Hardware

Developer First Impressions of the 2016 MacBook Pro

I haven’t been an “Apple” person for long, but since I bought my first MacBook Pro in early 2013 I was really impressed with the quality of the hardware, the feel of the device, how small and lightweight it was was light-years ahead of any other laptop I could buy at the time. The MBP turned into my travel laptop of choice, I had 2 Windows laptops (1 from Dell the other from Asus) that I just stopped using and gave away. A .Net Developer only traveling with a Mac, that was crazy talk.

IMG_4038Fast forward, 3 freaking years without a meaningful hardware upgrade, and were now in 2016 and a new MacBook Pro has been announced. It’s a significant hardware upgrade over my 3 1/2 year old MBP, but not so much if you have a kitted out version of the last revision.

As I started to write this I’ve been using it off and on for a couple of days into my 10 day stress test, so not really stressing it yet. But I’ve already noticed a few things.

 

  1. Build Quality Is Amazing, as usual: When your paying top dollar for a laptop we expect it’s going to feel good. The system is solidly built, it it’s noticeably smaller and lighter then my 3 year old MBP, but has a solid heft to it. Opening and closing the screen is fluid and sturdy.
  2. Hardware Spec’s are “Meh”: I went for the upgraded processor and video card. For me when I travel I like the ability to play games. I only went with the 512GB SSD, as the 1TB model was an extra $400 bucks and I could not justify that, I’ll just carry around some 128GB Thumb Drives, not that big of a deal. But power wise the Surface Book seems to have the edge in terms of raw horse power.
  3. Ports aren’t “Portie”: Apple FINALLY went with standard ports, but unfortunately they picked ports that almost no one else uses. This means I had to replace my almost $200 bucks worth of adaptors for my old MBP. I was also a fan of the MagSafe charger, kinda sad to see that go.
  4. Screen: The new MBP’s screen is really nice, very crisp and bright, color seem good and vibrant.
  5. Trackpad: I am not a fan of the larger trackpad that takes up the entire middle of the front of the laptop. I don’t mind the loss of the mechanical press on the trackpad and instead going haptic, it still feels ok, not great. But the damn size, with my larger hands my palms routinely pour over the pad and that sometimes causes issues. Minus some ghost mouse movements, and clicks, it’s uncomfortable, there’s a lip around the pad and you can feel that on your palm.
  6. Touch Bar: Every review out there is glowing about the touch bar, but for a developer, this downright sucks. The touch bar is an OLED screen, and inset into laptop below the levels of the keys in the keyboard. When typing there is no way to correctly position your fingers to ‘feel’ if your pressing the right OLED button. To me this Touch Bar is a gimmick and a step backwards for any keyboard warriors.
  7. Keyboard: This is my biggest gripe with the new MBP. They keys are the new ‘butterfly’ design and have almost no key travel. There is a satisfying ‘click’ when typing but almost no physical feedback of a keypress. The keyboard layout changes also are not good, the arrow keys particularly are completely messed up, I guess they didn’t like the space above and below the left and right arrow key? Like serious WTF.

I’ve never before considered returning an Apple product, but after a day of use I looked up their return policies. Including taxes I spent $3,300 on the laptop and tack on another $400 for Apple Care. I still don’t know if I’m going to keep the new MBP, I’m seriously considering a Surface Book or Razor Blade as alternatives and keeping my old MBP for XCode builds.

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Review Dell S2716DG Monitor

I recently just built a new computer and during this process I decided it was time for a new monitor. My Dell U3011 was going on 4 years old and although I liked it very much, it wasn’t my favorite monitor. That distinction went to a 27” Dell monitor I had before the U3011. You might spot a trend, I’ve been buying Dell monitors exclusively for well over 10 years. My only issue with the U3011 is the physical size, I had to noticeably turn my head to see all parts of the monitor, not much of an issue in normal workflow, but can be a killer for gaming.

dell-27-gaming-monitor-s2716dg-s2716dgsapBefore I bought my current monitor I looked at 4K monitors and Ultra Wide Screen monitors. My concern with 4k monitors is the resolution. As a developer I spend a lot of time staring at text, as the smaller the text gets the worse my eyes get. After a fair amount of research I found that Ultra Wide Screen monitors are great for work and I think that all companies should be providing their knowledge workers with a Dell U3415W. But Ultra wide monitors just aren’t that good for gaming, most games are pretty broken at ultra-wide resolutions.

For gaming one issue I had with the U3011 was screen tearing. The U3011 was rated at 60hz, which means roughly I’m capped at 60fps, not a problem for most games, but can be an issue with in first person shooters.

Recently there has been a trend in monitors that are gaming grade, like the Asus ROG Swift. The sweet spot for these seems to be around 24” to 27” and seeming my all time fav monitor was a 27” that’s where I decided to land. After looking around I found the Dell S2716DG G-Sync Monitor.

This hit my points, 27”, good resolution, from Dell, G-Sync capable. It was also significantly less then the U3014 I was looking at.

Going on a little over a week now I have to say I’m really liking the Dell S2716DG. I have a significant part of my desk back, which is a plus as I’m a desk pack rat. The monitor is very adjustable, as it’s a TN panel viewing angles play more into positioning then IPS panels. It also has a super thin bezel around the edges, only making me wanting to buy more for my multi monitor setup. From what I can tell colors are very nice and vibrant and brightness is not an issue with this monitor.

From working in Visual Studio, Sublime or WebStorm to playing Star War Battlefront, StarCraft 2, Final Fantasy 14 or Fallout 4 the Dell S2716DG has performed very well. It has also very cathartic to finally set my refresh rate in Windows and games to 144hz. For my entire computing life to this point it’s been 60hz or lower.

If your looking for a new monitor for gaming and non-gaming I would recommend the Dell S2716DG. To all the companies out there supplying hardware to developers or knowledge workers ensure the entire computing picture is good. Too many times I see companies give out decent computing hardware but give the cheapest monitors, keyboards and mice to their developers. This is what needs to be realized, all the computing hardware doesn’t matter if people get migraines or carpel tunnel using it, go out and buy them a Dell U3415W.

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Computer Build 2015/2016

It’s that time again to build a new primary workstation and gaming rig. Occasionally I get asked why I build 1 system for both use cases (Gaming and Development) and I’ve found that having 2 systems that you use all the time costs a fair amount more, sucks (switching back and forth) and really the same thing that is good for gaming (minus a good GFX card) are also good for development.

14103f3ea83d0d4d7f6692ed0609c1fc.256cI usually try build a new system every 3 years or so. I normally try an align myself with the Tock of Intel’s Tick/Tock cycle. My reasoning is that the Tick is usually the first chip/architecture in a new fabrication process and hopefully by the Tock they have worked out all issues and optimized the platform.

I absolutely love my Cooler Master HAF-X case, but my previous build as a CM HAF case and I couldn’t bare myself to buy another one again. So I went I decided to mix it up and go with a white case instead. I’m starting to think Black is the new Beige anyways for computer cases.

 

Here I’m listing what the new build is compared to the old build.

  New New Cost Old Old Cost
CPU Intel i7-6700k $400 Intel i7-4770k $350
GFX Asus GTX980 $500 EVGA GTX780 $650
MB Asus Z170-Deluxe $340 Asus Maximus VI Extreme $380
RAM Patriot Viper 32GB DDR4 $290 Corsair Dominator Plat 32GB DDR3 $460
System HDD Intel SSD 750 400GB $400 Samsung 840 PRO 512GB $475
Dev HDD Samsung 850 EVO M.2 500GB $200 OCZ-AGILITY3 128GB $70
Data HDD WD Black 3TB $150 Seagate Barracuda 3TB $130
Sound NA $0 Sound Blaster ZxR $250
Optical LG Blue-Ray Combo $50 LG Blue-Ray Combo $70
PSU Seasonic Platinum-Plus 1050 $210 Seasonic Platinum-Plus 860 $200
Case Cooler Master Strom Stryker $180 Cooler Master HAF-X $200
Water Cooler Corsair Hydro H110i $140 Corsair Hydro H100i $200
    $2,860   $3,435

Some notes:

  • I’ve been preferring SeaSonic PSU’s for a couple builds now and I always get the Platinum-Plus versions. The build before my last one had numerous PSU issues. After that and doing some research SeaSonic seems to be the Rolls-Royce of PSU and I’ve never looked back. Even if I’m building a PC for someone else a SeaSonic of appropriate wattage is always part of the build.
  • My experience with the SoundBlaster ZxR has turned me away from SoundBlaster forever. I’ve always included one in my builds (since the x86 days where you needed an addin sound card). Audio on the motherboards is just fine and it’s not worth the extra cost.
  • My brands of choice: Intel, Asus for MB’s, PNY or EVGA for GFX, Samsung and WD for HDD’s, Corsair for RAM and Water Cooling, SeaSonic for PSU’s and CM for cases. I tend to be very brand loyal until they start pricing gouging or quality dips.
  • My review sites of choice Anandtech, Toms Hardware & Guru3D. I usually consult these and other sites before I commit to a part.
  • I was going to get a Samsung 850 PRO for my system HDD but after Boggie2988’s review and some Googling I decided to go with the Intel 750.
  • I’m rolling the dice on the Patriot RAM and the Asus GFX card. I trust Asus more then Patriot so I’m more concerned with the RAM. Hopefully it works out.
  • I source parts from the Fry’s in Roseville and Sacramento and Amazon. But after my last experience at Frys (after a 2 1/2 hour drive, they told me an item was in stock, confirmed it, sent me to another store which had sold it) and the ZERO help from any sales people I doubt I’ll be sending money at Frys in the near term.
  • I will never again by a Seagate drive, the reliability reviews for a fair amount of the Barracuda drives is truly awful and my crashed so hard it left a hole in my floor.

There have been some leaks about Intel’s next chip refresh that will include way more physical cores but a slower clock speed. This interests me as a fair amount of my operations are multi threaded. I’ll be keeping a eye on it and thankfully that chip will be hardware compatibility with my current setup.

My last build (minus the SoundBlaster card and the Seagate HDD) was very good. I’m looking forward to 3 or 4 more good years with my new build.

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