Laptops

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (2019) review: Slimmer and evermore dependable

An upgrade that allows you to make time for things that are more important

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Editing on a 4-year-old laptop that wasn’t made for that purpose will take a toll not just on the machine itself, but on anyone using it. That’s the situation me and my 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro found ourselves in this year. As with any Mac device, it’s still usable if all you have to do is web browsing, word processing, and maybe some minor photo editing.

Pushing an underpowered notebook to do heavy multimedia tasks will suffice for a while but won’t benefit you nor the laptop in the long run. When you find yourself compromising not just speed but creativity, that’s when you know enough is enough. An upgrade is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

Number talk

For a little bit more context, the 2019 MacBook Pro that I upgraded to is the 13-inch one — stay with me here — with 256GB SSD storage, powered by the 1.4GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor. I know that just sounds like a bunch of words and numbers mixed up, but to help you visualize: it’s the second one in the current 13-inch MacBook Pro lineup:

You might be thinking — who would give up a severely underpowered MacBook Pro for yet another Core i5 laptop? I’m well aware there are more much better options, including the last two in the infrographic. If power-hungry tasks like video editing are my only consideration for upgrading, I would have easily gone for the most expensive MacBook Pro. Heck, I would have waited for the cheese grater-looking Mac Pro and set up a workstation at home instead. But aside from performance, portability and price are important to me, too.

Beautiful design in a slimmer body

Laptops are made to be portable. Their very reason for being is to allow the user to get things done despite being away from a power source for extended periods of time. For a girl of average height who carries not just a laptop, but a whole gamut of equipment on a normal work day, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is just the perfect size.

When weighed on its own, the weight difference between the new MacBook Pro and the 2015 model or the 16-inch variant is negligible. When combined with a camera, lenses, tripod, hard drives, at least two smartphones, a bunch of cables, makeup, keys, wallet, and a few documents here and there, it will all feel like a whole day of workout.

The weight Apple shed off by making the new MacBook Pros thinner, no matter how miniscule, matters. As someone who also spent more time at airports than at home for the first half of the year, carrying a slimmer, lighter laptop for the latter half made a lot of difference. Every half pound lost is a half pound off my carry on bag.

I’ve been traveling around Asia and Europe with this thing since September. I’ve carried it with me to cafes, restaurants, airbnbs, hostels, meetings, work events — even to trade shows — and it got the job done without doing damage to my back. I can see myself using the bigger model — eventually, when I’ve managed to exercise my way to a stronger back and upper body.

Not to mention the tall order of finding stylish bags that fit bigger laptops — there’s just not a lot of options for women that not only suits my personal style, but also my budget. I remember using a 15-inch MacBook Pro briefly last year. Having to carry a heavier machine in a utilitarian bag that doesn’t go well with anything bogged me down. It just didn’t let me walk with the same confidence as this more portable laptop in a cute briefcase does. Needless to say, the struggle was real.

Apple took the port out of portable

Whether it’s a smartphone or laptop, making a device less hefty usually means making compromises on things that are essential to the user. Upgrading from the 2015 MacBook Pro meant losing two ports that I use the most when editing videos: the SD card reader and the USB-A port.

There is an easy fix, of course — a dongle — but easy doesn’t come cheap. I’m not gonna lie, having to spend extra on a USB-C dongle to add two ports that used to come free with any laptop purchase does not feel like an upgrade. It’s backwards. I can’t even use any of the accessories that came with my iPhone XS with this laptop — something that iPhone and Mac users used to be able to do with older models.

While I love how thin this laptop is, connecting a dongle to a portable device defeats the purpose of it being, well, portable. It’s not entirely impossible for a laptop to have ports built in and be extra portable at the same time. I’ve seen Windows laptops that are of the same heft, if not thinner, that still managed to include a USB-A port.

Thinner body, better battery

While the lack of ports is a big issue for my workflow, battery life on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is actually commendable — another thing that normally gets sacrificed when devices become thinner.

It would be unfair to say that the 2019 MacBook Pro lasts longer than the 2015 model. The latter understandably has poorer battery life as it’s been through whatever the equivalent of a world war is when it comes to laptops.

Still, I’m pleased to report that despite losing the extra weight, the 2019 MacBook Pro is so efficient that it lasts me more than a whole work day of writing, managing social media, web browsing, with an hour or two of the Spring Awakening soundtrack in the background.

Whenever I go to the office for our weekly meetings, I find myself never having to take my charger out of my bag. The rest of the team, meanwhile, would take their respective positions beside sockets to plug theirs after just 3-5 hours of use — even when they’re using the newer, high end Windows laptops that they review.

On days when I’m editing, I would normally have to charge the laptop twice as a YouTube video usually takes at least 12 hours to edit. That’s an entire work day of Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Photoshop and After Effects.

Despite my protests against the lack of essential ports on this machine, it needs to be pointed out that the two built in Thunderbolt 3 ports are made equally. This means no matter which port I end up plugging the charger to, it will work as expected. The same goes for external storage devices. This consistency is something you won’t get on other laptops that killed other ports in favor of USB-C.

Charging is also fast — with the bundled 61W adapter, plugging it for 30 minutes charges it from 10% to 42%. It takes just about an hour and 40 minutes to juice up from 10 to 100%, even while I’m writing a full feature article on Notes.

A laptop that can handle video editing, and more

Graphic design, illustration, and video editing are three things I need a laptop for. Other tasks like writing and photo editing I can manage to do on a smartphone, albeit at a slower pace.

Importing even short 1920×1080 clips to FCPX on my older MacBook Pro used to take such a long time, that I can finish reading a news article or browsing latest tweets before the pinwheel disappears. Editing on an underpowered machine didn’t just slow me down — it affected my focus, too.

I remember getting derailed from editing so many times while waiting for clips to render. Then came the time when I couldn’t animate or track even the shortest clips anymore and had to rely on someone else to do it for me. Not being able to execute what I had in mind because my laptop couldn’t handle it was not only frustrating — it was draining.

The 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro surprisingly handles anything I throw at it without hiccups — even when I have three projects on FCPX at the same time, and both Photoshop and After Effects running in the background. That’s something the 2015 model could not handle.

The videos I edit are usually just 1920×1080, but I’ve recently edited a one-minute 4K video and it worked out just fine. FCPX renders fast, exports fast, and doesn’t freeze at the most crucial moments. The bump in power has allowed me to be much more efficient and creative; I’ve been able to experiment without fear of apps crashing or having to wait for things to render.

The infamous keyboard

Another design change that allowed this laptop to be so thin is the controversial Butterfly keyboard. I’ve read and heard of complaints about it from so many people. Frankly, it was one of the things I was worried about having encountered that problem on a 2017 model in August.

A reliable keyboard is not just for writing; I use the keys for shortcuts on Photoshop and FCPX as well. Thankfully, I haven’t run into the same problems that plagued 2018 models and older. Any typos made with this thing has nothing but human error to blame. As far as the shorter travel that irks a lot of nitpickers, it’s something that I easily got used to once muscle memory kicked in.

The function keys on the newer MacBook Pro models are also gone. Replacing them is yet another controversial design decision: the Touch Bar. The only time I used any of the function keys was whenever I needed to adjust volume or brightness. I don’t feel like I’m missing out now that they’re gone as I can still do those on the narrow secondary screen that replaced the physical keys.

The Touch Bar still has a long way to go when it comes to functionality. Even when I’m editing videos, I default to keyboard shortcuts instead of the convenient keys that appear on it when I’m on FCPX. Strangely, I find it most useful when I’m on social media duty as suggested emoji are one tap away, eliminating the need to Google them one by one.

The physical power key is also gone — replacing it is a glass button that also doubles as a Touch ID sensor. It’s a tiny life-changing hardware change that I didn’t know I needed. Logging in with just a tap of a finger is not only so much faster, it’s also more secure.

What’s essential is visible to the naked eye

The 13-inch MacBook Pro gives 4K displays on other high-end laptops a run for their money. What Apple proves, time and again, with every piece of hardware they make is that it’s the quality of pixels that matter, and not the number.

Mac displays’ color accuracy has always been unmatched, and the same can be said about this device. The last thing I want is to oversaturate video footage or photos because my laptop display is too dull — a problem I haven’t had since switching to Mac.

While some people would prefer to turn off True Tone when editing photos and videos for better color accuracy, I keep it perpetually turned on. True Tone is designed to make whites easier on the eyes. It adjusts automatically depending on the ambient light.

The display is also bright enough that the only time I crank it up to full brightness is whenever I’m working outdoors — under direct sunlight — which rarely happens anyway. Indoors it stays at around 30-50%, and only 10% at night when I’m winding down before sleep.

Of course, a great display translates to a great Netflix and chill experience. I’m no display expert, but even the gloomiest episodes of The Crown registers as accurately as a colorful animated movie like Frozen. I’m also no audio expert, but the speakers are more than loud enough for my needs.

My only complaint about the display is how easily it picks up grime and fingerprint smudges. It’s not a deal breaker; it’s just the only thing that’s not aesthetically pleasing in an otherwise beautifully designed notebook.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s such a relief when you can just do what you need to do without waiting or worrying. Even when things need to be rushed or they happen at the last minute, I know I can deliver because the 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro can. It’s that capable and reliable.

As a Mac user what I appreciate the most about this upgrade is the same thing nitpickers hate about it — its familiarity. The changes between this and the 2015 model are significant enough, but all done in a similar form factor. The slimmer body and its more efficient internals make it feel like what I’m using is new, without having to deal with a learning curve that usually comes with any hardware upgrade.

If you are using a 2015 MacBook Pro or older, and have noticed that it’s slowed you down, consider upgrading to the 2019 MacBook Pro. If you prefer the 13-inch model like me and have an extra SG$ 700 to spend, go all the way and get the maxed out model. You’ll benefit from better speeds, graphics, and more storage. If what you do requires more power, Apple just announced the new 16-inch model that we will also be reviewing shortly.

When life requires you to be on the go, there’s no better machine to help you accomplish your tasks than the 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro. It’s thin, light, and narrow enough to be taken and used anywhere — even on an economy class flight’s tray table — yet powerful enough to execute your creative vision and help you get the job done.

What you’re buying when you get the 13-inch MacBook Pro is not just a new laptop; you’re investing in peace of mind, time, and other resources for matters that are more important. Little by little, it’s created space in my life for more ideas, hobbies, self-care, even in-person interactions, that used to be occupied by waiting for clips to render or images to resize. When you have a tool that’s this dependable, you get to do things you never thought you could do again.

Features

How to optimize your remote work setup

Tips from Lenovo!

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By now, most employees around the world are working from home due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The necessity of remote work is changing employers’ and employees’ perception of work done in the comfort of one’s home. The surge in its popularity over LinkedIn seems to support this. Plus, new data from Lenovo concludes that 77% of employees feel companies will be more open to remote work after the outbreak.

This new data stems from research conducted in five countries last March. The research also shows that 87% of employees are ready to work from home when required.

The changing perception meant that companies will have to adjust their guidelines regarding remote work. It also meant that companies have to discard the perception that work from home is no work at all. To that end, Lenovo shares four tips on how to optimize remote work for an efficient and effective workflow.

1. Stay flexible and connected through technology

One benefit of advancements in technology is making remote work a possibility. However, to take advantage, employees need to use the right technology that will optimize their workflow. A helpful piece of technology for a work-from-home setup is a reliable laptop that can be used anytime, anywhere. Along with a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet can come in handy for enabling on-the-go communication and collaboration.

2. Leverage productivity and collaboration tools

Employees working from home can be tempted by numerous distractions. That’s why it’s important to leverage productivity tools to conquer the daily workload. One important tool is a monitor that acts as a second display for content. Having an extra monitor is helpful in increasing productivity as it gives more screen area to work with. Employees who use an extra monitor at work should imitate this setup at home for maximum efficiency. Investing in a good monitor with at least Full HD resolution is a great way to go.

It is also important to utilize the right apps for productivity and collaboration. There are a lot of these apps in Apple App Store or Google Play Store that finding the right one is a matter of personal preference.

For real-time collaboration, popular apps include Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams that employers and employees can take advantage of to keep everyone updated about their work. Plus, the presence of these apps meant that employees can get together for a lighthearted, virtual get-together.

3. Encourage flexible work schedules

Employers should permit some flexibility. Being at home means employees now have to juggle between household tasks and their work. Having a flexible work schedule is one solution to this dilemma. Plus, it will encourage them to be more productive since they don’t have to worry about signing at a particular time. A flexible schedule with a balance between work and personal time will result in a much healthier workforce too.

For employees, having a flexible working schedule will give them the power to draw boundaries and set aside distractions. Working from home is a challenge since there are numerous distractions that can consume precious time. Especially during these times when numerous ebooks, films, and episodes are now available for free, proper discipline is required to avoid falling into procrastination and to stay focused at work.

4. Communicate often as this might be a new norm

Communication is always the key. To stay connected, employees must utilize tools that enable instant communication and collaboration. Employers, on one hand, are encouraged to do so too. There are numerous apps available that facilitate communication between employees and employers. Skype, Slack, or even Facebook Messenger are useful for staying in the loop.

Working from home is an opportunity that presents numerous benefits for everyone involved. As perceptions change around remote work, more companies may be willing to let their employees work in the comfort of their own home. However, working at home also presents some companies that might affect productivity. These tips would come in handy as employees look to optimize their workflow.

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Gaming

Think pink: ROG decks out devices in black and pink

Bringing black and pink to your area

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ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) just announced a new special edition series of Electro Punk gaming devices that are stunning and they’re decked out in black and pink. From their pink, PNK LTD, line-up to this cyberpunk black and pink combo, ROG has kept releasing eye-catching color palettes to make sure you find the right gear to show off your personalities with.

Hit you with that…

Black and pink: let’s talk color; not the four drop-dead gorgeous girls that first came to mind with this new color combo.

 

ROG has long integrated Aura Sync into their devices so you can make their devices puke whatever color you liked or felt like. But, not even RGB lighting quite fills the void just as much for some people so, they developed color palettes.

The full Electro Punk set

The Electro Punk color set is available on the: ROG Strix G15 gaming laptop, ROG Strix Go 2.4 headset, ROG Strix Scope TKL keyboard, ROG Strix Impact II mouse, ROG Sheath mouse pad, and the ROG Ranger BP1503 backpack.

ROG Strix G15 Electro Punk gaming laptop

The 15-inch ROG Strix G15 sticks to gaming fundamentals to master it. It’s got the latest 10th Gen Intel Core i7 that can shred through everyday work and play; an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, and 240 Hz display. It’s perfect for buttery-smooth gameplay while maintaining laptop portability, storage, and durability. If you’re looking for a good baseline gaming laptop this is for you.

The Electro Punk edition lays out a sleek stripe around the chassis, highlighted WASD keys, and a pink ROG logo as icing on the cake.

ROG Strix Go 2.4 Electro Punk gaming headset

The ROG Strix Go 2.4 Electro Punk is a USB-C 2.4 GHz wireless headset. It gives you exceptional sound quality with a stable cordless connection to your PC, PlayStation, Xbox, smart devices, and Nintendo Switch. On top of that, it charges fast, has long-lasting battery life, comes with a detachable boom mic, and has built-in buttons for quick and easy volume and mic controls.

The Electro Punk variant has piping hot pink accents in and around the headband, ear pads, and the ROG logo. The rest stays sleek black.

ROG Strix Scope TKL Electro Punk gaming keyboard

The ROG Strix Scope TKL mechanical keyboard was created for fast-paced multiplayer gaming. It’s got an enlarged left CTRL key making it easy to find in any FPS frenzy. Gamers can punch in complex commands with confidence with Cherry MX switches. And, with its durable, aluminium-topped construction and compact size, it’s the perfect keyboard for travelling to LANs, tournaments, and other esports events.

This Electro Punk variant has keys that accent the edges well. On top of that, Aura Sync lighting shines under every key and through the ROG logo while casting an RGB glow below.

ROG Strix Impact II Electro Punk gaming mouse

 

Designed with pro gamers in mind, the mouse delivers smooth action in serious play. It’s 79g lightweight frame features a pivoted button mechanism for precision speed. And, ROG made sure to make personalizing Impact II’s performance easy.

The 6,200 DPI optical sensor ensures accuracy and responsiveness while a DPI button lets you switch between four sensitivity profiles. An exclusive push-fit switch socket design makes it simple to change click resistances and extends the mouse’s lifespan.

The programmable buttons above the thumb-rest pop out against the body of the new ROG Strix Impact II Electro Punk gaming mouse. and of course, the Aura Sync-enabled RGB lighting is integrated into the logo, scroll wheel, and front making it shine in theme from top to tail.

ROG Sheath Electro Punk gaming mouse pad

Every Electro Punk edition Strix G15 laptop comes with a special ROG Sheath desk mat that dials up pinpoint precision for gaming mice. The pad measures 35-inches across and 17-inches deep and provides the perfect comfort cushion for your ROG peripherals.

ROG Electro Punk backpack

The Electro Punk collection is more portable with the ROG Ranger BP1503 backpacks. It’s got pink piping, patches, and slash across the front. The 15-inch laptop backpack’s fabric is durable, lightweight, and water-resistant. And, the mesh netting inside lets users organize their cords tangle-free. It’s no gaming backpack without cushioned compartments for keeping everything perfectly snug.

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Gaming

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 is an elevated experience

For gamers and creators

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In 2019, ASUS had a lot of people losing their minds when they unveiled the ZenBook Pro Duo with its secondary 4K display. Now, they’ve taken that same concept, improved it, and slapped it on a gaming machine — the ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15.  

Why? Because they can, and it also kind of makes sense. ASUS ROG recognizes the reality that many gamers are also creatives. They work AND play. So they came up with this machine that serves both purposes.

ROG even managed to make it fairly light (2.4kg) and slim (36 x 26.8 x 2.1 cm) while packing it with everything you’ve come to expect from a top-tier gaming notebook. Here’s a quick rundown of the device’s highlights so you’re not overwhelmed.

  • ROG ScreenPad Plus unlocks endless possibilities: 14.1″ secondary display aids multitasking with intuitive touchscreen, apps, and stylus support
  • AAS Plus amplifies airflow: 28.5 mm intake increases airflow 30% over standard AAS while keeping noise under 46 dB(A) and elevating performance
  • Go hi-res or hi-speed: PANTONE® Validated display options include an ultrafast 300 Hz / 3 ms gaming display
  • Super-powered speed: Up to a GeForce® RTX 2080 SUPER™ GPU delivers high frame rates and speeds up tasks like 3D modeling and deep learning
  • Boosted productivity: Powered by up to a 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i9 CPU, 32 GB of 3200 MHz RAM, 2 SSDs in RAID 0, and Thunderbolt™ 3
  • Revolutionary cooling: CPU and n-Blade fans use an exotic liquid metal compound, and operating modes adapt to any task to boost overall performance

ROG ScreenPad Plus for gaming 

The ScreenPad Plus is great. It tilts up at a 13° angle for comfortable viewing and touchscreen interaction and stays firmly in place as you use the laptop. That tilt not only helps with viewing angles but also with ventilation.

Don’t worry about the screens making contact. ASUS made sure to prevent this by adding curved sliders that delay the deployment of the secondary display.

You’re probably wondering now if any games will actually support this new hardware. But of course, it will! ROG has tapped multiple game developers to make sure you have games you can play that will maximize the hardware.

They’re worked with Techland to optimize AAA games like Dying Light 2. Here, the co-op chats were moved to ScreenPad Plus for easy viewing, and adds touchscreen controls for easy switching between inventory items and quests.

A collaboration with Overwolf also allows gamers to download apps for games like League of Legends, Fortnite, and CS:GO to see real-time stats, build recommendations, and more — all to give you that extra edge when gaming on a multi-screen machine.

Surreal display options

In gaming, your screen refresh rate can make a huge difference in winning or losing. With that in mind, ASUS equipped the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 with  an ultrafast 300 Hz / 3 ms gaming panel. Sweet.

Other than the high refresh rate displays are factory calibrated and PANTONE Validated to guarantee color accuracy. The panel also covers 100% of the Adobe RGB color space — making it perfect for gamers, creators, or one who does both.

Everything gaming

For the processor and graphics you have two options each: Intel 10th Gen Comet Lake i9-10980HK or Intel 10th Gen Comet Lake i7-10875H, and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER, 8 GB GDDR6 VRAM or NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER, 8 GB GDDR6 VRAM.

The keyboard is backlit chiclet that supports n-key, per-key with 1.4 mm key travel. As for ports you have:

  • 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C™, DisplayPort 1.4, TBT, PD input 20 V/3A;output 5 V/3A
  • 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (right)
  • 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (Bottom)
  • 1 x HDMI (HDMI 2.0b support)
  • 2 x audio jack: mic-in & headphone, plus mic-in
  • 1 x RJ45 LAN

Lastly, it has a 90Wh battery with a 240W power adaptor that supports USB-C power delivery 3.0 up to 65W. Overall, it’s everything we know and love about the ROG Zephyrus line but elevated with a secondary display for a brand new experience. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced.

 

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