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MacBook Pro 16 for programming? Review after 1 month of usage

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Submitted by abhaisasidharan on Mon, 09/07/2020 - 06:18
MacBook Pro 16

TL;DR

The MacBook Pro 16 is by far the best Macbook ever made. I bought an Apple Macbook only because they came up with the Macbook Pro 16. Otherwise, I would have just gone for a Thinkpad or even Dell Alienware. 

FOR AGAINST
An excellent UHD 16-inch screen.

Heavy. 2.1 Kgs

The best speakers on a laptop of this size.

Expensive. Even the accessories are expensive.

Excellent battery life. Easily around 10 hours. Only 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports. Which adds to the cost of accessories.
Smaller than laptops with 15.6 inch screens. Touchbar is still useless.
  Incompatibility with most external keyboards

I have been using the Macbook Pro 16 for over a month now and I thought I should share my views on it.

Popular (incorrect) Opinions

  • The new keyboard is awesome! 
    It is not! It is "amazing" compared to previous Macbook keyboards. But I have been using Thinkpads for over 4 years. Even the Dell XPS has a better keyboard than the MacBook Pro 16. So no, I am not particularly tickled by the new keyboard.
  • Excellent thermals
    Again, compared to previous models, it has improved considerably and even has air outlets for better cooling. But it is absolutely horrendous compared to HP Omen, Dell XPS, ThinkPads, Hp Spectre, Razor Blade, MSI G6X, etc. Apart from that Apple does this annoying thing where they set stupidly high thresholds. The CPU fan is set to max speed only at 90 ºC. If they were using that heat to generate electricity to charge the battery, by all means, I am on board.
    Thankfully, there is an easy way to overcome this. I use an application called Macs Fan Control to set my own thresholds, after which it behaved like a normal laptop. 

My experience developing software on a Macbook Pro 16

  • Docker is sloooooow. I was surprised to find that docker is insanely slow as it has always been. I did not know this and did some research to find that this is because of the way docker is run on Macbook Pro. But I still can't wrap my head around the fact that it is so phenomenally slow despite running natively and not in a Virtual Machine. I am mostly a Drupal developer and use Lando which is essentially an assortment of docker containers. This was flawless in my Linux machine. But now I have switched to Virtual Machines and Vagrant using Drupal VM because so much of my time is spent waiting for the page to load. 
  • Everything else is a breeze. Apart from Drupal, I work on electron apps, Angular, and Rust applications. Compiling and running these are nothing for the MacBook Pro 16. I have a million tabs open and up to 2 PhpStorm instances and VScode instances simultaneously. No hangs, no memory complaints, no performance issues.
  • One of the main reasons to go for a mac in the first place is because it is so easy to install development software. Lando, Docker, Acquia Dev, Node.js, Angular, React whatever. Just installing Xcode and Homebrew is enough to solve most of my troubles. The problem with Linux is, it is so easy to break the system (grub rescue for example) while installing some software. I have faced this issue in most distros except Ubuntu. 
  • Touchbar is near useless and boring. And there is no easy way to customize this. Pock does provide quite an elegant solution by bringing your dock into the touch bar. MTMR is a bit more complicated but provides much more customization.
  • In most cases, you would just require the 2.6GHz 9th Gen Intel Core i7, even though they have the i9 processor which has more optimized power consumption but generates way more heat. With the thermals being in the state they are, it is definitely better to go with i7 unless you have the "need for speed", i.e., Video rendering, etc. For programming, i7 9th gen is more than sufficient. 
  • The charger is massive and does the job not slowly. :) By this, I mean it charges fast but, it isn't a fast charger. Thunderbolt 3 is amazing. One port to rule them all. But at what cost? I spent over 7000 Rs on the dock with HDMI, USB, and Ethernet ports! Really Apple? You couldn't even give me a card reader? Apart from that, I wanted to by a second thunderbolt 3 cable, but this is another expensive feat, not mention rarely available in Amazon of Flipkart. I bought a cable claiming to be a Thunderbolt 3 cable (for 3000 Rs), only to find that it wasn't a thunderbolt 3. Turns out, thunderbolt 3 cables are precious and rare.
  • My workstation setup before Macbook Pro 16, involved an external monitor, Hp Omen gaming keyboard and a wireless mouse with programmable buttons. The external keyboard works fine if you buy a compatible dock (Like this one: https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B07D33RMRN/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1). But the programmable keys and buttons on both my keyboard and mouse are useless. This is one thing where they can improve on but for some reason choose not to. 

In conclusion, I am quite happy with my Macbook Pro 16 but, I also feel like I am on an island where I can survive only with the resources found on the island. Sure, there are better and cheaper coconuts on the mainland, but they are not compatible with the trees on the island.