Review: MacBook Pro 13.3” (128GB) [non-touch bar], refurbished, June 2017 model

25 years!

That’s how long I’ve been an almost exclusive user of Microsoft products (from early teen to nearly forty), particularly the Windows operating system on PCs. So, you could forgive me for boredom and foolhardiness that drove me into the arms of a Mac.

I’d temporarily had a Mac before, an obsolete hand-me-down as a taster, and in 2008 I had a netbook with Ubuntu on it, which I used quite happily for five years. Other than that, I only had PCs, and my smartphones and tablets were all Windows-based too. The demise of Windows Phone drove me to an Android, and I’m sure the freshness of that magnetised to me an Apple laptop when a second(!) Asus machine died of multiple failures. So, now I’m a tech-bohemian – I can be criticised and loved by all…

Given that I like to use computers for music-making, whether I see a recording project through, and I wanted my laptop as a secondary computer to my 5-years-and-still-running-well Windows desktop machine, the clear choice from Apple was a MacBook Pro. Being averse to their price tags I decided to opt for a refurbished one from Apple themselves, saving about £200! The machine is still current, and it looked retail to me! It came in a shrink-wrapped box that was marked as refurbished, but the machine itself looked untouched. The cable was surely new, as was the documentation (I also get the standard warranty).

I worried if the 128GB model would be cutting it for space but seeing as I use OneDrive cloud storage (my desktop holding a lot of content that I don’t access much) and that I could get an external drive for music project files, and that I had only used about 135GB in total (including Windows) on my desktop, I reasoned I could get away with it through shrewdness. And so far, it’s looking good. The machine came with 97GB usable space, and once I updated it and added all the programmes I use, and selectively downloaded from OneDrive, I was left with 70GB free. That’s plenty for me given that I don’t anticipate much new programs to add (I first saw if all the longstanding programs I use on PC were available on Mac, and they are) and music projects will often be transferred to PC for more comfortable editing. This laptop will help with more portable recording. If this machine was to be my primary computer, I think 256GB would be more rational, but it does cost you a bit more.

I’ve not found it too much of a leap from Windows as the basic concepts are the same and I’m getting used to the small intricacies.

While I’ve often criticised Apple buyers as money burners, there’s no doubting the build quality of this thing. It’s a stunning and strong silver aluminium with a Retina display. The lack of travel on the keys feels odd but I’m quickly getting used to it.

The machine’s thinness allows famed Apple ‘braveness’: there is just one headphone port and two USB-C/thunderbolt ports (either can be used to charge the laptop or connect devices). You can pick up a USB-C to 4xUSB-A (standard port) dongle for a tenner, and all your gadgets will be good to go. It might be inelegant, but not when the machine doesn’t need those ports, say when you’re just travelling and doing document editing/watching films. Some dongles allow you to use an SD card reader, if you so need it.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that my Office 365 Personal subscription allowed me to install it on this as well as my desktop as the license is technically for one PC or Mac, plus a tablet and a smartphone. Given that tablets are out of fashion and hybrid tablet-laptops muddy the category, that’s probably how it ended up fine. This subscription also gives me 1TB of OneDrive space, so all Android phone photos go straight there and onto my desktop. I’m leaving them un-downloaded on my Mac. So, this allows a bit of Microsoft-dependence-continuity, which I’m happy to continue with (e.g. OneDrive is more generous than iCloud, and Office and Outlook beat the OS X default equivalents; Pages, Numbers, Mail).

It’s early days so far but I’m pleased with the purchase, particularly if it has a long usable life. At least OS X updates are free like Windows ones are now. Future resale value might keep me on the Apple ladder. *shock*

I had briefly looked at the equivalent-priced Surface Laptop, which is a bit more generous in spec, but I figured that if you’re going for a pocket burn, it feels more justified by going for a radical experience.

There’ll be new MacBooks later this year, no doubt, but they won’t be a relative bargain on the refurb shop immediately, so I feel this was a good time to get one.

Mac OS Mojave is out soon and that will have a dark theme mode which is something I’ve enjoyed already on Android and Windows.