0.14

I type this on a Thinkpad t480s that I recently switched to from a lifetime of using Apple machines (literally grew up on Apple computers, shoutout to the Macintosh Classic!). I switched because it was time for a new machine and I didn't want to be using a faulty keyboard for the next 5 years. Here are my caveats before I continue:

  • If I wasn't buying a laptop I would get an iMac or iMac Pro and all would be well. Apple desktop computers are in a great place right now.
  • This machine is for my work as a web developer and technical director at Sparkbox. The range of applications I need are largely all cross-platform: 1Password, Dropbox, Slack, Google Calendar, code editor, browser, terminal, email. I miss but don't need: iMessage, Photos, Safari, Tweetbot, Sequel Pro etc.
  • I haven't completely lost my mind, I'm not running Windows 10. I am using System76's quite nice Pop_OS linux distro.
  • I got this Thinkpad before the latest (4th?) revision of the Macbook keyboards. I would still make this decision today given the unknown quality of these "fixed" keyboards.

Some of the niceties that come with the switch:

  • User upgradeable RAM. The t480s has 1 open SO-DIMM slot and 8GB soldered to the motherboard. This feels like a nice compromise. Of course I threw in a 16GB stick to have 24GB total.
  • User upgradeable SSD. I can easily swap the stock SSD. A Samsung 970 Pro 512GB SSD that is faster than what Apple ships in the current Macbook Pro is $150 from Amazon.
  • Ports. The t480s has 2 USB-A ports and 2 USB-C ports. It also has a full size HDMI, SD card slot, and full-size Ethernet.
  • Of course, a best-in-class keyboard.

Here's what stinks about it:

  • No macOS
  • Inferior trackpad

The stark difference between the current Macbook Pros and this Thinkpad remind me of John Gruber's apt comparison between iOS and macOS when the iPad was new on the scene (emphasis mine):

When I say that iOS has no baggage, that’s not because there is no baggage. It’s because the Mac is there to carry it. […] Mac OS X has an essential role in an iOS world: serving as the platform for complex, resource-intensive tasks.

The funny thing is, the best slogan to describe the Mac’s role is the same one it started with 25 years ago:

The computer for the rest of us.

Apple should apply this to hardware as well, let the iPad be the ultrathin device with limited ports. Don't force that set of compromises on professional laptop users. Like I said above, Apple's desktops are fantastic. Heck the Mac mini RAM is almost user serviceable. The t480s is not a thin machine compared to a 13" Macbook Pro: it's 0.73" thick according to Lenovo's official specs and weighs in at 2.9lbs. The Macbook Pro for comparison is 0.59" thick and weighs in at 3.02lbs. Is 0.14" difference in thinness worth access to the ports, user upgrade-ability, and the longevity of the keyboard? I certainly don't think so and I'm disappointed Apple continues to demonstrate they care about that 0.14" more than any other single feature.

I desperately miss macOS but the Apple laptop hardware has atrophied to such a degree that the software alone isn't worth it.

Update

Quite a bit of discussion happened over at lobste.rs. It's easy to get hung up on which ports should be included but I think looking at Apple's desktops is instructive: USB-A, SD Card, and USB-C/TB3 are all included (HDMI is nice in my opinion but I can see the argument for dropping it). None of those ports would cause the device to become unbearably thick and would add significant value and convenience.

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