Ever since 1998, when I won an iMac in a high school raffle, I've been firmly entrenched in Apple's world, and I thought I was never going back. But even though my 2012 MacBook Pro, the first Retina Display model, is my favorite tech purchase ever, I'm getting tempted by a stellar Windows 10 PC: Huawei's MateBook X Pro.
But why am I preparing to leave my favorite laptop ever, which runs all the Mac-exclusive apps I love? And what kind of PC could convince me to leave Apple after 20 years and give Windows 10 (which I don't even like) a chance?
Apple doesn't make MacBook Pros like it used to
The clock is ticking on my MacBook Pro, which I bought the day it was announced: June 20, 2012 (my old iBook had just died). That means my current computer is turning 6 years old this Wednesday. And while I want it to last — 6 years is admittedly a decent lifetime for a laptop — it's showing its age, taking longer to wake from sleep and having those rainbow-beach-ball processing delays.
Buying a new MacBook is difficult, though, as Apple moved away from the MacBook Pro design I love and embraced a thinner, but quite problematic design.
How bad is it? There are a ton of people complaining about Apple's keyboards, whose butterfly-style switches fail in the face of any detritus, including dust. In fact, Apple faces a pair of class-action lawsuits (1, 2) that argue that the keyboards are prone to failure when "minimal amounts of dust or debris accumulate under or around a key" and that Apple knew about this defect "at or before the time it began selling these models to the public."
Another major issue with the new MacBooks is that Apple went all in on the new USB Type-C ports. Unfortunately, most of my hardware is still using the boxy, Type-A USB 3.0 port, which means buying — and carrying — a multiport dongle adapter is an annoying necessity.
Enter the MateBook X Pro
After three years at Laptop Mag, I finally found a PC laptop that seemed like a suitable replacement when I reviewed the Huawei MateBook X Pro this past April. Not only does it sound like a MacBook Pro, but it looks like one, too, with tapering edges, Space Gray and silver options, and a minimal shiny logo in the center of its lid.
The 2.9-pound MateBook X Pro also offers what I like about the modern MacBook Pro (namely, a fingerprint reader in the top right corner of the keyboard) but avoids what I dislike. First of all, the Touch Bar, that sliver of an OLED touch screen that nobody's found a good use for, is absent, replaced by the physical escape and function keys we all use.
And speaking of keys, the MateBook X Pro has a keyboard I actually enjoy using. This is because its keys feature traditional mechanisms and not the butterfly switches that Apple uses. That means the keys actually feel like they're moving up and down when you type and not as if you're pecking at hard plastic. Also, the MateBook X Pro's keys feature 1.1 millimeters of vertical travel, which is taller than the 0.8mm in the 15-inch MacBook Pro's keys.
The MateBook X Pro's touchpad is also better than Apple's, a statement I'm still shocked to type after MacBooks spent the better half of the last decade with the best, most-reliable touchpads. Sadly, it doesn't take much to win here, either, as the MateBook X Pro's touchpad got my vote simply because I can click down on it. Apple's Force Touch trackpad, by contrast, uses haptic feedback to trick you into thinking the pad moved. And it doesn't fool me any more.
And, oh yeah, Huawei built the MateBook X Pro with two USB-C ports and one full-size USB 3.0 port, so there's no need to worry about dongles.
So why not other PCs?
The Dell XPS 13 is Laptop Mag's favorite laptop overall, but it's not for me, with my preference for the MateBook X Pro beginning at the cash register. I've got my eye on a MateBook X Pro with a Core i7 8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, which costs $1,499 right now. An XPS 13 with those same specs runs you $600 more, at $2,099.
Also, that XPS 13 can't be configured with a discrete graphics card, whereas the MateBook X Pro packs Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics, which is enough for Cuphead, the only PC game I care about. If I wanted a lot more graphics power, I could get the XPS 15, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti card, but at 4.6 pounds, it weighs 1.7 pounds more than the MateBook. And just like the smaller Dell, it costs $2,099.
But what about Lenovo, which makes laptops with best-in-class keyboards? Its ThinkPad Carbon is worth considering, and my colleague Avram Piltch of Tom's Hardware just sank his own hard-earned money into that machine. The only downsides, though, are that its similar configuration costs $434 more, at $1,934, and it doesn't have a discrete graphics card.
And HP? The 15-inch Spectre x360 is a sleek convertible that's price- and spec-competitive. It's almost exactly what I want, but at 4.2 pounds, it's just a little heavier than what I'm looking for.
So here I go....
For the next month, I'm going to see if I can switch from life on macOS to Windows 10 with the MateBook X Pro. I've already found plenty of pain points while looking for new apps and solutions, but considering the hazy outlook on the future of Apple's hardware (even Mac app developer Rogue Amoeba agrees with me on that), I need to start testing the waters so I know what to do if my 2012 MacBook doesn't make it to its seventh year.
Oh, and Apple? I don't want to give up on you; it just feels like you've forgotten about those of us who want a good keyboard. I've seen your "Behind the Mac" videos, in which you show a series of MacBook users, including Grimes (whose music I love), enjoying your laptops, but you're leaving out a major part of the MacBook Pro user experience.
In a company-wide meeting, I saw a colleague rapidly clicking the spacebar on his MacBook Pro, trying to fix the crucially important key. Until that part of MacBook Pro ownership goes away, I have to consider all my options.
Credit: Laptop Mag