back to article Why I just bought a MacBook Air instead of the new Pro

For the past few weeks, this tech reporter has been tussling with a complex issue: which new laptop to buy. Just a month ago, this seemed like an exciting proposition: not only was Apple going to update its MacBook Pro line (at last), but Microsoft had gone all Apple on us and come out with some genuinely innovative products. …

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Surface is nice and all

...shame about the operating system.

Wake me when someone is shipping an OS where I, as the end user, actually have full control. Until then, I'll keep buying Eurocom and using Linux. It's an awful experience, but it's ever so slightly better than the rest of the festering shitpile that's on offer.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

Not just the OS. The whole thing is the same "trying to hard", locked/un-upgradeable glittering "art piece"/cruft with planned obsolescence fuse lit (or maybe this was the battery;). So basically the same like Apple but with legacy ports. It gets harder to find something that values function over the form (and at acceptable price). For obvious reasons there's no legal choice on Apple side but hackintosh build is an option for non-commercial use. Windows side is definitely marred by the system itself (though FB crowd has shared it all already so it probably won't mind MS embrace).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Surface is nice and all

Full control... as long as you don't mind doing things the way poettering wants.

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Facepalm

Re: Surface is nice and all

Poettering's at Apple now, seriously? Why am I not surprised.... ;)

The touch bar DJ demo... this just gets more laughable every day. DJs use nice peripherals with knobs, faders, piano keys or hip multicolored glowing touch-sensitive pads. Even the fancy ones aren't $2400.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

"as long as you don't mind doing things the way poettering wants."

In Debian-land Wheezy is still LTS for a little longer and on newer H/W I'm giving Devuan a try.

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Thumb Up

Re: Surface is nice and all

Devual looks fine- just like normal Debian, no worries.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

"I'm giving Devuan a try."

LOL ... talk about planned obsolescence (yours and Duvuan whiners)! Linux with concrete shoes. "Let's do the opposite of the industry".

Way to inform the world that you're going to stick with yesterday's skills, aging out, while everyone else is maintaining relevance. Don't get irritated when nobody wants to handhold you as to why you can't find the SysV init scripts.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

Just rejected a 'request' (demand) for 5 top-end MacBook Pros, simple because of the shiny angle. Instead they are getting 5x new MBP 2500 series which Jigsaw had left in stock. My reason given for the rejection:

You can have one when Final Cut Pro has touch key bar support, not until then. Bleating 'but iMovie has it' at me is not enough, sorry".'

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Windows

Re: Surface is nice and all

http://blazinglist.com/top-10-best-laptops-hackintosh-2015/

Want ports, power and repairability for less than a couple of grand? Get yer hacking hat on!

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Re: Surface is nice and all

>The touch bar DJ demo... this just gets more laughable every day. DJs use nice peripherals with knobs, faders, piano keys or hip multicolored glowing touch-sensitive pads.

I never saw the demo as being an effort to sell the Touchbar to DJs per se, but just a way of demonstrating that the Touch bar was multi-touch and not too laggy. A chef wouldn't use a Swiss Army Knife in the kitchen, but cutting a tomato is a good way to demonstrate the sharpness of a knife.

DJs do indeed have a wealth of knobs, sliders, and 'control surfaces' available to them. What is more, the rise of inexpensive I/O interfaces like Arduino means that people are in a better position than ever before to make their own man/machine music interfaces.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

And how many of the users in your clients would you trust with 'full control' Trevor?

Have used Linux in the past, mainly Red Hat and Debian. Don't use it now as life is too short. Win 10 is close enough to 'it just works' for me (would maybe move to MacOS if there were more games available).

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Re: Surface is nice and all

> "Let's do the opposite of the industry"

A wise idea in an industry dominated by the latest moronic fashions.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

"Don't get irritated when nobody wants to handhold you as to why you can't find the SysV init scripts."

Been using Unix & Unix-like OSs for almost as long as Poettering has been drawing breath and well before SysV. I don't seen any reason to change to something that no longer fits that description. If systemd-free Linux becomes unsustainable - and I accept that it might - I'll make the move to a BSD.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

"And how many of the users in your clients would you trust with 'full control' Trevor?"

Every single one. I serve my clients. I don't control them. The question is how many of my clients trust me with full control of their IT?

Their equipment. Their software. Their business. They make the decisions. I give recommendations. They live with the consequences of those decisions.

If you can't understand that concept, then please state your real name and employer so that I can avoid both like the plague.

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Re: Surface is nice and all

@Trevor_Pott

"Every single one. I serve my clients. I don't control them. The question is how many of my clients trust me with full control of their IT?"

Erm....you mentioned having full control as an end user. You having full control as the IT manager / admin/ consultant is more than a little differennt. The point was, you may want full control, but thats not a requirement for very many other people and is hardly a basis for criticising an operating system.

Don't worry, I'll be avoiding your company like the plague too.

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you are not alone

I took a good look at the new MacBook Pros. I went looking for refurbished older MacBook Pros. I also had a serious look at the Surface Book.

Apple has simply lost the plot.

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I don't think they've lost it..

..they're just continuing along the path they've been on for many years.

If I had to sum it up "solder, not sockets"

I do think they've been riding on people blindly buying, and maybe "excusing" previous decisions, but definitely feels that a line got crossed with this release.

Mainly as this had "Pro" in the name. Maybe the non-Pro people like simplicity, but this is for the "Pros", who might suddenly need a shitload of memory for their 4K-360-VR-Whatever pipeline in 2 years time.

To me at least, that final straw was "I buy your latest iPhone and your latest laptop - and you want more money to actually plug them together".

That's the very antithesis of their previous "just works [as long as you buy our stuff only]"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Solder not Socket...

So...Apple names a product macbook 'Pro' w/ touchbar then solder the Sandisk SSD Flash chips to the main motherboard, in a weak/stressed area of their "curly moustache" board design.

Apple do this knowing full well, that a Coffee/Coke spill on the keyboard, will render your whole macbook AND its Data, GONE. There is no SSD to remove, to manually recover data. You have to ask what Apple's motives are here.

They just moved the Data loss probability tenfold in their favour, with the need for an active iCloud backup strategy, to compensate. Is this to start a new Apple service, push users toward Apple's own in-house data loss recovery repairs?

Buy/use a macbook Pro w/ touchbar, please remember to implement an active backup strategy, there no second chances of retrieving Data here, after the fact.

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Re: Solder not Socket...

You should implement a proper backup strategy whether or not flash memory is soldered to the logic board. Apple's motives? Surface mounting everything makes it slimmer and lighter and cheaper to make. They want to sell you a new computer when you need a bigger one. They want to replace a whole board when it gets busted and comes in for repairs.

On the bright side, your old MacBook will have an excellent resale value when you get a new one.

Speaking personally, I don't see 16GB RAM as a potential bottleneck. OS X has seen great improvements in memory management over the past few years. My laptop regularly has all its RAM in use – as it should do. The important metric is memory 'pressure', which is pretty low for me pretty much all the time.

More storage? Get one or more USB-C flash drives for your many huge video projects.

Sorry to see the MagSafe port go. It is superb. On the other hand, when I take my slightly lighter and more useful laptop into work and attach it to a chain of hi-res monitors via a single small cable for data and power, things maybe won't look so bad.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Solder not Socket...

Excellent resale value? if you class losing £1000-1500 out the door, off a £2500 15'' Macbook Pro w/ touchbar. I don't see this machine holding the £1500-£2000 mark, in the secondhand market. Maybe Apple refurbs, but not fleabay.

Apple macbook user with an active backup strategy? Do they exist?. OK, iCloud for Photos, Time machine at a push, but that's it.

At least might push a few into action, after their first data loss / Coffee/Coke spill.

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Re: you are not alone

I have a 2015 MacBook Pro Retina 15" 16/512 Gb machine. It is fabulous, however when I looked at the latest MBP I see nothing that would attract me.

The last MBP lasted 8 years and now my daughter has it. Not that I would upgrade as I want this one to last an age. The iPhone I have is a 5, it and the computer 'talk' to each other nicely without the need for any kind of dongles.

I thought the idea was Apple et al were going wireless but there seems to be a huge need for dongles of all descriptions to do what we can do donglelessly now.

This is my last Apple computer, I'll look at a Linux machine if I have to change as they're a fraction of the price. Apple design is impressive, but they're a bridge too far for me now.

Yes, for me, they've lost the plot. Prices in UK are now ridiculous too which just makes it worse.

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Unhappy

Re: Solder not Socket...

"your old MacBook will have an excellent resale value"

But will you want to sell it?

SSD controller wear-levelling obfuscates direct access, so only a full drive erase with random data will overwrite everything. How many typical Mac users will do that (requiring them to overwrite and re-install the OS) before selling on their computer?

Corporate IT recyclers will often physically destroy hard drives before selling on the computer, but when when the SSD chips are soldered to the mainboard this isn't possible. Hence computers with built in SSDs will have to be physically destroyed to protect user's data. Not so good for the environment.

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Re: Solder not Socket...

Corporate IT will have to learn to do FDE via FileVault from day one (and throw away the keys at the last day).

And maybe a few typical Mac users will pick it up on the way, too.

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Re: Solder not Socket...

Chaining monitors has been around way longer than USB-C. And speaking of USB-C - so nice of Apple to make their use of it proprietary. Can't just get ANY USB-C cable and use it with a MAC.

Fuck that!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Solder not Socket...

Good Point.

The 15'' macbook Pro w/touchbar uses a Samsung 960 Controller, so that should have a method to change encryption key / erase the drive. It's probably integrated to Apple's Secure Enclave.

iFixit also found a test port/unconnected socket the motherboard. So its looking like Apple just brought specialist Data Recovery 'in-house' too. i.e. You'll need a third party (well Apple, who else knowns the pin-out) to recover your data in the event of a Coffee Spill, where the machine won't boot, but a method to test if the data is intact.

It's looking like a competition issue, which will need investigating, under EU law, to force Apple to release the details of this recovery process.

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Re: Solder not Socket...

May your deity give you comfort if your 2016 Macbook Pro develops a fault and you have no warranty, as you'll be throwing it away.

https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook+Pro+13-Inch+Touch+Bar+Teardown/73480

"Repairability 1 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair)"

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Re: Solder not Socket...

>Apple do this knowing full well, that a Coffee/Coke spill on the keyboard, will render your whole macbook AND its Data, GONE. There is no SSD to remove, to manually recover data.

Any data you only have in one place is data that you don't care about. This is true of any laptop, regardless of vendor, OS, or storage medium.

> You have to ask what Apple's motives are here.

To get you to back up your data, maybe? With spindled image backups built into the OS for over a decade, very fast I/O and even a cloud service should you want it, I can't think of anything else they can do to make it easy for you to back up your data.

>Buy/use a macbook Pro w/ touchbar, please remember to implement an active backup strategy, there no second chances of retrieving Data here, after the fact.

Surely that is true of any laptop? I know SSDs are more reliable than spinning rust, but it seems arbitary for a user to accept the risk that a mainboard will fail, but not the risk of an SSD failure.

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WTF?

Re: Solder not Socket...

Excellent re-sale value?

How exactly?

In a few years time, the memory and storage will be considered low to average spec at best, and the battery will have lost a sizeable chunk of its useful life as well. Now with a 3 year-old standard laptop, you can up the RAM a bit, pop a new shiny SSD in and replace the battery. Result is a nicely refreshed machine with decent performance, full battery life and some genuine re-sale value as a result.

But who wants an older Macbook knowing that the battery will soon pack in, and that you're then stuck with a mobile device that only works near a power socket?

Apple doesn't want resale value. They want your shiny new kit to wear out and be thrown in the bin as quickly as possible so you have to buy their next shiny product.

Incidentally, I agree with the author. I own two Mac Minis that are a good few years old and have seen several upgrades during their life. I will not be buying another one with all its now-soldered components.

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Re: Solder not Socket...

>Corporate IT recyclers will often physically destroy hard drives before selling on the computer, but when when the SSD chips are soldered to the mainboard this isn't possible. Hence computers with built in SSDs will have to be physically destroyed to protect user's data.

If your data is sensitive, surely you'll be using full disk encryption to begin with? The last mention I can find of this being bypassed was in 2006 - in a much earlier version.

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Re: Solder not Socket...

>Chaining monitors has been around way longer than USB-C. And speaking of USB-C - so nice of Apple to make their use of it proprietary. Can't just get ANY USB-C cable and use it with a MAC.

You can't just use any USB-C cable and use it for every application - regardless who makes the computer, monitor or other device.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_Type-C#Cable_wiring

The main issue is dodgy cheap USB C cables. In the last year, this Google engineer has tested a good number of cables, and has become somewhat of an authority on the matter:

https://plus.google.com/+BensonLeung

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Re: Solder not Socket...

Data loss strategy..

If everything's got to be immediately in the cloud then just buy a Chromebook.

There - just saved you enough for a family holiday!

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Re: Solder not Socket...

Is it necessary to overwrite the data is the disk is fully encrypted?

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Re: Solder not Socket...

Apple lost me with the solder, like any other techy with a pair of functional brains ... USB-C probably also means I will avoid computers with that like the plague. Sad thing is, OS X is by far the best "desktop" OS out there, if you do not count Linux/BSD distros with Gnome 2 or forks of that, in, usability/productivity terms, imho, ymmv.

I also have an iPhone 5S in a drawer, fully functional, I do not want it because it's iOS, teen does not want it coz screen's too small, the other has the 6S ... the girls are too young, would have it stolen.... the wife is thinking about it ... though she also thinks screen's too small.... for looking at photos (LOL) ... she wears glasses, not that good ... Maybe I should sell and get a Nexus ?

The article mentions touch screens, I had one, the only creatures on this planet that used it were the occasional flies getting into the room, iow, not many. I have 5 kids, FFS, it is not just me being old fart, it is simply ... useless.

VR will not take off because of goggles, does not take a rocket scientist to work that one out, right ? Apparently it does, same who claimed 3dTV was the best thing since sliced bread and which failed coz of goggles are now all over VR - yeah, geeks maybe, that's it, average punter, nope.

As for Windows on a tablet ? Holy crap, who wants that ? Windows is for the gaming rigs, with high-end graphics, and that is changing thanks to steam. For anything else, Linux is on duty 'round here ... except my work laptop ... and that might change ...

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Silver badge

I can understand

buying the air as a stop-gap, and rolling the dice that they'll actually put out a real pro next time (how long do you think the wait will be this time?)

However, I'm slightly bemused why you didn't just jump ship now.

By jumping ship, I most certainly don't mean picking up an MS thingie (that's nearly as locked down as what you're running away from).

I read the article as a paean to an age where you could buy something well built and then upgrade it incrementally as your needs increased.

Bluntly - why not just buy a nice laptop, with a nice CPU, a nice screen and sockets you can clip upgraded memory and storage into? It's what you had before and clearly what you want.

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Re: I can understand

It's a good and fair question.

I actually thought about a range of other options: from a Google Chromebook to a Lenovo ThinkPad.

In the end, I decided I wanted a really good day-to-day laptop with the space (money) to decide on a high-end machine later. Maybe a desktop.

In effect, I punted the issue to two years in the future but because I was buying a new laptop, wanted to be happy with my purchase. And I've always liked the Air.

Kieren

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Silver badge

A fair response.

I shudder to think what might have even influenced you towards a Chromebook - although I'm in no position to criticise - having switched my phone from "a long line of rooted/hacked-to-F androids, to a 128GB Pixel XL. This being an Android phone that embraces every criticism I've made of Apple and matches it both in restriction and price (and I let my employer pay for it, as it *should* "just work").

I'll recant my previous ideology, along with Google - there is a place for locked down.

I do feel my PC has different "success-criteria" than my phone though.

Currently I have my work laptop - a perfectly pleasant Elitebook, with a docking station that works (looking at you Dell & Lenovo).

I have my personal PC - a frankenstein creation for Gaming, Coding, RAID, anything else that takes my whim and has evolved over the years, irrespective of the whims of the market.

I have tablets for watching stuff as I lie in bed (went through the Nexus, now a lovely cheap nVidia model - really out of anything I've mentioned here, only thing I can unconditionally recommend).

What I no longer have, is a "personal laptop".

I used to. I've had thinkpads, I've had alienwares, but came to the realisation that I hated them all.

They didn't have the utility of a tablet, nor the flexbility of a desktop.

Bluntly, expensive and then continual annoyance.

Where I think the future (and apple should go) is to embrace modularity and integration.

Sell a Pro Laptop (decent CPU, and sockets for memory/storage).

Sell a non-portable companion (RAID box, GPU enclosure ~ Razer Core on Steroids) - something you can connect to your laptop with one wire and gives you the benefit of a desktop.

Do something with software (Apple software is utterly utterly shite) - Use sync & cloud to minimize the disruption when your Core and Companion aren't physically connected. This appear to be an utter ball-ache in say the Razer/Windows world, but in an all-Apple ecosystem is much easier.

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Re: A fair response.

Chromebooks are fine.

I have a HD one with a good keyboard and I write hours a day on it.

It's light, as slim as a Macbook Air and has a genuine 9 hour battery.

I still use iPhone, not because I like iPhones, but because the alternative is dire.

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Meh

Re: A fair response.

Agreed laptops are a significant compromise. I had a work 16GB (two channel) i5 T450 Lenovo Ultrabook with SATA attached SSD, but cursed the lack of IO bandwidth; my new i7-6800K desktop, at home, with NVMe attached Samsung SSD 950 PRO, 32GB RAM (4 channel) and NVIDIA 1060 GPU is so much faster and easily worth the extra cost! My stopgap i3 HP laptop at home is now rarely used on a Dell USB3 dock.

Out of curiosity I did some research on the /costly/ Razor Core GPU enclosure for laptops and apparently you lose half the speed of a GPU mounted in a desktop PC, so it looks dire value!

I stopped bothering with fake RAID in desktops years ago, I now use and occasionally build new FreeNAS boxes with many-TB ZRAID2 arrays of WD Red drives and Parity RAM which are /much/ safer and faster than fake RAID and tired RAID 1 or 5; I share these on my Gigabit LAN and WiFi with multiple devices including Android tablets.

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Re: A fair response.

"Use sync & cloud to minimize the disruption when your Core and Companion aren't physically connected."

Wandering a little OT here - but it's Saturday at el Reg.

There's something here that keeps puzzling me. Two devices, one, portable, with you and one not. Why the apparent reliance on a third "device", cloud storage to keep them in sync? They can be synced peer-to-peer once they're brought together. There's no need for the second device to be in sync when you're not using it so why the cloud intermediary.

The use case of two non-portable devices, say work and home desktops, I can understand but not the rest.

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Re: A fair response.

Apple also invented Bonjour to do auto discovery over the LAN. Devices could have used that to find each other and sync.

It seems everyone was intent on copying Google instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can understand

yesterday I saw an x220 going for £130. And that was an i7 with a much better screen than i5. Hdd's rubbish, but spare another £200 on extra ram and ssd, politely go back to W7, and you have a very competent lappie, for the price.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can understand

"yesterday I saw an x220 going for £130"

It's a very good lappy. It's robust and portable. With enough RAM, a new battery and an SSD it is not noticeably slower than something 5 times the price for most workloads ... And it has I/O! PCI express may not be the bees knees but you can still pick up a power supply, a GDC Beast, an NVIDIA GTX 750 ti and a nice box for well under £200. You can now pay for all that showing people your laptop and saying you can play Fallout 4 on it. After a few people have bet you £50 you can't, you're in profit!

(Don't brag too much, all my friends wised up after I made £80 in 3 bets)

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Silver badge

Re: A fair response.

>I actually thought about a range of other options: from a Google Chromebook to a Lenovo ThinkPad.

I bought Lenovo's MIIX surface pro clone: Mobile i7,8Gb/256Gb,keyboard cover for <$600 and an openbox Chromebook for $100

The chromebook sits there for web browsing and email notifications, the Lenovo does visual studio better than any previous laptop. For python/matlab it's indistinguishable from my desktop except for having awesome screen resolution. The folding keyboard cover, while better than the surface, sucks for typing other than coding

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Re: A fair response.

"Why the apparent reliance on a third "device", cloud storage to keep them in sync? "

Because peer-to-peer syncing doesn't result in a monthly fee going to Apple.

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Re: I can understand

Big fan of the x220. Last "proper" laptop keyboard, 5 rows, non-chiclet keys.

Pretty easy to service and repair yourself (including screen fixes).

Once you've maxxed the RAM (it can do 16, but 8 will do most people), decent drive(s) and a spare battery, you'll still be cheaper than a new machine.

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Re: I can understand

I'm an even bigger fan of the X201. Still has the Core i5/i7, can be upgraded with an SSD and plenty of RAM, but also has the 16:10 screen and a trackpad with proper buttons. In fact, a maxed out X201 is still my primary laptop when I'm on the move.

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Re: I can understand

Last year I bought a refurbished Thinkpad X220, i5, 8Gb Ram and 256 Sandisk SSD for 220 Pounds.

Very happy with its performance and superb keyboard and I like the Matte (screen better than the reflective one). The battery is good and I know that if the battery is no good anymore I can buy a replacement battery.

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Flame

The customer is always.... a cash cow

I dipped my toes into Apple waters, and they are now getting vigorously towelled off and drying by the fire. Not one penny more from me.

The battery on my work Pro Retina is dying - 40 minutes offline max. I thought - I'll ring up the Store (tm), make an appointment in advance. They can have a battery ordered and waiting with my name on it and I can wonder in, watch them swap out the battery, pay, leave and get back to work.

No, no, no, said Apple. Bring it in. We'll do a diagnostic. If it _is_ the battery, we'll order one in. Then you can come back and leave your machine with us, having backed up and erased and confidential data (of course). We'll then replace your battery and it will take some time between 3 and 5 days. DAYS! Then you can come back again and collect your work machine. You'll be happy, because you won't have been working for a week and you'll be all rested. The you can restore everything from your backup and return to work.

3 round trips to a store (100km away), and a week lost. For a fucking battery.

We need some decent WEEE directives that make implementation of such a f**k-awful design economically impossible. Function over form - that's what I need, and Apple can't, or won't do it, and whilst we continue to give them our money, they absolutely will not stop. Ever.

This far, no further. The line must be drawn _here_

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