Preparing for Digital Nomad Life – 2017 15″ MacBook Pro w/TouchBar

Now, I’m not exactly a Digital Nomad quite yet, however I have future proofed myself and purchased some pretty nice tech to help make my transition to Digital Nomad life. Before I get into the nitty-gritty on what I bought, I wanted to let you guys know that I have done research. A lot of research. A disgusting amount of research on these items. I also took out a sizable loan to get these items (I’m not Richie Rich). The tech I had was very outdated. Dare I say 7-years out-of-date? Yeah. It was time.

In the Preparing for Digital Nomad Life series, I give my review on the following items:

  • 2017 15″ MacBook Pro w/TouchBar
  • BOSE QuietComfort35 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones
  • 1TB LaCie Rugged USB-C External HDD
  • Apple MagicMouse 2
2017 15″ MacBook Pro, Apple Magic Mouse 2, LaCie Rugged 1TB USB-C External HDD, BlackBerry KEYone, BOSE QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth Wireless headphones, and coffee. 2 cream, 3 sugar. Don’t judge me.


15″ MacBook Pro w/Touch Bar

This is the 2nd best stock-configuration MacBook Pro you can buy today. Like Richard Hammond said, “Second best is always your best bet.”

Quick specs on this bad boy:

  • 15″ Retina Display with P3 Color. (All MBPs besides the Mid-2015 15″ still for sale)
  • TouchBar w/Touch ID Fingerprint Scanner.
  • Quad-Core Intel Core i7 running at 2.8 GHz. (Upgradable to 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7)
  • 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM running at 2133 MHz.
  • Intel HD Graphics 630 w/1536MB of shared RAM.
  • ATI Radeon Pro 555 w/2GB of RAM. (Upgradable to ATI Radeon Pro 560 w/4GB)
  • 4 ThunderBolt 3 (USB-C) Ports.

Quick note: I was going to go with the 13″ MacBook Pro w/TouchBar but the Apple Stores only carry 8GB RAM; configurable to 16GB, you’ll need to special order that from Apple’s online store. Also, these MacBook Pros are NOT upgradable. RAM, SSD, Processor, Graphics Card are soldered on. If you want upgraded specs later on, you’re out of luck. Upgrade it now, or forever hold your peace.

The Keyboard!

Oh lawd the keyboard. Lemme tell you about the keyboard. I’m still getting used to it. You get so used to typing on a regular keyboard on a regular laptop or desktop that has like 3-4x the key travel. I found myself typing and pushing very hard on the keys making them sound super loud. At this time, I’m kind of used to the new keyboard, and the keyboard isn’t as loud as everybody makes it out to be. Yeah, once you start off typing on it, it’s loud as hell because you’re used to pushing harder and further on your old keyboard. Once you’re used to the shorter travel, you’ll notice that you can actually type pretty quick and quietly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can tell by the slideshow above comparing my Mid-2010 15″ MacBook Pro to my 2017 15″ MacBook Pro there is a huge difference in the keyboard. Some may think the new keyboard with the 2nd generation ‘Butterfly’ mechanism is polarizing. It definitely polarized me when I first got the MacBook Pro. After using it for several hours, I’m starting to get used to it and is becoming more comfortable to type on. (MacBook) Pro tip (see what I did there? Hah!): cut your nails! Typing on this keyboard with longer fingernails will kind of be a pain in the ass. Do yourself a favor and cut your fingernails.

Another difference between the keyboards are the backlights. On the old one, it was unevenly lit, and the empty space below the keys flooded out the LED backlights on the logic board below. One the new one, since there isn’t any empty space between the bottom of the keys and the logic board, there isn’t any flooding of lights on the body. It also helps that each individual key has an individual LED backlight, which makes the keyboard very evenly lit. Oh, so pretty.

The TouchBar w/TouchID!

I’ve read so many mixed reviews about the TouchBar. Is it a gimmick? No. Is it ready for consumption? Not quite yet. It’s almost there.

Touch Bar Shot 2017-09-07 at 12.27.11 AM
Spotify media controls front and center. To the far right you get access to volume and screen brightness.

Here’s the skinny. Apple are pioneers of new technology. The revolutionized the mobile phone market back in 2007 with the original iPhone. They blew everybody’s worm hole into another stratosphere. Woah! A phone that can access the Internet and is an iPod that has no keyboard? How can that be? Apple realized that the keyboard on smartphones back then had fixed buttons that cannot change function. Such as the call/end buttons, left/right menu buttons, even the “Windows” button couldn’t change function.

Touch Bar Shot 2017-09-07 at 12.31.58 AM
Brightness control can be brought up by simply just tapping the brightness icon and dragging to your desired brightness. It’s elementary!

Apple made away with the whole keyboard and swapped it with just a slab of screen with buttons that can change depending on the application you’re using. Same principle with the TouchBar. Honestly, how many of us use the function row of keys regularly? Like nobody. It just makes sense to replace it with a touchscreen of controls. Quick access to screen brightness, volume and even media playback is still there. You had to either repeatedly push, or push and hold the volume up/down or screen brightness up/down to get to where you wanted to be. Now, you just tap and drag to your desired setting. It’s actually pretty intuitive.

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 12.33.45 AM

Touch Bar Shot 2017-09-07 at 12.33.50 AM

It’s stupid easy on how to customize the look of the TouchBar. I just have mine set to the standard layout, less Siri. Never really have been a fan of Siri. Instead, I replaced her with a Screen Lock button. A push on the Screen Lock button locks my Mac instantly.

You can change the layout of your TouchBar by going into System Preferences > Keyboard > Customize Control Strip… simply just drag and drop your set 4 icons on the far right that always shows up. Push the “<” on the TouchBar to reveal the whole honkin’ thing. Customize to your liking.

The Input/Output Ports! (I/O)

This topic I know instills fear and anger into a lot of Mac owners alike. I’m one of them. Forcing us to get on with only ThunderBolt 3 (USB-C) ports almost seems criminal.

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 12.54.37 AM
On TouchBar models, you get 4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. Two on each side. Ironically, Apple kept the 3.5mm headphone port. Photo Credit – Apple.

As an amateur photographer/video editor, I rely on an SD card. My Nikon D3400 can’t save photos or videos onto anything else but. I especially know other way more professional photographers/video editors are especially upset about this move. This means dongles and hubs.

I wanted to get the HyperDrive USB-C Hub that converts two USB-C ports into two USB-C (can be charged though both) ports, two USB 3.1 ports, HDMI out port, full-size SD and microSD ports as well. The Apple Stores (all of them) do not stock this very useful piece of equipment. You’ll either need to order online from Amazon or get it from BestBuy. Unfortunately, the Best Buy at Mall of America said online they had it in stock, but in reality, they didn’t. Poo. Went back to the Apple Store and picked up a couple of dongles. Apple’s ThunderBolt 3 to USB-A dongle and SanDisk’s Extreme Pro UHS-II USB-C SD Card Reader were my poisons.

Final Thoughts!

I genuinely am happy with my purchase. Yeah, this all set me back a cool $3,100 USD, but I feel is an investment well-worth it. Especially as I have such an advanced DSLR and do photo/video editing, I needed something faster with a better screen. This MacBook Pro was the answer. I’m looking forward to Apple’s next macOS release, High Sierra. This will further exploit the new Intel Kaby Lake chipset for better performance and efficiency as well as improved functionality and reliability of the MacBook Pro’s TouchBar. Right now, this MacBook Pro runs circles around my old Mid-2010 MacBook Pro. For something that’ll last me for at least another 5-8 years, I look forward to many posts and stories in the future.

This is Kevin Tran, The Nomadic Tire, signing off.

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