Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:
That fan is a weird place to start when talking about the new $1,199 MacBook Air. I’d rather jump into all the many good things there are to talk about: the pixel density on the new display, smaller bezels, Touch ID, the T2 security chip, a larger trackpad, and a smaller design. I’ll get into all that. But I want to hang with this fan noise for another minute because its whirring encapsulates the most important thing to know about this MacBook Air.
Namely: it’s a computer that will let you do whatever you want, even though some of those things are probably beyond its capabilities. It won’t say “no” when you want to open 20 tabs and eight apps and then edit a photo. (Though, sometimes, with a fan and spinning beachball, it will say “uncle.”) Most of all, it’s a computer that is familiar. It does everything you expect in a way that you’re used to.
Sometimes, that’s enough.
I’m still waiting for a 15 W TDP quad-core MacBook, be it a MacBook Air or refreshed MacBook Pro Escape. There’s currently a hole in the line-up and it feels that it’s there so as not to cannibalize MacBook Pro sales — the Air has a 7 W CPU, the Pros have 28 W parts, and the 2017 Escape has dual-core 15 W processors. Where are the quad-core 15 W TDP Intel Core i5s and Core i7s?
And no, no Touch Bar for me, thanks.
Ben Lovejoy, for 9to5Mac:
Offer people the option of paying say $250 less for an otherwise-identical non-Touch Bar model, and I think a lot of people would go for it.
I refuse to buy another Touch Bar MacBook. I had two and returned them both. At this point, I’d pay just to not have it, even though I would treat that as daylight robbery.
Jason Snell makes some valid points:
In any event, Steven Aquino’s piece makes it clear that nobody should make blanket statements about the Touch Bar succeeding or failing. But where does it go from here? Does it get better, so more people embrace it? Does it become an option, rather than a mandatory feature? Does it fade away? Only Apple knows.
Make the Touch Bar optional, then everyone can order the one they want.
Personally, I will not buy a Touch Bar MacBook anymore — I already had one (two technically) and I breathed a sigh of relief after returning it.
In fact, the Touch Bar has a clear path of iteration ahead of it. Make it cheaper, roll out to lower-end Macs, add haptic response, and ultimately take over the whole keyboard with one giant screen.
I sure as hell hope that won’t happen, but perhaps it really is inevitable? Looking at the computer keyboards used in The Fate of the Furious, this could be sooner than we imagine.
Chuq Von Rospach, writing down his thoughts about facial recognition replacing Touch ID:
With the iPhone 8, it looks like that new technology is here. And if this is true, that explains at least in part why the Touch ID sensor was downplayed in last fall’s announcements (don’t want to oversell something they know is going away) and why we don’t have a Touch Bar keyboard. It made no sense to build that product since a year later it would be replaced.
If I’m right, future Macs will use the infrared facial recognition, and they can embed those sensors in the bezel of the monitor on both the iMac and the laptops. This simplifies the problem of needing to secure the communication between the sensor and the Secure Enclave; by moving those sensors into the device and off the keyboard, everything gets a lot cleaner. And they can build a much less expensive keyboard with a Touch Bar on it that doesn’t require the level of communication security that would be required if it also had the Touch ID sensor.
There were also rumours about Apple being surprised about the number of older MacBook Pro (2015) orders when the late 2016 models came out. When added to the fact that the Touch Bar wasn’t universally well received, perhaps they re-evaluated their stance on the future of keyboards and will either scrap the Touch Bar entirely or make it optional. Either way, the Touch Bar is neither the future of keyboards, nor is it a sensible stop-gap to on-screen keyboards. In my use case, where I can’t even see it without moving my hands off the keyboard, it’s just an annoyance and I consider it to be bad design.
In retrospect, I believe had Apple just added Touch ID to every MacBook and keyboard, skipping the Touch Bar entirely, they would have garnered much more praise, instead of the mixed reviews, which mostly focused on the Touch Bar itself, often mentioning Touch ID only in passing.
Chuq Von Rospach:
The current laptop line forces users to pay for the Touch Bar on the higher end devices whether they want it or not, and that’s a cost users shouldn’t need to pay for a niche technology without a future. So Apple needs to either roll the Touch Bar out to the entire line and convince us we want it, or roll it back and offer more laptop options without it. I’m going to be curious what they do if/when they announce updated Laptops this fall.
I still believe the Touch Bar should be optional and customers should be able to specify every model with or without it, depending on their needs and preferences. At the same time, Touch ID should be integrated into the models with ‘real’ keyboards, although having it as another option would be preferable.
I wrote my ‘quick review’ of the 13“ Escape in January and I still stand by my words:
Not having the Touch Bar is such as relief. I was actually surprised, when I realised it, about 5 minutes into configuring this Mac. I felt complete, having the function row back. The Touch Bar is most definitely not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I get why some people like it, but I try to keep my hands on the keyboard at all times, using shortcuts to get what I need done. This allows me not to take my eyes off of the screen. Unfortunately, I could not get used to shifting my eyesight down at the Touch Bar from the display, which was made worse by the fact that when using the MacBook Pro on my lap, my hands would block it.
I truly hope that the Touch Bar will become an option in the future — I’m a diehard keyboard fan and I do not want to change my habits for what I consider a gimmick. I want to be able to buy any MacBook Pro and specify whether I want a Touch Bar or not, like RAM or the CPU.