25 Jul 2015

More Flexible Macs

Apple should make Macbooks far more configurable. They currently offer a few models, each of which is a preconfigured bundle of decisions. For example, I’d like my laptop to have a 2TB hard disc, but that’s not an option [1]. Some people may want a laptop with a longer battery life.

I’d also want to use my Macbook with a 5k display, but that requires a discrete GPU, which is offered only on the 15-inch model, that too only on the one with 512GB storage and a faster CPU. But I may not want a 15-inch laptop, or I may not want to pay for a 512GB SSD or a faster CPU. I should be able to add a discrete GPU to the 13-inch Pro.

Or even to the 12-inch Macbook. This would be the right choice for someone who uses their laptop with an external 5K display, and don’t need a 13-inch screen.

I’d also like a hard disc in a laptop. SSDs are expensive. You can get a 500GB hard disc that’s only 5mm thick, and so won’t add much bulk to a laptop. Or a 1TB hard disc that’s 7mm thick. Or a 2TB hard disc that’s 9.5mm thick. Apple should offer all three hard disc options, each of which resulting in increased thickness as compared to the previous option. I don’t mind my laptop being a few mm thicker. I need a lot of storage. With slow, unreliable Internet in India, that too with low data caps, the cloud isn’t an alternative to having lots of local storage. A laptop that calls itself Pro must have 2TB of storage, in my opinion. A 256GB laptop might as well be called the Macbook Lite — it’s an inconvenient, compromised machine in my eyes. Now, if Apple were to make a 1TB SSD standard across their entire lineup, that would be a different situation, but given how much Apple charges for higher SSD capacity, I want a 2TB mechanical hard disc.

For that matter, why can’t I opt for a dual-core CPU, rather than a quad-core, in a 15-inch Macbook, to save money, and because I don’t need a lot of CPU power, anyway? Even looking at dual-core CPUs, the 13-inch Pro has a faster CPU (2.7Ghz) than the Air (1.6Ghz). Why can’t I order a Pro with the cheaper, slower CPU, and save money? And probably extend battery life.

On the other hand, why can’t I add more ports to a 12-inch Macbook?

Rather than offering a set of preconfigured choices, Apple should make just one model, but make it far more configurable. You’d first choose a screen size: 12, 13 or 15 inches. You’d then optionally add a discrete GPU. And/or a hard drive in 500GB, 1TB or 2TB capacities, with the bigger ones adding more thickness and weight to the laptop. But you can get the weight down by opting for a smaller screen, like 12 inches. The system would come with a low-power CPU, like the fanless one in the present 12-inch Macbook, or the 1.6Ghz one in the Air, but you could add a better CPU if you wanted, either a quad-core one, or a faster dual-core one.

This would make the Macbook line far simpler and more flexible, at the same time. Customers wouldn’t have to choose between what sometimes seems like a random, preconfigured, inflexible bundle of choices. They’d have a better laptop than they can get today, and for cheaper, and Apple will also be able to save money by not shipping more expensive components customers don’t want, anyway. This will benefit everyone.

[1] Excluding the ageing non-Retina Macbook.

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