Two weeks ago, I bought my first Apple product at the age of 32. Apple products have been always on my radar since the first iPhone came out. However, I've always thought that Apple products are overpriced, and they are not worth my attention while there are many alternatives out there. I still think so, but not to that extent. I'll try to make my point later on in the article.
So, my first Apple gadget is the 2021 MacBook Pro 16" with 16 GB of unified memory and 512 GB of SSD storage. For the color, I've chosen the Silver because it seemed nicer to me over the Space Gray.
It was a very risky deal to make because I'm Ukrainian 🇺🇦, and currently there is a war in my country. To order a laptop from the Kyiv for $3000 via mail service is not the same as buying it in the local Apple Store for $2500 in a peaceful time. And yeah, in Ukraine, the Apple products are 20% more expensive than in US. The same goes for all the other imported stuff.
If you are one of those people who are planning to buy your first MacBook for a programming related job, you are in the right place. Because in this article, I'll go through some interesting topics that I've noticed moving from Ubuntu desktop to macOS.
I will also discuss some pros and cons of buying such an expensive laptop, and my general thoughts about macOS and MacBook Pro. I'll touch the topic of Linux Desktop, and share thoughts about my previous experience with Linux-powered laptops that I still have.
My current work
I'm currently working as an IT-specialist in the company from the Netherlands. In my daily routine I use a lot of PHP, Go, Vue, React and TypeScript. These languages and frameworks don't require a powerful laptop like MacBook Pro, but it's pretty pleasant to have some extra power for the future needs. Especially if you are planning to get in into mobile apps' development.
Out of work, I do a lot of open-source, pet projects and writing the blog. The MacBook keyboard is definitely a big addition to my productivity, but I can't say that the previous laptop was awful to type on. It was still a solid machine except a couple of defects which I was annoyed by. I'll explain some of those defects later in the post.
First Linux laptops
The first laptop was the Dell Inspiron 3567. I still love this machine until this day, even though it was a budget one. It costed around $400 at that time, but I was fully satisfied with it because my work didn't require any powerful hardware or IPS matrix, which I didn't have in the Inspiron model.
The second laptop was also powered with Ubuntu. Linux was one of the requirements for choosing a future laptop, even though I could just buy a Windows laptop and replace the operating system with Linux. But still, I've picked the Dell Vostro 5590 because it was powerful enough for my daily job, and it had Linux preinstalled, which was nice for me.
With these 2 guys, I could easily complete any task that I needed, even though Inspiron was pretty slow with Yarn and Composer. Still, it was a wonderful experience with each of them. I haven't had so much satisfaction with the MacBook Pro as I had with my first laptop. It's like your first kiss, it might not be the best one, but the amount of satisfaction you get is not comparable.
Transition to macOS
In my opinion, transition from one operating system to another mostly depends on the person itself. Some people just adapt quicker in software than others. It greatly depends on your technical skills and how confident you are in navigating around software of your current operating system.
In general, moving from Ubuntu to macOS is pretty easy and smooth, there are no major problems that I would face. The most difficult thing was to get used to different keys and key binds. On Apple laptops, we have “Option” and “Command” keys that are not present on Linux-powered laptops, and as soon as you start using a MacBook, you'll make mistakes all the time until you get used to it.
The most annoying one was to get used to “Command + c” and “Command + v” to copy and paste stuff. It took around 4 days to get used to that, not a big deal. I'm sure you can set copy and paste key bindings the same way as we have them on Linux and Windows, but I wanted to embrace the macOS workflow and get the same experience the most people get.
Everything else was pretty much straightforward. All the programs that I had on Ubuntu I was able to install on macOS. There is even a GIMP photo editor that I was using all the time on Linux. It's the best free image-editing tool that I've found so far, and it's open-source.
Pros and cons of macOS
I haven't really noticed the advantages of using this operating system apart from its stability and configurability. Everything works as expected, everything is configurable and works stable. Usually, when I want to change the behavior of any program, all I need is to search my question on the internet, and I'll find the answer in about 30 seconds.
The only weird behavior of the system that I found is a screen scale on an external monitor. If I change the display scale from Default to the third option with connected monitor, it will reset the preference after I put the MacBook to sleep.
The oddest thing is that, sometimes it doesn't reset the preference and stays the same. It can even be a monitor's problem and not macOS itself, I don't know for sure. One working lifehack that I've found, is that, I need to turn off the monitor first, and then put the MacBook to sleep.
When I go back to work, I wake the MacBook up first, and then turn on the external monitor. It works all the time with my Dell 34" U3415W monitor.
There's also a strange behavior of the battery from time to time. When the battery goes below 30% the display turns off. It's like in a Sleep mode, but not exactly. People are saying that it's a calibration issue or something like that. I didn't have issues like this on my old Dell laptops.
Besides these 2 issues, macOS itself is very stable and user-friendly. It's undoubtedly much stabler than Ubuntu 18.04, but don't forget that Ubuntu is absolutely free and Open-source, which is a massive plus to Canonical, and a community of other developers who are contributing to Ubuntu.
MacBook's pros and cons
Before buying the laptop, I've watched several reviews on YouTube, and some of that information wasn't correct in my opinion. One of the reasons is that we as people are unique and perceive the world differently. Some people on YouTube were complaining about the notch, and some were complaining about the size of the 16.2” model, saying that it's huge and heavy.
So, I was about to buy a 14.2” model based on their complaints. At the very last moment, my brother talked me out of it and said to buy a 16.2” model, and I did, and I don't regret it. The size of the screen is literally perfect enough for me to not reach for the external monitor every single day.
The size of the MacBook is almost the same as my previous 15.4” Dell Vostro 5590 laptop, even though it's 0.8 inches (ca. 2 centimeters) smaller. I would have felt myself uncomfortable on the smaller model. If you are moving to MacBook from 15.4” laptop, buy a 16.2” model.
The other thing that I've heard about the 16-inch model is that it's too heavy. It is 4.8 pounds (2.18 kilogram). I can't say for everyone, but it's neither heavy nor light. I would say, I don't feel uncomfortable to carry this thing around. But of course, the 14-inch model is 3.5 pounds (1.59 kilogram) lighter.
If you are planning to carry this thing around all the time, the 14-inch model is a perfect fit for you. I would even look for a MacBook Air model because the Air model is perfect for people who are traveling.
1. Performance boost with M1 chip.
The most obvious advantage is certainly an M1 chip, if you are aiming for the Apple Silicon model. The laptop is fast, quiet and doesn't heat up so much.
2. Build quality.
The build quality is 10/10, but that's what you expect from a laptop for $3000, right? For comparison, Dell Vostro 5590 costed me $1100, and its build quality is awful. Not only it has a terrible display, but also lid hinges problems which led me to a choice of buying a new laptop.
3. Trackpad is huge.
Almost everyone mentions the trackpad, it's big and comfortable to use. I entirely agree to that. Since I've bought the MacBook, I don't use a mouse anymore. The only time when I would reach for the mouse is when I'm editing images in GIMP photo editor. I'm also one of those geeks that uses VIM and touch typing, and it's just harder for me to reach for the mouse when I have a big trackpad under the home row. I've tried using a mouse for a week, and went back to the trackpad because it's outstanding.
4. The keyboard
The keyboard is pretty nice to use. The keys are much bigger than on regular laptops like I had. For people who write a lot of text, it will definitely be a big plus to productivity.
The battery is fantastic. I love the fact that you can work for a long time without worrying about the battery life, and even if you need to charge it up, the process is superfast compared to what I had on Dell Vostro.
Linux is growing
I'm sure that Linux is a great starting point for new developers to get into a Unix system and get more familiar with the terminal. I'm still a Linux and Open-source ecosystem fan. Even though I had some problems with my previous laptops, it had nothing to do with the Ubuntu operating system itself.
I had a great pleasure to work with it, and still have an urge to go back when I see the latest versions of Ubuntu.
Every year it becomes more polished and more functional. And the fact that Linux is free is mind-blowing, so much work had to be done to make all of that working, and now we are getting it for free. Do you want to play games? Okay, you can do it nowadays, Linux is also adapting for that.
Of course, Linux will not be the next macOS or Windows, and it shouldn't be. There are distros like Linux Mint that give you the user-friendly experience of using Linux Desktop if you are looking for that. There are distros on any demand, you can for sure find something for yourself.
On the other hand, you're not going to feel yourself strange on macOS, it does feel like another Linux distro, to be honest. It is also a Unix-based operating system, and most of the Linux commands are available in the terminal. Apple has put millions of dollars into developing and improving macOS. You can feel every penny when you use it, it's definitely a very stable and polished operating system.
The most common question that I would ask myself before buying a MacBook Pro, was, am I going to regret spending $3000 on a laptop? And the answer is no. Regardless of what your transition will be, you won't regret buying a MacBook, unless the machine you bought is defective.
This machine makes my day-to-day job more enjoyable and productive. I can't say that I've noticed a huge difference in performance, but it does work fast compared to Intel-based laptops.
The operating system is stable, the build quality is wonderful, the screen is big and enjoyable to look at, the battery is great, the keyboard is awesome to type on, the speakers are loud and clean. I'm sure you'll find something else to add to the list of advantages in MacBook Pro. What else do you need from a laptop?
It's an expensive machine, though. If I was at the beginning of my journey as a software developer, I wouldn't buy it. Just because of the price. On the other hand, if you have some extra money to spend, buy it, you won't regret it.