The 2016 MacBook Pro is, honestly, a lovely piece of hardware. Slim, with an excellent screen and a large touchpad. The Touchbar is, I’m sure, very useful but as I use a separate keyboard and monitor, it’s not something I get an opportunity to use much.
But it’s not perfect.
The keyboard gets some getting used to, as the keys have much shorter travel than in the past but, I have to say, you do get used to it after a while. The Touchbar too is flaky, often going blank or occasionally showing partial icons. And also, sad I know, I miss the glowing logo on the lid.
Of course the biggest issue for most is its reliance on USB-C for everything (okay, there’s a headphone port). However, a quick purchase of a hub and that issue has really gone away, as I can connect all my standard USB devices to that hub and it also acts as a style of dock too. The lack of ethernet and HDMI isn’t an issue for either but I can understand why it is for others – docks that add these features back in are not cheap.
I have my MacBook paired to the glorious LG UltraFine 5K monitor. And it is glorious. The colour and vibrancy is amazing and the built-in speakers aren’t too bad either. It has a build in webcam which is good too, along with additional USB-C ports. One is specifically designed to connect to your MacBook – as well as audio and sound this also powers the MacBook from the monitor. There are then 3 spare. By putting my USB dock into these, I only have the one USB-C connector plugged into my MacBook and that’s the one from the monitor.
It’s not really a gripe there are no controls for the monitor – it’s all controlled from your MacBook, keeping everything quite minimal (indeed, deck this monitor in a metal surround rather than the current plastic one and you’d expect to see an Apple logo on it).
You can tilt it forward and back, and move it up and down but, sadly, there’s no side-to-side tilt. It’s also quite a glossy screen too, so expect to get reflections.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue is not with either device but when they’re paired together. Right now, there are 3 issues that I’m aware of, 2 of which I’m suffering from…
- A lack of shielding means there’s been a widely publicised issue with the monitor switching off when within 2 metres of a router. My LG is kept within this distance and hasn’t had a problem, though. New versions of the monitor have extra shielding.
- Possibly another shielding issue is when I connect my external speakers to the MacBook via the built-in headphone socket I get interference. Why is this a problem with the monitor? Because the power connector from the monitor is the cause (in fact I can stop it by lightly gripping the cable, in the side of my MacBook, between 2 fingers). I haven’t seen other people reporting this, which is odd, but I have.
I’ve emailed LG about the interference and been told that it’s not a known issue and they suggest trying a different cable. Is the supplied cable a standard USB-C or not (it doesn’t look like it to me, but I guess it could be). Sadly I couldn’t ask, as their site doesn’t work when trying to respond to queries and their chat is offline.
- My MacBook will often lock-up when connected or disconnected from the monitor. The screen will go blank and the TouchBar will be unresponsive. A full hard-reboot is required. This is being experienced by many other users and the last version of the OS included a fix for this, but the issue remains.
But don’t get me wrong, even with these issues, it really is a lovely piece of kit. It’s just a shame that such niggly issues exist – it’s certainly not something you usually expect from Apple.