Few Apple products, other than the original iPhone in 2007, have raised as much public anger as the recently released MacBook Pro line. Apple’s customers are loyal, yes, but we kick, we scream, we complain when Apple advances the state of the art, mostly because we think we know better.
Simply put, my 15-inch MacBook Pro is the fastest notebook I’ve ever owned, not much bigger in size and weight from the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro which it replaced, but far more powerful with more capabilities. Would it be nice to have a 32GB RAM limit instead of 16GB? Sure. But at what cost? Would it be useful to have full sized USB ports and an SD card slot? Sure, but that’s not the future. USB-C is the future and Apple gives the Touch Bar and Touch ID models four of them. Hide your dongles if you’re still living in legacy land.
Alright, what about those aging Apple Cinema-cum-Thunderbolt displays? Apple ignored them, ignored the market, and decided not to be in the display business any more. Instead, Apple cut a deal with LG to produce an even better display than the old one that was launched in 2011. Five years is a long time in display years. Or, dog years. Here’s the deal. USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 can use the same connector and the new LG UltraFine displays– a 21.5-inch Retina 4k model, and a 27-inch Retina 5k model work much like you’d expect an Apple display to work, but without Apple’s logo. Or, Apple’s price tag. These are affordable. And ugly, decidedly non-Apple-like except for what they do.
My 21.5-inch display arrived on Saturday and other than the actual physical look– boring to the point of being completely devoid of design aesthetics or taste– these LG displays work much like a modern USB-C Thunderbolt hub for the MacBook Pro. The UltraFine display is equipped, like the MacBook Pro, with four USB-C ports, which, on the larger model, can also be used as Thunderbolt 3 connectors which drive both display and charge the Mac and run other USB-C connected devices. As I found out, the 4k display has some limitations not apparent in the 5k display.
For now, these are the Macs that can handle USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, but I expect that’s why Apple has been slow to upgrade other models. The Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro should see USB-C-cum-Thunderbolt 3 upgrades next year unless Apple has decided to exit the Mac business.
While the new MacBook Pro display is the best notebook display I’ve ever used, anyone who has sat down in front of an iMac with Retina 5k display knows the future, so plugging in a 5k display– or, two, if you have the cash– to a MacBook Pro would be such a delight that viewing screens on older Macs makes them feel positively obsolete and vintage. Yes, I’ll get the LG UltraFine 27-inch model when it ships, but for now I can see more clearly where Apple thinks the future will be.
It should not be a surprise that Apple exited the display business. Even at Apple prices, there’s no real money to be made making TVs or displays and Apple is all about making real money. By partnering with LG to make the UltraFine match the USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 requirements, Apple saves time and effort, LG gets new customers, and everyone who doesn’t mind the lack of design aesthetics in the displays, is happy.
We make kick, we may scream, and we definitely complain as Apple customers, but we know Apple moves the tech bar forward. Now, if only we could get them to move it a bit faster.