Apple Macbook 12 Retina 2016 review

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I’m typing on a MacBook 12 Retina 2016 … and I like it. 😀

With an iPad Mini I wrote about 40,000 words thumb typing on the split keyboard and I was actually ok with that.  But I was always looking for the right physical keyboard to add to the Mini.  I tried two but in the end it was iOS that ended the Mini’s run as a content creation tool.

So I went with a cheap Dell 3531.

I knew what I really wanted though:  an iPad-ish sized machine with a physical keyboard and glorious battery life, but not iOS.  For a long time I had my eye on the Dell XPS 13.

The perfect combination finally appeared in the Macbook 12.  This past Christmas 2016 I put an order in for a refurbished 2016 m3/256 in the correct color, space gray.  I ended up with a new one and a free Apple multi-port dongle for the same price, but that’s another story (caused by UPS).

The thing that made the difference here is MacOS (vs iOS).  There were now no limitations due to software.  The limitations due to having only one USB-C port are mitigated with the dongle.

SIZE:
The approximate size of this laptop is slightly smaller than an iPad Pro.  It is thicker but it will still fit in sleeves designed for a regular iPad.  It will stick out since it is about 0.75 inches wider than an iPad is tall.

 

BATTERY LIFE:

Outstanding.

I have gotten, no kidding, more than 12 hours of casual use, such as typing on this blog.  That was 1/3 brightness.  50% brightness brings it into the the realm of 9-10 hours.  Certainly still fantastic.  Running out of power is not a worry of any sort.  With my Dell 3531 I was always distractingly conscious of the battery life lol.

ERGONOMICS:
When closed it feels awesome, like holding a favorite paper notebook.  Opening the lid can be done one-thumbed, barely raising the base of the laptop, yet keeping whatever angle you set the lid.

And now the keyboard.  Yes, this keyboard.  I like it.  I’ve seen youtube videos and articles online talking about the keyboard.  But for me it’s fine.  Keys are spaced out quite nicely, easy to type on and the feel, or travel, of the keys is again, just fine.

And, they’re backlit.  That may seem ho-hum to you but my Dell was not backlit lol.  I t was something I always wished I had.  I knew what I was buying when it came to the Dell so that’s ok.

TRACKPAD:
Yep, I love the trackpad.  The Windows/Dell combo tried to mimic many of the gestures in it’s own trackpad but smoothness, the robustness of the software, yes, software, simply was not there.  It would take several swipes for the trackpad to recognize what you were trying to do.

With the MacBook trackpad it almost seems to read your mind.  It is awesome.

CONCLUSION:
All told I am very pleased with my MacBook 12 m3/256gb space gray.  It’s a keeper 😀

Update Dell 3531 Inspiron 15 Laptop

EVO850 250gb SSD for Dell Inspiron 15
EVO850 250gb SSD for Dell Inspiron 15

I couldn’t resist.  I went ahead and swapped the spinner for a solid state hard drive.

(HERE is the original review)

Big, BIG, improvement in speed.  I could finally use my laptop the way I use the desktop.

It was ok for a few hours.  Then I ran into the RAM memory limit, with the operating system (Win 8.1) closing down windows every now and then, typically webpage tab(s), again owing to the way I use a computer.

Some might say that I could simply increase the size of the page swap file.  Yes, and I did do it and yes it does ‘solve’ the memory issue.  For those unfamiliar, the page swap file is what the operating system uses as ‘hard drive RAM’.  This activity results in a lot of read/write cycles on the hard drive.  Not much of an issue with spinner drives but it can be a problem for solid state drives.  Solid State Drives have a finite limit of read/write cycles.  It’s way up there in number but still, there’s a limit.  One interesting way to differentiate cycles between SSD models is actually to look at the warranty, some are five years, others are two years and the really expensive ones are 10 years.  The cycles directly correspond to the warranty time.

So I finally got the 8gb RAM stick (THIS) and swapped out the 4gb RAM stick.  The 3531 uses one stick.  Fortunately the 8gb stick is only $60 bucks or so.  I often maxed out the 4gb.  My usage pattern seems to touch on 6.5GB according to the Task Manager.

Another speed ‘improvement’ of sorts, specifically when web surfing, is to activate the ActiveX Filtering.  In IE tap on the Gear graphic, mouse down to Safety,  and tap on ActiveX Filtering.  What this mostly does is stop the webpage from taking over your computer in order to load those infuriating sidebar videos lol.

This Celeron processor model, with an SSD and 8gb, has the speed feel of an i3 chip model.  All told, given the original price, this is now an $410 laptop.  The SSD was $110 and the RAM, $60.

It appears that the 3551 is the new version of this laptop, as of 7-9-15.  Of course the EVO850 250gb is now $97 and the 500gb is $162.  But that’s going to always happen and there will always be something better/faster/cheaper.  I knew that when I bought the parts.  If I didn’t I would continually be waiting and never actually have the components that would be useful.

Yeah, just do it 😀

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Essentials for your laptop bag

I have three basic groups I carry in my laptop bag; aka My Writing Kit:

Dell 3531 Laptop in its cocoon
Dell 3531 Laptop in its cocoon

1. Computer Group.
The laptop, THIS ONE, and the wall charger. I do plan on adding a spare battery.

2. File Group.
Literally files and perhaps a notebook.

3. Goodies Group.
This is the group we’ll focus on here.

So what does the well stocked laptop bag hold within it’s Goodies Group?
The Comfort Kit.
The Charger Kit.
The Food and Drink Kit.

In the Comfort Kit we have:
* Flents ear plugs, purple. 33db noise reduction on these babies.
* One of those thin fleece caps, for those really cold coffee shops lol. A regular baseball cap should hold in enough heat.
* Nose drops, Afrin regular. Much better than desiccating yourself with allergy pills or the like.
* Pack of tissues.
* Headphones. I just have the latest Apple earbuds and figured out how to (re)pack them in that case they come in.
* First Aid kit. Just a little pocket one which has Ibuprofen and a band-aid. Basically one of THESE, plus one or two Alka-Seltzer Plus in Citrus. I think the Cold and Cough version. I just use it in case of over-eating lol.
* A new blush brush. Yep, you read that right. I use it to clean off the keyboard and the screen.
* A Swiss Army Knife, like the Classic, is useful. Jut remember it’s there when flying. I have a SAK Bantam on my keychain.

The Charger Kit:
* Laptop charger
* Portable battery pack with USB out, at least 1 amp. I still have an Eneloop KBC-L2 pack rated at 5,000mAH. It’s roughly the size of a deck of cards.
* USB cable for iPhone
* Wall charger for iPhone. Naturally it will charge through any USB cable.

The Food and Drink Kit:
Just one or two 16oz water bottle and one or two food bars or Snickers. I also sometimes use a 16oz Pilot’s Flask since they are flat-ish and easier to pack.

It all fits into a Targus laptop bag most similar to THIS ONE. This is the only bag I have right now that accommodates this laptop (the Dell is a full 15 inches wide) and as you can see the interior pockets are empty. I don’t want anything to scratch up the laptop or crack the lid.

Not the perfect bag which is why I’m looking at the Netpack Comp Brief I and the Solo Urban 17 😀

Front flap stuff (and things) in the laptop bag
Front flap stuff (and things) in the laptop bag

Some of the laptop bag  goodies laid out
Some of the laptop bag goodies laid out

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Four tips to get your writing done at Starbucks

My Dell 3531 laptop pulling it's weight at Starbucks
My Dell 3531 laptop pulling it’s weight at Starbucks

Items Needed:

1. The right Starbucks
(or, of course, similar coffee shop)

2. Writing tool
(laptop, tablet, perhaps with external keyboard, maybe a phone, which I’ve done)

3. Earplugs
(or headphones, we’ll touch on that)

4. Internet connection

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1. The right Starbucks
What you’re looking for is a location that has a big table. For example, the Starbucks at 8442 SW 8th St, 33144 has three options: the big high school lunchroom type table, the glorified TV dinner tray tables in the back, and the single seat sofa seats with small end tables around them.

The big table is where you can lay stuff out, and still not bother those around you.

Another Starbucks nearby, on US1, has the same three options. Their table is raised up high and you sit on bar stools. Also works great.

2. Writing tool
I use a laptop. Make sure you get one with long battery life, or, at least, four hours. I got myself a Dell (Dell 3531 Review). For a while I used an iPad Mini while sitting in one of the sofa seats. Doable, but a keyboard separate from a screen is moh bettah.
Same with handwriting, better on a table surface.

3. Earplugs
I use the purple Flents plugs from Walmart, the big tub, about 40 pairs. They are 33db nose reduction and the exact thing I use when competition shooting. Unobtrusive and they allow for a proper cheekweld. Since I have them I use them in the coffee shop.
Every Starbucks, every coffee shop I’ve been to in fact, has music going about two steps louder than necessary. Plus there’s that milk steamer, WRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHH, going off.
Earbud headphones don’t provide the isolation you need, plus there you are listening to something anyway.
If you’re going to do headphones, get the over-the-ear noise-cancellation type and then you can listen to your stuff at low level and still drown out the surrounding noise.

4. Internet connection
Yes, I put this last. You’re here to write after all. But it’s nice to have the option. Every Starbucks I’ve been to has free wifi. It’s just enough speed to look stuff up, do a quick tweet, write online directly (such as for a blog) and work from an online copy of your stuff.
I use dropbox and I’m currently transitioning to OneDrive. Either one will allow you to work offline. Just make sure you synced first when you did have internet. With Windows 8, and probably Windows 10, make sure you set OneDrive to allow you to Use Files Offline. OneDrive is automatically set that way with Windows 7.
Even so I make sure my phone has the hot spot option (or get one of those dedicated hot spot pucks). In my case I have an iPhone 6 Plus that handles the hot spot option, if necessary.

Two Bonus Tips
* Use ONLY enough bag to carry your stuff. Anything larger only encourages you to carry MORE than you need.

* Have some goodies with you.
Examples include:
* An extra (charged *cough*) laptop battery. I also carry the wall charger thing but I don’t count on an outlet being available.
* A battery pack with 1Amp USB out for your phone along with the appropriate USB charging cable.
* A Swiss Army knife. Get the model with the toothpick and the tweezers. That’s nearly every one of them. I use a Bantam on my keychain. A good all around one is the Classic and then there are the models with the Philips screwdriver. Just remember it’s there when flying lol.
* A water bottle (I use a 16oz pilot’s flask because it is flat). Just watch out when flying, the whole TSA thing again.
* A food bar (even Snickers will do).
* Nose drops. I use the plain Afrin. This way you don’t mummify yourself with pills.
* Tissue pack. Naturally you can use napkins, which I did a moment ago 😀
* A blush brush. WHAT?! Yep, a new, never used, blush brush. I use it to wipe off the keyboard and the screen. I have one that came in a snap sleeve. What can I say, I’m a practical man. I also buy those wooden sticks chicks use for their nails. They make great gun cleaning tools, to get into the nooks and crannies. 😀
* A hat. Sometimes these coffee shops, in addition to having the music too loud, have the A/C too cold. It’s a business after all, they want churn. (ok, alright, it’s all relative)
Since so much heat escapes from your head you can offset this business practice and focus on your writing. A baseball cap will do (it’s not Arctic cold lol) or one of those thin fleece caps.

Of course, you can just get another hot beverage 😀
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