Sometimes ‘keeping it simple’ means maintaining older Apple gear [Setups]

Not every computer setup needs to be a visually stunning technological showcase, despite appearances to the contrary on social media sites. The best setup is the one that gets the job done. And, for many people, simpler is better.

Doug, a lawyer from San Francisco, extolled the virtues of his spare but highly functional MacBook-centered setup when he reached out to Cult of Mac recently.

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Doug keeps it simple by maintaining older gear (while dreaming of M2 upgrades)

Most of Doug’s gear is five to six years old.

“My email [to you] was as much about simplicity and understanding what works best for someone as it was about assessing what is the reasonable lifespan of the equipment for someone who likes to stay current and experience good performance,” Doug told Cult of Mac.

“It’s easy to say everything is functioning well and the speed is good until you get on a new machine and see what you are missing,” he added. “It’s also too easy to rationalize upgrading when the performance gain for what you are actually doing is negligible. Screen clarity, screen size and lightweight portability with robust performance have led my upgrades.”

His current Apple lineup

Doug’s current Apple arsenal includes a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro he purchased new. It often sits on a minimalist Yohann walnut stand. For input devices, he finds using a Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad with the laptop for desk work “yields for me a perfect arrangement.”

In addition to the MacBook Pro, he also has a 2017 12-inch Macbook Retina with an i5 Intel chip. He bought the machine used in 2018. At just 2 pounds, he finds it to be “the perfect travel companion.”

And the setup also includes a 2016 9.7-inch iPad Pro. “[It] Continues to function well for miscellaneous tasks from watching movies on airplanes, to reading Kindle, to quick look ups,” Doug said.

The newest Apple product he has at the moment is an iPhone 13. That’s because he’s in Apple’s upgrade program.

While his aging gear still works great, it’s not completely problem-free. His MacBook Pro suffered malfunctioning keys, so Apple replaced the keyboard for him even though it was out of warranty.

We talked with Doug via email about his setup, its maintenance, his conversion from PC to Mac and his plans for upgrades. You can read the questions and answers below, with links to his gear beneath.

Why did Apple replace your MacBook Pro keyboard? How did that go? How has it worked?

Several of the keys started to malfunction (skip, unresponsive) in 2020 and the Apple authorized repair shop sent the keyboard replacement request up the Apple food chain. I received a call from Apple and after a short discussion they authorized replacing the keyboard even though the warranty had expired. The replacement keyboard has had no issues. I often use the unit with a new magic keyboard and track pad just for comfort at my desk.

In 2018, I purchased a pre-owned 12-inch MacBook [Retina] with i5 7th generation chip. It is superb for travel and quick use. It takes the place often of the 2016 9.7 iPad Pro I purchased new in 2016, since my mind works faster than my fingers can key without a keyboard. The iPad Pro is a nice size for clipping it to the holder appearing on the seat backs in airplanes and great for watching movies on flights.

Any other problems or things you wish worked differently?

On the MacBook Pro 15-inch, the anti-reflective screen surface is visibly mottled along the outer screen edges but that is visible only when the screen is off/black.

I have found that I have not made use of the Touch Bar and it is largely meaningless for me. Basic keys for the primary functions (screen and keyboard brightness, volume, etc.) are preferable.

The 15-inch display is the perfect size for me to comfortably handle side by side document revisions.

What are the apps and such you use most on your machines? Any speed issues at all? What measures do you take to ensure they keep running optimally?

I keep both laptop OSXs and iPad and iPhone13 iOSs current always. On both laptops I run Parallels (Windows 10) for desktop Quickbooks. Shockingly even the 12-inch MacBook does OK running Parallels/Windows 10/QuickBooks.

I use Apple Mail, which displays three branded Gmail mailboxes and a personal iCloud mailbox. I heavily use flags, smart mailboxes and folders in Apple Mail and work from it rather than the web-based interfaces Gmail provides.

I use Safari and Firefox with Brave and Edge on deck (news, research), Apple Photos app for picture editing, etc., iCloud sync for photos and apps. But [I] work from and use the cloud-based app Sync with extensive folder setups for all documents and items involved in running and keeping separate three businesses — consulting, design, law.

I like things to open quickly and run fast and I know the chip speed/capabilities have increased between 2016 and 2022. But I must say that the top of line 2016 MacBook Pro is performing very well in 2022 with the latest operating system and remains agile for my uses.

When in 2022 do you think you’ll buy new gear? What are you eyeing and why?

I’m ready for M2 so fall 2022 for new equipment and even with my type of computer use I assume I’ll feel an upgraded experience.

For what I do I probably do not need a Pro model. I like the slightly larger 15-inch screen compared to a 13-inch (or 14-inch) but the larger screen makes the MacBook Pro quite heavy and [I] I find myself not wanting to take it unless I’ll be away a long time, where the 2017 MacBook 12-inch will show its size and technology limitations (lower speed; small display, etc).

I’m thinking of a 24-inch iMac for main office desktop and a 13-inch MacBook Air.

Though Doug says his Apple gear still works great, he hopes for some M2-related upgrades in 2022.
Photo: Doug@San Francisco

Were you always an Apple guy, or did you make a switch at some point? Feel free to share anything you like or dislike about Apple.

I tried twice in 2006 and 2007 to switch from a PC to Apple. I returned the laptops each within a week on both attempts, feeling the Apple Mail would not accommodate the robust setup I had in MS Outlook, that the iconography on Apple was childish looking and damn-it I was an executive … silly, silly me.

My third attempt at full time Apple was a success and I’ve never looked back. I don’t know what I was thinking on my previous failed attempts. The OSX is so well integrated and loads so quickly compared to a PC. I still use Windows 10 via Parallels on the Mac and slower load times and constant security updates is disrupting on Windows and a daily reminder of why I am an Apple devotee especially when you have the excellent mobile devices like iPhone and iPad synced up.

The only weak point for me seems to be Safari. While it is energy efficient and privacy oriented, it does not have the functionality to separate your work like Firefox does with their containers or other browsers with their separate profiles. If I log into a Google drive account in Safari I then can’t easily access in another tab another Google drive account, keeping both drives open in separate tabs.

In Safari one could open another window to log in but for instance you can’t name that window even for “X business” to mimic profiles in other browses. So Safari is the weak link for me. I’ve gotten used to Pages and Numbers, etc., compared to Word and Excel, so no big deal.

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If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Macsend some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.

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