Review Refurbished MBA New Toy

MBA on sideNot For Sale

Although it may sound like it, I’m not selling anything. It’s just another boring morning of rain and grey weather and contemplation about tech. Also. The only form of sunshine this time of year (in Germania) is when a new toy arrives. And. What for a toy! With that in mind, this is more than just a toy. It it is, in fact, a tool-toy. Yes. It’s my worst-writing tool-toy. Or is it more than a tool? And you know the worst part about buying a new tool-toy? Between placing the online-order and finally receiving it, six days passed. Talk about consumer anxiety. I was going nuts. What was I to do with all the lonely empty space… without a tool-toy. Since I had to sell my old tool-toy before I could buy a new tool-toy, I was tool-toy-less for those waiting days. But that’s neither here nor there. Or? You know what else sucks in these days of happy technology consumption via the Interwebnets? UPS tracking numbers. Talk about useless technology. The only info UPS gave me was that my tool-toy arrived in Köln last Friday (ordered it on Wed). And since it didn’t make it to me on Friday, that meant, because UPS doesn’t deliver on Saturday, I had to wait till Monday without knowing if/when my toy was on… final approach. “All of this,” I thought, “just to save €300. Is it worth it?” (Short answer: f’n yes!)

UPS out kitchen window
Had to wait extra day simply because we were out of milk for cafe latte. Here’s delivery truck next day.

My new toy was supposed to arrive on Monday. I had spent the entire morning waiting, watching and counting all the delivery trucks that passed by my kitchen window. After lunch with no delivery, I took a chance and stepped out to the store around the corner to get some milk. My better-half has to have milk for her cafe latte every morning and we were clean out. I wasn’t gone but twenty-minutes. Have you already guessed what happened? When I got home there was that dumb-ass note on my door that I had just missed the UPS man. The note was time-stamped 13:05. I looked at my iPhone and it read 13:23. I had to wait a whole ‘nother night to get my new toy. Yeah, is it worth it?

The Trusty Old MBP

I’ve spent a good few months trying to figure what new portable computer to consume. Obviously it was going to be another Macbook. But which one. My trusty 2010 13″ MacBook Pro had done its job. I got five (six?) solid years out of it. Since last year, though, it was showing signs of a lifespan stretched. Although it worked OK with Apple’s latest MacOS, it had obviously reached its limit. The only thing that kept it going was upgraded RAM and an SSD. Still, there is no beating the reality of Apple and an industry’s lust for making hardware prematurely obsolete. A five year old computer just can’t handle all the new software. That said, I consider Apple’s Snow Leopard (10.6.8) operating system one of the best I’ve ever used and the fact that I could stretch this thing so long says a lot. A little side note. For the fun of it I installed Apple’s El Capitan on my old device last summer. Surprisingly, it worked. It certainly worked better than any of the other OS’s between Lion and Yosemite. Keep in mind, the most important thing for a laptop is battery life. In the end, after replacing the battery last year, I was still getting more than four solid hours of battery using El Capitan. But the speed, the speed, the lack of speed…

New or refurbished?

Not sure how you see it, dear worst-reader, but Apple hardware is stupid expensive. I mean, seriously. It’s really, really stupid expensive. Maybe I shouldn’t worst-write that based on the fact that my old MBP worked so well for so long. But then again, why not say it. If any industry proves that a free market doesn’t exist, it’s the personal computer industry. There’s only one chip (CPU) maker out there which means that Apple, Lenovo, Dell, etc. can charge stupid prices for things that should cost half of what they ask for them. In order to convince us that their stupid-priced stuff is worth it, they fill stores with all their junk PCs. And here I am buying yet another over-priced device. But I digress.

A few years back I discovered Apple’s refurbished program. Have to say, it’s pretty compelling. I’ve since bought an iPad4 (which is now obsolete because I followed Apple’s OS updates), an AppleTV3 and an Airport Express–all using the refurbished section of Apple’s online store. Oh, almost forgot. My sister-in-law moved from Windows to Mac last year and I convinced her to save about €400 on a refurbished previous-year 21″ iMac. She loves the thing. And get this. I set up the iMac for her and couldn’t believe that even though she paid for only 8GB of RAM, the device Apple sent her had 16GB in it. So I guess, in the end, she got a lot more than she paid for. (So much for overpriced krapp, eh.)

The Competition

After giving Dell and Lenovo a quick look–yes, there are times I miss Windows–I came to the following conclusion: I’m too deeply invested in the Apple eco-system. With that in mind, my budget dictated that I could get any of the entry level 13″ laptops Apple made. If I watched and waited for what Apple was offering refurbished, I might be able to get more. So which one? Here’s some thoughts against the MacBook Pro.

  1. Apple’s 13″ “pro” series isn’t really pro. The device doesn’t even have discrete graphics? Heck, even my old MBP had discrete graphics. After weeks of reading and watching various reviews, I was convinced that Apple, to protect its precious margins–and just like it’s done in the past–sacrificed too much for the new MBP hoping that the (smoke) screen will be enough to protect its margins. All in all, the only “pro” laptop Apple offers is the 15″ MBP–with discrete graphics. But that thing is priced way out of my league.
  2. The retina screen. Spent lots of time fiddling with it at various stores. Obviously it’s crisp, bright and full of colours. But is it worth it–especially in the basic configuration? The only time I can see pixels on a computer screen is when I get up close to it. To me, the reason to have a high-density pixel screen is for professional graphic work or on a device you hold close to your face. In fact, when fiddling around with the MBP retina display, I found myself squinting to be able to read any text on it. My eye doctor always told me that squinting is the worst. Even though I like the retina screen on my iPad4, the same thing on a laptop feels like overkill. Apple is good at overkill.
  3. Thunderbolt sucks. No, seriously. Thunderbolt sucks balls. But I’ve been there. Apple does this krapp all the time. They put all these ports and whatnot on their “pro” machines in the name of ingenuity and progress but most of it is just BS. Can you say Firewire? Look at the fiasco of USB vs any other connectors on computers. With the advent of USB-C it’s obvious that Apple’s Thunderbolt has failed. The only good thing about thunderbolt is that its compatible with mini-display port, which my old MBP had so I already have that cable.

The last MBA

Ok. I’m obviously leaning toward the MBA, the MacBook Air. The main reason: battery life. Can’t get enough battery in these things. Another reason for the MBA is the comfort. The MBP is difficult to type on for hours and hours. The edges cut into my wrists and hands. The MBA is perfect for typing. And let’s not forget the weight. This thing is so light I forget it’s on my lap. In fact, I have to put more effort into keeping my knees together so it doesn’t fall between my legs while I’m typing. It’s also cooler–as in temperature. My old MBP would heat up quite a bit and my lap would heat up with it. As far as the screen goes. I’m good with it. I can see the letters and the words and the buttons and fields and whatever it puts up. All in all, this is the most ergonomic machine I’ve ever put on my lap.

But here’s the biggest reason of all as to why I decided for a 2015 13″ MBA. I’m betting it’s the last one. The MBA series of ultrabooks hasn’t really changed since they arrived in 2010. Although a lot of people have criticised that, I’m not one of them. For one thing, I never buy first iteration Apple products. Those who do are willing and able beta testers and to them all I can say is: keep up the good consuming. You pave the way for those of us who can’t afford as much fun or who don’t live for the newest specs alone. Besides, I love the MBA design, even the silver bezel around the screen. All in all, with what I paid for the higher specs, a worthy choice of tool for the next few years.

toy arrived
Box in a box. The refurbished MBA packaging has no pic of the MBA on the box cover, there is only the words “MacBook Air” and  “Refurbished”. Apple could just as well write second-class on it, too. I guess. But none of that matters. It finally arrived. Rant on, baby.

 

Tommi’s 2015 13 MBA Specs

  • 8GB RAM,
  • 250GB über-fast SSD
  • i7 CPU.

After getting over the slowness of setting it up (software downloads, software updates, registrations, etc.) this thing is f’n blazing fast. For a writer that fiddles with a blog and types a lot, this is more than enough computer.

Rant on.

-Tommi