I do actually miss one thing about the touch bar:
The animated arrow when touch ID is active.
It was a clear indicator even in the corner of my eye, and without it I somehow find myself taking a breath longer to realize I am supposed to authenticate with my finger.
Actually, I think that sums up everything I miss about the 2016 Macbook pro, which was my previous work computer. It served me very well for a long time, but the 2021 Macbook pro is such a comprehensive and huge improvement that there is nothing to miss anywhere.
I was on Zoom for a couple of hours, running on battery, unintentionally leaving my whole development environment running in the background. This machine absolutely did not care. The machine was cool, the battery almost full. Oh, and the fans were not only silent, they were actually completely turned off the entire time.
This is clearly unreasonable for a powerful work machine. But it just does it. Handles any task with understated power. And it looks and sounds great while doing so. Build times for our C++ code is halved, but the feeling of power and flow during my day to day web development is probably what will be the more important thing in the long run. It gives the same feeling - only more so - as my Mac mini: the machine just sits there quietly, housing the power to do anything I ask without it seeming the least bit taxing.
Oh yes, all this is also while taking a step down in size. My 2016 machine was of the 15-inch size, while this one is 14. Cool things come in small packages.
Looks, sounds, and feels
I was not sold on the look of the new Macbook pros when I just saw them in photos and videos. Handling one in person, I think it looks great. It both feels more modern and clean, approaching "looks like a 3D rendering"-territory, and somehow reminds me of old Powerbooks at the same time. It feels nicer to hold, and is solid in a way which reminds me of something I can not quite place.
The notch exists, and that is the extent of problems it has caused me. The eye tends to ignore it in favour of the outrageously good screen stretching out below. Sharp, bright, and beautiful. That impression of pixels somehow being right at the surface of the screen is definitely there. And the processing thrown at the slightly better camera hardware hiding in that notch really makes a difference. Whichever room I am in looks brighter and has nicer colors on camera than it does in real life. But surely daring to step above the courageous 1080p resolution would hurt nobody?
Sound is slightly outrageous too, the speakers sound louder and better than they have any right to.
The keyboard is back to being my favourite among laptops. It could have been a candidate for overall favourite if I had not fallen into the rabbit hole of ortholinear 40% keyboards. As it is, buttons feel a bit spread out, and some things are simply less convenient than on my own layout and a smaller keyboard. I do not think I will ditch using an external keyboard when the laptop is in desk mode with monitor and everything else connected, but I will happily use this keyboard on the move.
An unexpected nice little detail since my last keyboard: the fn key now doubles as a globe key, which I can tap to bring up the emoji picker anywhere. Much nicer than the regular keyboard shortcut I somehow forget all the time.
I decided to set this machine up from scratch rather than migrating things from my previous one. I do like to keep things convenient, and so usually go for the migration assistant. But since I was moving both machines and architechture at the same time, it felt even more appropriate not to bring a bunch of baggage along.
It occured to me that I should create a list of large and small things I do when setting up a new computer, and possibly a separate list for home and work. There are always things I realize over time, things which would be very quick to rattle off all at once if I just had a list of them.
On the other hand, I do enjoy starting fresh and re-evaluating things here and there as I go. For example, I have only installed Visual studio code on this machine, rather than using it and Sublime text for different purposes. I have kept Spotlight on its default cmd-space keyboard shortcut rather than ctrl-space where I had it before. I did not blindly copy my whole Zsh configuration file over, and while I have copied a few things and still miss a few more I definitely have not missed or even understood everything in the old file.
Another bonus of starting fresh: rather than get packages installed for Python 2, I finally did the minimal work (thanks, 2to3!) to upgrade the script I use to build this site to Python 3.
Laptop versus desk
But how will I use it?
A wonderful small package which encourages being on the move, working in different places and positions, and so on. But my desk setup provides such better ergonomics, which unfortunately negate not only the advantages of compactness, but also many of the other improvements. I have a laptop begging to be used as a great laptop, but chances are I will ignore that most of the time. Sad in one way, truly the best of worlds in another. And it probably will make me change up my work position and location more often, which is also a plus. In the little more than a week since getting this machine, I have already spent a lot more computing time away from my desk than in a long while. Many moments can be computing moments when the nicest and most powerful computer in your life also happens to fit on your lap.