Taking the Pro Out of the MacBook Pro

Posted on by Larry

Apple this week announced revisions to their 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro laptop line.

Most of the time, when these sorts of things get announced, I just nod my head, acknowledge the new release and move on. I’m not buying laptops all the time, so this stuff doesn’t affect me.

However, in the last two laptop releases Apple is starting to reveal a trend which is very troubling to me as someone who uses Mac gear to edit audio and video — they are taking away the ports I need to connect my stuff.

This began with the laptop update prior to the most recent one with the removal of FireWire 400 ports. Now, in itself, this isn’t a bad thing. FireWire 400 is slow, with a limited cable length. The problem was that they didn’t replace the port with a second FireWire 800 port.

This means that I can’t connect a camera and a second hard drive to my computer without purchasing a FireWire hub. And a hub always runs at the speed of the slowest device connected to it. As well, there are legions of problems with editing video on a single hard drive, unless you are resigned to only editing DV or HDV. ProRes certainly can’t be edited on a single-drive system. Nor can any audio projects with more than a few tracks. Nor can many other HD video formats.

Then, in the latest laptop release for both the 13″ and the 15″ laptop, Apple removed the high-speed Express 34 card and replaced it with the much, Much, MUCH! slower SD card port. The SD card ports runs, according to Apple, at a MAXIMUM of 30% of the speed of an Express 34 card.

How can Apple call a laptop a PROFESSIONAL system when it has fewer ports and the ports it has are slower? They create computers with great software, blindingly fast CPUs, great graphics cards, then reduce the ways to connect external gear!

This is foolish and short-sighted.

Yes, Apple needs lower cost systems to meet the needs of the broader market. But, they also need systems that meet the needs of video and audio professionals. It makes no sense to buy a system that – out of the box – is inadequate for day-to-day video production. Yet Apple describes this as their “Pro” line of laptops.

Apple would say that they have the 17″ laptop. True, but disingenuous. The 17″ is too big to easily travel with, has a screen resolution that exceeds most video projectors which makes it totally impractical for training, and costs more than the 15″ which, up until the latest releases, met our needs for ports and speeds.

Apple might also counter saying that they offer the fully expandable Mac Pro line of computers. While true, this misses the whole point of having a PORTABLE computer for video editing in the field.

If you feel that Apple is short-changing its professional market, feel free to share this blog – or write your own – or contact Apple.

For me, though I need a new laptop, none of the current models are attractive for video editing. I’m going to hold off buying until Apple releases a system I can use, or I’ll just buy an older MacBook Pro – used.


7 Responses to Taking the Pro Out of the MacBook Pro

  1. nicolas says:

    Weird ! What about signing some sort of (collective) petition that would be sent to Apple ? I guess we all want the high-speed Express 34 cards and Firewire 800 back 🙂

    – – –

    Nicolas: I tend to be dubious about the value of petitions. Giving Apple direct feedback I think would be better – either by not buying, complaining to reps in Apple Stores, or sending feedback directly to Apple. Though, if someone has a petition going, let me know and I’ll spread the word.

  2. Mark F says:

    This makes DroboPro and its fast iSCSI connection look more attractive for MacBook Pro owners — just connect via that gigabit ethernet port. Apple wil not be able to remove it from the MBPros.

    Disclosure: I work for Drobo, and we have a solution to Apple’s taking away FireWire 800 ports.

    Larry replies: Mark, this is true. The new DroboPro (www.Drobo.com) connects to the computer via EtherNet, instead of Firewire. And, according to your website, this unit is much faster than the SD port on the computer. However, for editors that need BOTH a fast Internet connection for access to FTP sites, and a fast external hard drive, we still don’t have a good solution with the new MacBook Pro laptops.

  3. Tom Parke says:

    I have a 15” DP 2.93 GHz MacBook Pro with the ExpressCard/34 port and I still cannot use it for editing with a G-Speed eSATA RAID (level 1) without it locking up the laptop. So, I am still looking for who can help after three controller cards, three cables, Apple Support, G-Tech Support, and numerous questions on various sites with no answers. It’s as if I am the only one who has this problem. I raised the Apple issue up the management chain with no solution except to mirror and reload all to my laptop (which I did). When traveling, all I could do was capture; editing was a nightmare! By the way, my last controller card was a FirmTEK, about $120, now a new Sonnet card will be out soon at $300. Who knows whether the more expensive one will work or not? I feel like Charlie Brown being fooled by Lucy Van Pelt everytime with the “pull the football away at the last second” routine.

    I still use my Mac Book Pro to ingest Sony PMW-EX1 SxS HQ 1080p footage, but I am editing on a G5 DP 2.5 system. My G-Speed is a $900 paperweight right now.

    Sorry ’bout all the venting, but, it is frustrating! Apple needs to meet the needs of filmakers/editors who do travel and want to edit HD.

    Tom Parke

  4. Thanks Larry, I fully agree…Apple are making a mess of the MacBook Pro and Mr Jobs should listen to us and not his wayward design team. Take my position, I use a unibody (last incarnation) as a prompter and if you are prompting you need to be able to change batteries and have a composite video out… fortunately I am able to buy a spare battery but I have no direct video out as has been in all laptops up to and including the MacBook Air. So I had to buy the mini display adapter to RGB then via a gadget in Maplin take the RGB out to composite video. Now you don’t even have the option to change the battery in the MacBook Pro…Apple you are in a mess.

  5. […] I feel their pain, because its seems crazy when Apple calls something a “pro” model but removes commonly used access ports, or fails to innovate over several successive software […]

  6. Kaspar Strømme says:

    FYI the new updates put FW800 back on all the MBP’s, even the new 13″. The old White MB has FW400 so all laptops except Air have FireWire.

    FW in general is losing some of its shine, tapeless cameras work fine with USB2, and they are taking over the market. Apple has a history of dropping end-of-line formats before the rest of the market (think Floppy disk!!), but since FW is back again one could surmise they actually listened to the complaints this time.

    ExpressCard is still available on the 17″. If you have a major investment in ExpressCard peripherals you buy a 17″ next time. SD cards are quickly becoming popular on semi-pro tapeless cameras so the inclusion is not too suprising. Probably costs less too. P2 card owners were similarly outraged when the PCMCIA slots disappeared, 3rd party vendors since stepped up and provided external readers.

  7. […] I feel their pain, because its seems crazy when Apple calls something a “pro” model but removes commonly used access ports, or fails to innovate over several successive software […]

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