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New MacBook Pro with three monitors

My Upgrade Experience to the 2016 MacBook Pro laptop

I’ve been using a 2011 MacBook Pro with 17″ display for several years, and it allows me to view web pages under both macOS Sierra and Windows 10. The display is a gorgeous anti-glare, which means that you don’t see your own reflection in it. Once I started using 17″ laptops over 10 years ago, then anything smaller like 15″ or 13″ just seems so unproductive and tiny in comparison, so screen size really matters. In fact, I connect my laptop up to three external 24″ monitors, so that gives me a total of four screens to get all of my work done. Here’s how I use each screen:

  • External left – email and web browsing
  • External middle – web browsing, Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google Contacts, WordPress
  • External right – web browsing, Windows 10 (Quicken, Internet Explorer)
  • 17″ laptop – Dreamweaver, web browsing, Photoshop, Pages, Numbers
New MacBook Pro with three monitors
New MacBook Pro with three monitors

As of January 1, 2017 the Apple store will no longer offer any repairs on my 2011 MacBook Pro, so it was time to upgrade. I did check out several used MacBook Pro laptops on craigslist, but ultimately decided on buying a shiny, new 2016 MacBook Pro. A lot has changed in the last five years with Apple’s lineup of MacBook Pro computers. Let me just show you a side-by-side comparison of how different it was to go from a 2011 to a 2016 MacBook Pro:


Feature 2011 2016
Screen 17″ 15″
Resolution 1920×1200 2880×1800
SSD 500GB 500GB
Ethernet Port Yes
Firewire Port Yes
Thunderbolt Port 1
Thunderbolt 3 Port (aka USB Type-C) 4
USB 2.0 3
Audio line in Yes Yes
Audio line out Yes Yes
ExpressCard/34 slot Yes
WiFi 802.11a/b/g 802.11ac
Bluetooth 2.1 4.2
Touch Bar Yes
Fingerprint scan Yes
Track pad Small Giant
Optical Drive SuperDrive
Weight 6.6 pounds 4.02 pounds

The first big let-down with buying a 2016 MacBook Pro was the smaller screen size of 15″, after using 17″ laptop displays for over 10 years, however because I also use three external 24″ monitors this wasn’t as big of a deal for me in terms of impacting productivity. If I were traveling with my 15″ MacBook Pro and that was the only display, then yes, it would be awkward and inefficient for me to use in comparison to the 17″ model.

Apple makes a lot of noise about Retina, and how gorgeous photos look, however there is no wow factor for me in using a Retina display over the older, non-Retina display. Just good old-fashioned Apple marketing trying to make me fall in love with Retina, well, I’m not in love with it and can easily live without it.

Ports, oh my goodness, what did Apple do with all of those useful, varied ports on my MacBook Pro? Well, they replaced the variety with uniformity, and you only get four of them, oddly enough one of them has to be used for power, so you really only have three left to work with. I’m not a big fan of this move by Apple, because it has caused me to go out and buy additional USB Type-C adapters to:

  • USB Type-C to Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB Type-C to DVI
  • USB Type-C to USB

Apple felt badly enough about this port blunder by temporarily lowering the price of many of their adapters, but they really are nickel and diming their loyal users by insisting that you can only have Thunderbolt 3 connectors. Apple has taken the same physical shape of the USB Type-C connector and upped the data transmission by 4X to a stunning 40Gbps for short cables (aka active), and 20Gbps for longer cables (aka passive).

What’s really new in terms of features is this concept of a Touch Bar that takes the place of what we used to call Function Keys. Yes, you can still have Function Keys, but whenever you start to use an App in the new MacBook Pro then this Touch Bar lights up with new buttons for you to press. No other company has such a system, so at least there’s a little bit of innovation going on here. I do like the Fingerprint scan feature, located in the far-right of the new Touch Bar, because is saves me from having to continuously type in my password to wake the system up after it goes into sleep mode. Yes, sometimes I stop and think long enough that I’m not typing anything on my computer and it falls asleep.

The track pad has become super-sized, which looks kind of funny at first, but then I got used to it. This feature is not making me more efficient, it’s just a marketing gimmick to make the MacBook Pro look different in 2016 compared to past models.

Overall the weight has gone done dramatically, as the 2016 MacBook Pro is some 50% lighter than the older 2011 model. Since I rarely go mobile with my MacBook Pro, this is not a wow feature for me yet. In their quest to get the 2016 MacBook Pro this light they have further reduced the distance that each key moves when press, and oddly enough the new keys are much, much louder than the old keys. As a touch typist I am having to get used to increased noise levels, and I’m the one creating a noisier environment. Too bad that there is no official specification for keyboard noise, just be forewarned that as you move to the 2016 MacBook Pro there’s going to be a whole lot of keyboard noise going on. I would even pay up to $200 to have a quieter keyboard installed on my new MacBook Pro, that’s just how annoying it is to me. Yes, I could use an external keyboard that is quieter, however that defeats the whole purpose of using minimal desktop area for me.

Migration Assistant

So Apple has the wonderful, included App called Migration Assistant, and as the name implies it helps you to migrate all that data from your old MacBook Pro to the new one, so no geek experience is required. My first approach was to use WiFi, because that was the only thing that I had to choose from when I got back from the Apple store. With WiFi connecting my old and new MacBook Pro I was informed by the App that it would take 23 hours to complete the migration. Uh oh, time is money for a freelance web developer, so this amount of time was not acceptable. Why oh why didn’t the Apple sales rep at the Bridgeport Store mention to me that I shouldn’t use WiFi. I specifically asked him, “How much time with Migration Assistant take to run?”

His reply, “About an hour.”

Apple Bridgeport Village – not so helpful

He never mentioned that with WiFi it would take one day to transfer. Who teaches these Apple sales reps about customer satisfaction?

Another observation about Apple reps, when will they teach them that Apple stores accept Android Pay and Apple Pay. The last three times that I made a purchase at the Apple store I asked the clerk, “Do you accept Android Pay?”

Their response each time, “No, sorry, only Apple Pay.”

Then when I pull out my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone and pay with Android Pay their jaw drops, their mouth opens, their eyes turn big, and they say, “Huh, that isn’t supposed to work in here,”

Android Pay works at Apple Stores
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – Not an iPhone

The next morning at 10AM I was at the Apple store for a second trip to ask how to speed up Migration Assistant. The first lady that I asked directed me over to the wall display of dozens of adapters and cables, but couldn’t answer my question so she sought help from the bearded guy with tatoos. The bearded guy asked me five times what computer I was migrating from, and each time I patiently told him that it was a 2011 MacBook Pro, however he had not a clue what ports were included in the 2011 MacBook Pro. What a painful process, I literally wanted to shake him out of his stupor and ask, “Have you ever been trained on Apple products like the MacBook Pro?”

Because there were so many witnesses in the Apple store I didn’t assault this rep, although I really wanted to. Bearded guy then showed me two adapters:

  • Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2
  • Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt

Adding up these two adapters was something like $48 or so. Then I asked Bearded guy, “Well, what about if I just buy this one adapter from USB Type-C to Gigabit Ethernet?”

Bearded guy replied, “Uh, oh, yes, you could do that, I guess.”

So I bought the $22 USB Type-C to Gigabit Ethernet adapter and hurried home, remembering that time is money in my profession. Happily, it took about 90 minutes to use Migration Assistant with my new Apple adapter. While at the store I wisely purchased a USB Type-C to USB connector so that I could use my Garmin bike computer and other USB gizmos.

External Monitors

Since I already own three 24″ external monitors I needed a way to connect between their DVI connection and the USB Type-C on the MacBook Pro. Of course, Apple doesn’t sell such an adapter because they only want you to buy the monitors in their store, so I had to drive Southward into Wilsonville for a visit to Fry’s, the superstore that makes Geeks smile with glee, because they mostly have whatever you need, in stock, although you will not be able to find it yourself. When I asked the Fry’s clerk where their USB Type-C to DVI cables were, we hunted at four different locations in their store until we finally found the aisle that had the product that I had already seen online and confirmed was in their store.

Frys – What aisle is my product on?

Once at home with all of the proper Apple and Fry’s cables I finally had my new MacBook Pro all up and running with all of the account data from before. Ah, time to get to work and start making up for all of the trips and hours away from a working computer.

The Moral of the Story

Apple reps really need to be trained to ask their customers simple questions, like, “What computer are you coming from?”

Frys really needs to have a mobile app that tells you which aisle every product will be found on in the store, instead of relying upon a search party model to find your gizmos.

The new 2016 MacBook Pro is lighter, shinier and way more expensive than a 2011 MacBook Pro. I don’t expect to be any more productive at all by using it, however I will be supported by Apple for the next three years because I paid the Apple Care tax. About this same time in 2020 I will be selling a 2016 MacBook Pro on craigslist, and I will give you a good deal on the price.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. William

    “Why doesn’t Apple just use the standard nomenclature of the computer industry and simply say that they offer USB Type-C connectors? Obfuscation on display, big time, it’s a mistake and Apple marketing should grow up and stick with USB Type-C.”

    Because USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 are not synonymous. Thunderbolt 3 uses USB Type-C ports, but not all USB Type-C ports are Thunderbolt 3-capable (most out there are in fact not). So Apple marketing doesn’t need to “grow up.” You can read further about the differences, e.g. here:

    1. Daniel Payne

      William, thanks for the link. So Thunderbolt 3 is 4X faster then USB Type-C, can drive dual 4K monitors, and can do peer to peer connections at 10 GbE speeds. Info is appreciated. I find it ironic that at the web site they are selling an LG 4K and LG 5K monitor, both of which have incredibly low user reviews because the monitors connected to the new MacBook Pro don’t wake up, cause freezing and reboots. These early monitors are giving Apple a black eye in the market.

      1. William

        No problem. I’m running one of these 5K monitors with a 2016 13″ MacBook Pro. There are definitely a few teething issues, but nothing particularly offensive (in my usage, anyway). I’ve not had any freezing or random reboots.

        Most of these issues feel like Apple not being quite up on their software to support the monitor, and I expect we’ll see some fixes in short order.

        That said, I do love that you can come home and just connect one cable from the screen to the laptop and the result is a gorgeous 5K display (image, if not design!), power, sound, camera/mic – and whatever other things you already have plugged into the display (ethernet, external disk etc) – again – all from just the one Thunderbolt cable – which you can plug into any of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports on the laptop. It really does feel special.

        Still, Apple has work to do in this space, and updates should come sooner rather than later.

        1. Daniel Payne

          I just plugged in the headphone for the first time tonight, too bad that Apple designers placed it behind two of the Thunderbolt 3 ports, instead of in front of it. The positioning isn’t ergonomically correct. My 2011 MacBook Pro had the headphone jack closest to the front, which is ergonomically proper. At the Apple store I asked the clerk if he would connect two 5K monitors to a MacBook Pro and he said, “No, we cannot do that.” Is it just Apple arrogance or policy to not show a customer how two products in the store actually connect together?

          1. William

            I can’t speak for individual Apple employees. The 2016 15″ MacBook Pro will support 2x 5K monitors + the internal display without issue. (It will also support 4x 4096×2304 resolution displays + internal display, too).

            The 13″ model only supports the 1x 5K display (or 2x 4096×2304).

            As far as the headphone jack goes, I don’t personally use it that much, having switched to wireless, and generally when I do use a 3.5mm pair of cans, the 3.5mm cable is plenty long enough so it’s no big deal. I guess if you’re using EarPods it might be an issue with the short cord, but those are sub-par anyway and if you’re using the Thunderbolt 3 ports you’re likely at a desk where you can use something better. I don’t see one location being that much more ergonomic than the other, really.

            It sounds like you don’t like the laptop very much, and that’s fine. Maybe it’s better to continue with your 2011 model, and upgrade when you have to? I really like the 2016 MacBook Pro, but I recognize that others don’t.

  2. Mike Marthews

    I just purchased from amazon a combined Ethernet with 3 x USB connectors and USB c charging for a clients new 15″ mbp. The only thing missing was a mini DP connector. I had to get another dongle for that. So I have reduced 4 cables to 2 for my client.
    The dongles cost approx £15 each and arrived 3 days later. The USB / Ethernet one is quite smart looking.
    My 2011 17″ is still going and I have a spare. Battery is really good as well, using the original one with about 4-5 use on a full charge working it hard, not in the Apple / VW way of testing. 🙂

    1. Daniel Payne

      Mike, that combo adapter sounds very useful, it always makes me wonder why Apple doesn’t offer one on their site to help their own customers. Of course the market place sees this new opportunity and is responding to meet the needs.

      1. Mike Matthews

        What is very deja by here is the Apple Old Timers will remember the last century Mac Duo. Who remembers that thing? A lightweight portable with a motorised docking station for those accessories that are always at you desk. It ran a Motorola 603e processor I think? So a bit under powered. But sounds familiar.

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