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09 July 2020

Spec Matters

Happy laptop

For the first time since going Mac in 2006, I’ve replaced my laptop with one that, to most observers, looks identical to the one I had before.

It usually takes me about three years to outgrow a computer and need something more powerful for work. And, usually, that’s enough time for Apple to change the design of their laptops, so I not only get something that is new inside but is new outside, too.

That tricks my brain into thinking that what I have is this great new thing. A new visual and tactile experience that helps forge the important relationship between person and device.

The 2020 13” MacBook Pro does none of that. Most of the working day I’ve been forgetting that four years of computing technology innovation have taken place in what’s otherwise the same shell that was on my desk before.

But that undersells what this ‘new in old’ laptop actually achieves.

My efficiency has substantially improved. Everything, from external 4K displays now remembering their orientation and what windows were on them, typing in Asana on Safari actually happening in real-time rather than with a lag, applications steaming along responsively and even reliable sleep/wake cycles. It all adds up to the reason why I actually needed to upgrade.

But that lack of change to the physical shell has allowed other wonderful things to happen, also. For once I’m not discovering the flaws in Apple’s ever impressive and ambitious industrial designs. The new keyboard, separate escape key, better arrow keys and separate Touch ID button have created something very slick. The hinge tension is better, and with the more capable processor and greater amount of RAM has come a welcome decrease in noise and heat as my workload is now handled with ease.

There’s a lesson in this geeky rambling. Good design is good design. Good design doesn’t need to be cast aside and replaced without reason. Good design can be enhanced, refined and improved. Good design can survive changes in technologies and capabilities. Good design can become a trusted and reliable friend.

So, in the short amount of time that this new laptop has been gracing my desk and bouncing along in my satchel, I have learned not just to cap that insatiable desire for ‘new stuff,’ but also to deeply appreciate the finesse of this machine and how incredible it is that something can be so much better whilst to the casual observer appearing no different at all.

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