Four ways Apple could return the MacBook to glory

Since Apple’s apparently updating everything this week, I want a new MacBook next.

macbook 2017 usbc port
Roman Loyola

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The invitation-only “show time” event might not be for a few days, but that’s not stopping Apple from rolling out a slew of products. Following Monday’s iPad Air and iPad mini announcements, Apple updated the entire iMac line Tuesday morning with faster chips, better graphics, and more memory.

That makes the $1,799 iMac one of the best buys in the Apple Store. Not only do you get a glorious 5K display, you also get a 3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Radeon Pro 570X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, and 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory. That’s a beast of a machine, and with upgrade options that go all the way up to a 3.6GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor and a Radeon Pro Vega 48, it even gives the iMac Pro a run for its money.

2019 imac04 Apple

The new iMac line has more speed and better graphics, but I still don't want one.

But the sweet spot is the new $1,499 model, which comes with a 6-core 3.0GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory, Radeon Pro 560X graphics, and a 1TB Fusion Drive. And I want that in a laptop. Now. As sexy as the iMac is, I haven’t bought a desktop computer in years, so whenever Apple refreshes its iMac line it gets me excited about the next round of laptops, in this case, the where-does-it-fit MacBook.

Apple’s MacBook currently has the smallest screen of any Mac laptop but costs more than the newer MacBook Air. It only has a single USB-C port. And it’s running an extremely old processor. Yet, whenever I see that it has gone on sale for around a thousand bucks (which is basically becoming a weekly occurrence), I always want to buy one. But even for $200 to $300 off, it’s hard to justify what is essentially a two-year-old machine. However, with a few changes, Apple could turn the MacBook into the $1,499 iMac, a perfect combination of price and features for people who want more than an entry-level machine but aren’t quite pros.

A better keyboard

This is the big change everyone wants: a new laptop keyboard that dumps the butterfly mechanism for something new. I wouldn’t mind a system like the one inside the Magic Keyboard or even a return to the “chiclet” keys of the old MacBook Air, but something has to give. The MacBook keyboard—even the newer one with the silicone membrane—has been the subject of countless tweets and posts, with users railing against noise, travel, dust, dirt, and numerous other issues. The bottom line is it just doesn’t feel right.

macbook key travel different Leif Johnson

To put it mildly, the MacBook keyboard sucks.

I’d love to see Apple experiment with a new keyboard on the MacBook before it comes to the Pro or the Air. After all, it was the original MacBook that introduced the butterfly keyboard in the first place, so what better way is there to usher in a new one?

A custom processor

There have been rumors for years that Apple is working on a custom processor for its Macs, and the MacBook is the perfect machine for it. The MacBook currently has a seventh-generation Core m3 processor upgradeable to a 1.4GHz dual-core seventh-gen Core i7, neither of which are going to win any speed awards. Any 2019 Intel update Apple would offer likely wouldn’t mean all that much to day-to-day use, which is probably why they haven’t bothered.

But a custom processor would immediately inject excitement into the MacBook. We already know how powerful Apple’s A12X chip is in the new iPad Pro, and it would surely be just as capable in the MacBook, a machine that isn’t meant to be used for processor-intensive tasks like video rendering. With its own silicon, Apple wouldn’t need to rely on old processor or charge outrageous amounts for newer ones.

Face ID

Apple has yet to bring its new secure unlocking biometric to one product where it makes the most sense: the MacBook. On the iPad and iPhone, the camera isn’t always in the best spot for scanning your face, but on the MacBook, Face ID would be perfect. As soon as you open your laptop, you face is front and center, and it would dramatically cut down on keyboard and Touch ID fumfering. From unlocking to Apple Pay purchases, Face ID on the MacBook would be game-changing for convenience and security. 

An iPad Pro-inspired design

The MacBook may be one of the best looking laptops on the market, but it’s getting a little long in the tooth. The wedge design isn’t all that impressive anymore, and besides, that’s more of a MacBook Air thing. So, I’d like to see Apple take the iPad Pro design and build a laptop.

ipad pro edge thin Leif Johnson/IDG

I want the iPad Pro design in my MacBook please.

The iPad Pro’s flat design would look great in a laptop, as would its uniform, ultra-slim bezels and rounded display corners. And I wouldn’t say no to a 2732 x 2048 12.9-inch Liquid Retina screen either. Bending issues aside, the iPad Pro is one of the best products Apple has ever made, with a simple, understated design and industrial good looks, and I’d love to see it make its way to the MacBook.

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