No man’s land: The lack of MacBook middle ground

“Recently, in taking stock of my primary computing hardware, I noticed an interesting trend: Over the course of the last year, I’ve swapped out almost all of the devices that I use every day,” Dan Moren writes for Macworld. “I replaced a 2011 iMac with a new 2017 5K model. My iPad Air 2 got superseded by a 10.5-inch iPad Pro. And, of course, my iPhone 7 was turned in for an iPhone X.”

“The one machine that I didn’t upgrade: the very 11-inch MacBook Air on which I’m writing this column,” Moren writes. “Because for my usage, this early-2014 laptop still fills a niche that can’t be addressed by either the MacBook Pro or the new MacBook.”

“The problem is that a middle ground just doesn’t exist. Apple’s laptops seem to be for pros or for consumers who don’t exceed very specified bounds,” Moren writes. “Perhaps I’m amongst a rare few who fall into the cracks between these laptop options, but I doubt that I’m alone.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The MacBook is the ultimate road machine, replacing our beloved 11-inch MacBook Air units. But, we don’t need any ports on our portable Macs save for some way to recharge them. If they recharged wirelessly, we wouldn’t need any ports at all. We have iMacs with all the ports we need on our desks. Others might fall square in the middle, as Moren seems to do. For those that use a Mac notebook as their primary computer, are you stuck in the middle, too?


    1. Apple does not offer a professional level Mac unless your profession is lightweight office apps and social media or you can do all your coding on a clicky keyboard with garbage tactile feedback.

      Apple is up to 4 years behind on CPUs and GPUs but has priced itself well beyond the reach of budget limited students and beginners. Apple seems to have no strategy whatsoever. Well heeled fashion buyers have the choice of 12″, 13″, and 15″ skinny laptops not including the accessy dongle bag. All other users, keep repairing your old hardware until Apple wakes up.

  1. I definitely need the Pro model – I need the ports to hook up my musical equipment, and I need the storage space for the creative software. I guess there are probably people who are more entry level that could go for a mid-level MacBook model for one generation while they’re ramping up, and then graduate to a Pro model in the next iteration.

  2. I was reluctant to give up my last Mac laptop because I found my iPad Pro 12.9″ was not quite there to replace it. However, with iOS.11, I finally sold it to PowerMax (along with my iMac2012) and bought an iMac 5K, which is just fantastic. iPad Pro and keyboard does nearly everything I could do on a MBP.

    My first thought was trading in the old iMac and MacBook for a 13″ MBP and an Apple 5K 27″ Display, but Apple did not release a new 27″ 5K Display and the cost of the MBP and the a LG 5K display was over $1,600 than buying the new iMac. Really disappointed that Apple did not release a 5K Display!!

    1. I hate the fact you can’t find a good wired USB Mac keyboard anymore. All just Bluetooth. Apple no longer makes them. They were great for plugging in other USB peripherals and wireless mouse/trackball dongles. WTH??

      1. Indeed!

        One of the things that I utterly loathe about wireless keyboards & mice are that battery management is “just one more thing” to have to be hassled with. I’d rather have a wire on a daily basis than YA battery to maintain.

        * for my work Mac Pro, it is 100% wired in (both KB+Mouse).

        * for my work desktop, they’ve been laptops with docking stations (for over a decade now) and their KB+M have been 100% wired too. When going on the road, mobility is the point, so there’s no KB or M ever dragged along.

        * for my home office desktop Mac Pro, it has a wired KB & wireless Apple MM, which is my last wireless holdout. Will probably steal the wired mouse from the work cMP soon.

        * and the personal Mac Laptops have been just like the work ones: since their reason for existence is mobility, dragging along a KB (as tempting as that is with the unprofessional feel of Apple’s MBP keyboards) defeats that purpose.

        If a laptop is so bad that I have to carry a keyboard while on the road, the solution isn’t a wireless keyboard – – it is time to change brands of laptop.

        Granted, there are times when its nice to have a mouse with one’s lightweight laptop setup – – but there’s always a commodity USB2 wired one laying around in every office, conference room & home. Bluetooth has unsynch/resynch steps, whereas plugging in a USB2 wire is a trivial process: “There is no Step Two”.


  3. I am amazed how much mileage I still get out of my 10 year old 2007 Mac Pro with ATI 5770, 24Gb RAM and SSD drive upgraded/hacked to El Capitan and attached to both a 30″ and 20″ monitors. It seems most current apps will run on it and old apps like Final Cut Pro 7. And it’s surprisingly spritely. This configuration is definitely end of the line but as side system #2 it’s great to have for misc. tasks. Shows the long lasting power of the right MP design. (The 2013 MP was designed with an unfathomable un-upgradeable disposable mindset, something that’s an anathema for budget-minded pros. It failed to delight in most regards.)

    And talking about ports this older MP has all of the older Firewire ones which works out great for some of my legacy peripherals. No dongles required!

    Looking forward to getting a 2018 MP (at last!) unless it’s another MP debacle and another box full of bad choices by Apple.

    1. I think a new Mac Pro in 2018 is very wishful thinking, from what I recall the timeframe Apple floated or implied when they did their mea culpa some months ago wasn’t sooner than 2019. I think they’ll milk the new iMac Pro as a bridge to siphon off as many people as they can, but even that is looking like another delay by Apple. The Christmas shopping season started last week, releasing the iMac Pro less than a few weeks before Christmas won’t do much for Apple’s sales this year, but at least they would avoid another ball drop.

  4. i have a 2009 macbook pro and i am not replacing it for several reasons. the keyboard, for one. but also i don’t want to spend a huge amount for an internal ssd the size of my hard drive. apple officially says that the ssd should be for immediate stuff you need, but i am not also going to carry around an external ssd no matter how small and have to connect it to the computer. that kind of defeats the purpose of a laptop, especially since it is awkward to put it in your lap. might as well have a desktop!

    1. That’s the point where Apple telling you what you should do with your computer backfires against it. When Apple dropped the floppy drive, everyone moved from using floppies to just using CD-ROMs, and now, digital downloads. When Apple dropped USB ports in favor of USB-C, everyone…continued using USB peripherals.

      1. Apple has done a shitty job selling people on the advantages of USB-C and they have confused everyone by continuing to offer all iOS devices with a USB2 cable and using the term Thunderbolt interchangeably with USB when only a few Macs actually offer TB3.

        When you force the consumer to shop around for a breakout box to replace all the ports that everyone still uses, you have turned off a significant number of buyers.

        I’m all for shaping the future, but Apple has made it unnecessarily expensive and confusing.

        Of course, i am seeing this is how Cook operates. Zero advertising, maximizing dongle tax, selling old products with legacy connectors while pushing a new connector on a few new products. Sloppy and anti-consumer is the new Apple.

        1. Or is it just the new Mac? We’ve seen over and over again that Tim Cook’s emphasis is on iOS devices, because that’s where they make the most money. Wait a minute, where was all that software for iOS devices made? Oh, that’s right – on Macs!

    2. Put another way – when the rumor mill started flying around that Apple was going to abandon HDDs and only use SSDs, there were plenty of apologists who went on about the speed and performance that you would get with an SSD instead. But what good is speed and performance if you can’t fit all your stuff you need on your drive?

  5. Wasn’t there supposed to be an updated iMac this year? Website says “Available December.” It’s December.

    The Mac is over – I switched back to Windows after 15 years – see ya later Tim!

      1. > Waiting for my iMac Pro….

        I’m not.

        Sure, its a beautiful looking system, but for certain use cases, it still doesn’t have the chops.

        For example, my current “cheese grater” has over 15TB internal. To match that on the iMac Pro (at any price) would result in the same spaghetti tangle hell of the Trash Can.

  6. “…But, we don’t need any ports on our portable Macs save for some way to recharge them. If they recharged wirelessly, we wouldn’t need any ports at all…”

    Some of us, when mobile, wind up in situations where we have to connect to a variety of different devices from many different eras. I still haven’t had much trouble compensating for the lack of ports on the MacBook Pro, but if it didn’t have lots of USB-C ports, it would be useless to me.

    For one example, I had to leave a 2017 MacBook Pro connected to EtherNet capturing data for 24 hours to locate which machine on the network was sending out bogus SMTP traffic. Or a situation where I had to copy a few terabytes of data from firewire 800 drives to new thunderbolt 3 drives to rebuild a server. That kind of stuff goes on all the time for me. And I have to leave the computer plugged in while it’s happening. I often have to connect to computers in target disk mode to backup the entire hard drive before wiping it out for (insert reason here).

        1. How is it trolling? How long are they going to keep selling the Mac Pro? Who can use that for anything real? Come on….

          We’d probably agree face to face.

          You’ve gotta admit the Mac line is ridiculously stale right now.

          And I think they’re gonna miss the Xmas on the iMac Pro, which isn’t a machine I’d want anyway. I don’t want to update my monitor everytime I buy a new pc, and most people that do more than surf the web on their machines feel the same way.

    1. Some of us have been wondering why Apple can’t figure out how to offer a new 17″ MBP with all the bells and whistles. User upgradeable and repairable of course. You know, for PROS who do stuff on the road.

  7. The “middle” is gone because the “pro” is basically gone too. At some point Apple forgot the that “Pro” is short for “Professional”. Professional means work. Work means not only performance, but also interoperability, redundancy, scalability — all things absent from all their product lines. Now “pro” apple products are just faster, more powerful, more expensive consumer products.

    I manage 50+ Mac users and do it with a mostly Mac data center (including a couple still-breathing Xserves), but their days are numbered and, regardless of what a cool GUI they stick on top of a *nix box, at some point very soon I need to move it to (blech) Windows and when I do, and have to worry about THAT security and maintenance, why the heck am I paying a premium for my users’ laptops? So they can all have garage band? Not likely.

    Could be I’m just a curmudgeon approaching middle-age (I spent most of the 80s as an Apple ][ hold-out), but Pro is no longer Pro to Apple, just pricey.

    1. I didn’t mind the money when the hardware was good, but right now it’s insulting. Apple is like the guy on craigslist selling 5 year old gear for $50 less than it was new…when a better quality (faster, more storage) replacement can be had new with a warranty for $100 less than that!

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