A review of the 2017 MacBook Pro 13"

Last updated 25/05/2020

This is my last day with the 2017 MacBook Pro. Here is my long term review from a developer's perspective.

3 years has gone by fast. Very fast. Since I bought my 2017 MacBook Pro, I've moved into 6 different houses and travelled to the other side of the world. On this MacBook Pro, I've learned Laravel, Swift, TDD and Vue. I've built countless websites, started umpteen personal projects and developed a number of OS packages that are being used in production websites.

In short, me and this MacBook Pro have been through a fair bit together. Hours building, debugging, testing, compiling, breaking, fixing, failing, restarting. So, its not overstatement to say that, whilst I'm hella stoked for my new 2019 16" MacBook Pro (which I'll post about in due time), I'm quite sad to be saying goodbye to this one.

What follows is a short review of this machine, where I think it fell short, and where I think it was glorious.

The shortcomings

No device is perfect. The 2017 MacBook Pro is certainly no exception. In fact, many would say the device was flawed in more ways than can be counted. It wasn't Apple's finest year for laptops. I don't hate on it as much as most people, but I do still have a few things I wish were different.

The keyboard

Let's get this out of the way. You've heard it a million times. Now, I've been fortunate enough to not have to have my keyboard fixed. However, the actual keyboard experience left much to be desired. Key travel is next to nothing, and after a day of typing, my fingers start to ache from the hard clunk of keys thudding against the frame.

I have also had a number of stuck keys. Usually, a little piece of grit has wedged itself between the gaps of the keys. Thankfully, I was able to turn the MacBook over and knock the grit out before it rendered my keyboard useless. However, no man should have to smack his expensive work-horse just to keep it functioning. I thought humanity had overcome that stage of history.

So, whilst I've avoided many of the horror stories you read online, I would by no means give the keyboard a rave review. In fact, suffice to say I'm looking forward to not having to use it again.

Ps. On this, I've been using the magic keyboard for around 5 months now in order to get around having to use the MacBook keyboard.

The trackpad

Now, before we begin, I love the MacBook trackpad. It is pure joy. I love it's size, I love the gesture control system and I love the haptic feedback. When I have to use a Windows laptop, my fingers cry out in anguish from the lack of space (my index and pinky are claustrophobic).

However, interestingly, this is one of two issues I've had with my MacBook that has resulted in needed repairs. One day, the trackpad simply ceased to function. I couldn't click it no matter how hard I tried (and believe me, I tried very hard).

Thankfully, the UK has an awesome 6 year policy written into the law that requires manufacturing faults be fixed free of charge. So as long as the device was purchased from Apple, they'll sort it all out for you without any fuss. Still, the inconvience was a pain. Hopefully this won't happen on my new baby.

The screen

Last in this list, the second issue I've had is with the screen. This is a recent one actually. A black, fuzzy line started appearing on the screen after extended use (which there tends to be a fair bit of as a developer). It wasn't a software issue, but rather a fault with the panel.

Again, thanks to UK law it can be fixed free of charge, but it is still a pain in the neck, and unlike the trackpad seems to be more widespread. Again, here's to hoping it doesn't show up on my new MacBook.

The great stuff

If you take anything away from this review, let it be this: despite the shortcomings of the 2017 MacBook Pro, I would still have bought it 10 times out of 10. It is a brilliant machine.

The speed

I came from a Windows laptop (Lenovo, to be specific) prior to this MacBook. In fact, this was my very first Apple computer. I was of the opinion that Apple was overpriced, overrated and practically useless. I used to laugh at people who were 'trapped' in the Apple ecosystem.

I now have an iPhone, iPad Pro, AirPods and MacBook. I've given Apple thousands of pounds. My viewpoint changed pretty much from day 1 of using the 2017 MacBook, and the main reason was optimisation.

My Lenovo laptop was a quad-core Intel processor. This MacBook is a dual-core. It is in every way faster and more responsive than the Lenovo laptop. It runs circles around the Windows laptops owned by my team, and can finish our test suites in a fraction of the time. It is scary how much power Apple can get out of their machines. You can tell care has been given, not just to the externals, but to every facet of the internals.

In fact, it was the optimisation of my MacBook that started me down the road of software optimisation, cleanliness, and care. It literally made me a better programmer.

I can't wait to see what my octa-core 2019 MacBook Pro can achieve.

The trackpad

Wait, what?!? This was in your bad list!

Yes, it was. However, despite the hardware failure it had, I love the trackpad soooooo much I would be willing to sell a human child for it (not my human child, but certainly a human child).

It outdoes any other trackpad on the market, and I will argue that into the ground. You can press anywhere on the trackpad to click. You don't have to raise your hand to click more than once. It's HUGE and spacious for gestures.

All around, I cannot fault it. When I first saw the trackpad reveal way back when, I was all like "whoa, that is way to big". I eat my words, wait until they've passed through my digestive system, and then flush them away with extreme prejudice.

The OS

Hate on it all you want, but macOS is, in my opinion, the best operating system available for old people, content creators and developers. I happen to be in that group of people (hopefully the latter).

The primary reason is the UNIX subsystem. Pretty much every tool relies on it, and the majority of servers today run on it.

Yes, you can get it on Linux. Linux is a terrible user experience with little support. You spend most of your time fiddling with your computer instead of fiddling with code. Fight me.

Yes, using WSL you can get it on Windows. However, at least at the time of this writing (and as far as I can see, for the considerable future), it is markedly slower than a native environment.

The CLI tools are second to none. Laravel Valet has decended from the heights and saved me literal days. Getting up and running with existing projects has been a breeze.

Here's the bottom line. I'm usually up and running on a new project many times faster than members of my team, who use Windows laptops. Even with tooling like Laragon or WSL, they just don't have the tight interoperability with the ecosystem that macOS enjoys.

I'm a macOS convert. Sue me.

The build quality

Call me shallow, I don't care. The MacBook looks great. Other manufacturers have done a great job catching up (the new Microsoft Surface products look purty), but they are indeed catching up.

Apple have knocked design out of the park, and to say I'm holding a Pro product, it certainly looks more like a fashion item (which is not a bad thing). I've had many "oohs" and "aaahs" from friends, family and workmates over the years, and I can't say I haven't enjoyed the attention. I imagine its the feeling you get when your only child graduates and you have something to show off about at a family gathering.

Conclusion

Okay, I'm going to wrap up here. I hope my musings have been entertaining. Perhaps you're in the market for an older MacBook, and you were looking at the MacBook Pro 2017 as an option. I'd say go for it. Overall, its a great product.

Just make sure you have warranty!

Ps. Keep your eyes peeled for an article all about dat sweet new MacBook Pro arriving tommorrow (the MacBook, not the article).