(Side note: I do see a future where everything is USB-C connected, assuming that iPhones go that way, and that will be awesome. But I was at a conference venue a few weeks ago where I still had to hook a laptop up to a VGA port. It’s gonna be a while.)

Having minimal ports and limited power on my tiny home MacBook is fine for kitchen-and-couch-use (my main use-cases) but I don’t dare leave the house with the thing anymore. For serious work, or even serious play, I gotta switch to my MacBook Pro.

Now.

My MacBook Pro is fine and still does everything I need, but I can’t help thinking about what I’ll do when it breaks or slows down. Just like switching to Android because of the headphone port nonsense, what am I supposed to do when an older port-laden MacBook can’t offer peak productivity?

I will not slow down because my hardware can’t keep up.

So I started looking at PCs again.

And Microsoft must’ve known this was coming because they released a slew of coolness literally the day before. Their laptops didn’t change much, but their new desktops noice.

I feel a proper tech war coming on.

I can see a mass-migration back to PCs for the serious workforce. For the people — in any industry — who need to get shit done, and want serious power to do it, PCs will once again offer the choice Apple is taking away.

And maybe now you might expect me to list some cool PC laptops to help me decide. But no. Like a startup built on an army of MacBooks, this post is about to do a pivot. Because I’m talking about the wrong damn thing.

It’s not the computer, it’s what you do with it

Are you maxing out what your equipment can do? Are you creating all that you can create with what you have, only replacing your hardware when it can’t keep pace with your mind?

I’m not. And I should be.

I have two well-functioning computers and I’m sitting here writing about them instead of using them. (Well, sort of. I mean, this blog is the very type of creating I’m talking about so my argument kinda goes out the window in this instance. But there are times when I’m not writing and instead am reading tech hardware blogs. That’s a waste of my time.)

And what about you? You have ideas. You have things you want to do. It’s what the marketing people of the very products I’m talking about are banking on. It’s what they appeal to.

Forget that noise. Create on whatever equipment you have to create on.

Does your computer smell like rancid butt when you turn it on? Is it so slow you take mini-naps in front of it while things load? Does it crash and cause you to lose work? Then sure, replace it. But if it doesn’t, like if it’s a several-year old MacBook Pro that works fine, keep going with it. Run it until it gets in your way.

At that point, maybe it only needs a fresh OS install and maybe some more a RAM or a HDD upgrade (which you can do yourself remember, because it’s not an all-in-one lightweight lock-down.) So do that. Then keep going.

(Another side note: you’ve got regular back-ups, right? Right? Even a new computer can blow up. And back-ups greatly reduce your downtime from switching computers or rebuilding one when you have to.)

Money, too

Let’s throw a little finance in here as well, as if all the main threads of this blog are coming together at once.

Your time is precious. You have a lot of code to write or spreadsheets to maintain and only so many hours in the day. So if you really do make your living by slamming your fingers on these plastic-and-metal boxes, it’s cheaper to quickly buy a more expensive one and move on with your life.

That is: don’t spend the time to research which is the best value. Spend the money (because you’ve been a diligent saver, right?) and buy some proper equipment. Take a couple hours to find out which equipment that is. Then slap down the funds from your equipment savings account, and as fast as possible get back to creating. Get back to producing. Get back to the stuff that really matters, and don’t waste your time arguing about how many ports a computer has. Or spend weeks debating with yourself if you should spend the extra so it’s 3.2 lbs instead of 3.4 lbs.

It just doesn’t matter.

Even if you buy the computer with no ports, don’t waste your time talking about it. Get your adapters and strap ‘em to your belt like Batman and do what you gotta do to get shit done. Or have fun. Preferably both!

Gettin' shit done and havin' fun with The Brothers Woodman on a coding day, circa 2011.
Gettin’ shit done and havin’ fun with The Brothers Woodman on a coding day, circa 2011.

My first real tax refund as an adult was about $3,000. And I spent the entire thing on a beefed-up 15” Powerbook G4. And then I spent every night on the thing coding, writing, and hanging out on Flickr.

It gave me a career.

But then again, so did the $400 PC that I screwed together myself years earlier. When that was all I could afford, that was what I used.

Even better — the white MacBook in the banner photo of this post. That’s my actual laptop, the one that replaced the Pro I spent $3,000 on. I used that white MacBook for 6 years. I took it everywhere. I upgraded the RAM as much as it could take and replaced the battery once and the hard drive three times. It was cracking and buckling towards the end of its life. The screen flickered when it was cold and the keyboard wrist rests got increasingly yellow. But it kept going. It got used.

At this point the (second) battery was getting dangerously expanded so I put it into service as a media server.
At this point the (second) battery was getting dangerously expanded so I put it into service as a media server.

Focus on the need, not the want

I guess all I’m saying (to myself, more than anyone) is that it’s easy to get lost in shopping for shiny new computers or apps or keyboards or tablets or phones and imagine how much more productive and creative you may be on them.

And it’s okay, I mean, we’re all susceptible to the marketing folks’ genius. (They’ve gotten so good!)

But. If shopping for a new laptop is the delicious dessert, save it for the end of a years-long meal of productivity. You’ll know when the meal is over. And my current computer? It’s barely past the first course so I can hold off on the dessert menu.

Then I can decide if I’ll have another slice of Apple pie.

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