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Apple: Bring the ExpressCard slot back to the 15″ MacBook Pro!

June 9, 2009

Although the new 15-inch MacBook Pro has the word “Pro” in its name, Apple removed its most pro-level feature: the ExpressCard/34 slot. The fastest interface on the machine, the ExpressCard slot passed data to the system at up to 2.5Gbps through its direct connection to the system bus, enabling blazing fast speeds and almost unlimited expansion capabilities. Compare this to a maximum speed of 0.36Gbps for an SD card slot, which could have been added for a miniscule cost with an ExpressCard adapter anyway. Professional videographers and photographers depended on the ExpressCard slot to connect eSATA drives (whose theoretical speeds could reach 3.0Gbps, while real-world usage usually hovers around 1.5Gbps), to add extra FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 ports onto their own dedicated buses without interruption from additional peripherals, and to add comprehensive card readers that could read dozens more types of cards than just SD. We hope that Apple brings back the ExpressCard slot to future 15-inch MacBook Pros. In the meantime, perhaps Apple should rename this machine the MacBook Semi-Pro.

Apple revamped its entire laptop line yesterday, and made a very foolish decision which affects all 15″ MacBook Pro owners in a NEGATIVE MANNER. After you read this blog posting, I strongly urge you to complain to Apple on their feedback page here.

Yesterday, Apple decided to REMOVE the ExpressCard slot from all 15″ MacBook Pros and replace it with an SD Media Card reader instead.

This is the equivalent of bulldozing an entire wing off your house and giving you a little pup tent to sleep in instead.

It’s not like Apple replaced this ExpressCard technology with something better or equivalent… they have just removed this technology altogether! Apple has NOT provided us with an equivalent solution to replace the absence of this ExpressCard slot.

Instead, Apple wants you to purchase their bulky and unwieldy 17″ laptop if you want to get your ExpressCard slot back, but my clients and myself do NOT WANT to purchase a bulky 17″ laptop just to get this ExpressCard slot back. Apple has taken a major step backwards by removing this incredibly important feature.

The 15″ MacBook Pro is supposed to be a professional machine, not a consumer machine. That is why it needs professional features like the ExpressCard slot.

  • With an ExpressCard slot, you could have added any VARIETY of media card readers to your 15″ MacBook Pro, including 21-in-1 readers or 12-in-1 readers or 7-in-1 readers that read way more than just SD cards. With an SD Card slot, you can only read one type of card: SD cards.
  • With an ExpressCard slot, you could have added eSATA ports to your 15″ MacBook Pro, which is currently the fastest way to connect external hard drives to a laptop. With an SD Card slot, you can only add external drives to your machine through the slower FireWire 800 and USB ports. If you are a video editor or a photographer, this should concern you greatly!
  • With an ExpressCard slot, you could have added extra FireWire ports to your 15″ MacBook Pro on their own dedicated bus that operated at full speed. With an SD Card slot, you can only add extra FireWire devices to your machine by daisy chaining them or carrying around an additional FireWire hub. This is slower and bulkier.
  • With an ExpressCard slot, you could have added a wireless ExpressCard modem to your 15″ MacBook Pro, which is faster and more securely fastened inside your machine than a USB wireless modem. With an SD Card slot, your only choice for wireless modem is to connect it via USB port, which is slower and is not as securely fastened inside your machine.

On the other hand, an SD Media Card gives you — um, absolutely nothing except SD Media Card reading. Which, by the way, was completely unnecessary because all digital cameras could plug in via USB to the Mac or (with select hardware) could connect wirelessly to a Mac.

This is the #1 liability of being a Mac user. Since our entire computing world revolves around ONE VENDOR and ONE VENDOR ONLY for our hardware, we are at the whims of Apple’s engineering decisions, even when those decisions hurt the user. It is times like this when one can understand the desire of PC users to stick with the PC.

Much of the time this hardware lock-in is just fine because Apple makes the highest-rated, most reliable, and best-designed hardware in the entire computing industry. But every once in a while, such as yesterday, Apple makes incredibly poor decisions that affect us negatively, and you & me have to stand up and shout at Apple to reverse course.

Apple has a history of doing this, by the way. Apple makes dramatic negative changes and then waits to see if enough people complain about it. If so, Apple will reverse course. Just yesterday, Apple added the missing FireWire ports back onto all their 13″ MacBooks again (now rebranded as “MacBook Pros”), after 8 months of complaints from consumers like you & me. They also reversed course on some bad design decisions in Safari 4 after receiving hundreds of complaints by putting Safari 4′s tabs back in their rightful spot again. They did this with iMovie ’08 and iMovie ’09, too. And they did this when Leopard came out and they removed hierarchical folders from the dock… only to put them back later after mass outcry from the public. I have dozens of other examples like this as well. So it is important that we SPEAK UP NOW to Apple.

As much as we all love Apple, at the end of the day they are simply a capitalistic corporation who is looking to make a profit, and it is decisions like this that show us that bleak reality. But if we really want to hold Apple to a higher standard than other corporations, then it is up to us to speak up to Apple when they are hurting us, and ask them to reverse course. I strongly urge you to give Apple feedback by voicing your shock & disappointment over Apple’s removal of the ExpressCard slot from the 15″ MacBook Pro here.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. toloudol permalink
    June 9, 2009 12:42 PM

    I couln’t agree more, think maybe Apple has been taking stupid, greedy pills. The following is an excerpt of mail sent to a friend yesterday:
    “The loss of the expresscard is a biggie, to me. Major FU. That slot had a fast PCI bus connection with mucho possibilities. The irony is it is dropped just when the market is starting to produce SSD (solid state memory devices) for it that fully utilize the bus speed (previous memory for that slot had a slow USB interface).
    Up til now the slots were only used for occasional “cell wifi cards”, ESATA & small camera reader cards.
    So far, I seem to be the only one sees the failing.

    The 48GB express slot ssd i just bought boots my MBP from dead cold to full running (everything loaded, not just a desktop, in 35 seconds) and it’s not a quality, optimized card like the OCZ Vertex products. Applications load in half the time, or less than my fast hard drive. We talking snappy, & my whole 500GB hard drive is for storage, except for 12GB for Windows. Hell of a bang for the buck, IMHO.
    So, i feel like we got to the doorstep just in time to find the bride eloped…
    Course there are good SSD hard drives, but not many folk want to spend major bucks for the big ones (which don’t even come close to 500GB, anyway).”

  2. jeansts permalink
    June 9, 2009 4:21 PM

    Wow, get over yourself.

    Stop making it sound like Apple has gone and stolen every MBP with an ExpressCard slot and replaced it with one with an SD reader.

    Boo hoo.

    Oh gosh, now you’ll have to buy a 17″ MBP to get a ExpressCard slot. Cry me a freaking river.

    Since you’re a pro and all, you also NEEDED to get the Antiglare Widescreen Display as well.
    Oh yea, it’s only available in the 17″ MBP.

    ALONG WITH YOUR BLOODY EXPRESSCARD SLOT!

    Geez, quit acting like you don’t have a freakin’ choice. I can guarantee you that if you want an MBP with an ExpressCard slot and a non-glossy display, you can find one.
    It won’t be the latest and greatest, but I’ll be happy to sell you mine for the price of a new decked out 15″ MBP.

    Oh yea, I’ll throw in my Belkin 12-in-1 ExpressCard media reader, in case you want to be able to pop an SD card in there whenever you feel like it.

  3. barefeats permalink
    June 10, 2009 6:07 AM

    I’m not happy about the lost of the ExpressCard slot. It’s very useful to Pro users as you point out. I’m one of them that prefers the 15″ form factor but wants all the bells and whistles. I express my opinion in detail on this article:
    http://www.barefeats.com/wwdc09a.html

    Maybe Apple should call the 13″ and 15″ the MacBook Semi-Pro.

  4. herbertbarrywoodrose permalink
    June 10, 2009 10:17 AM

    You know, this is the exact thing that scares a lot of us about switching to Apple. Every year there seems to be some random wholesale change made that is not only pointless but confusing, and damaging to the relationship. What is this you say about the 13″ being rebranded as a MacBookPro?

    Also – have you heard the newest about the new Iphone? I just got a Verizon wireless device that allows any computer in the area to attach to a network. I got this the DAY BEFORE Apple announced that the newest Iphone would be doing the same thing, which I found astounding and amazing. Only… it isn’t available in the US because AT&T won’t allow it. Gotta love the failure of capitalism.

    Hopefully now the intolerant Mac users who wouldn’t even countenance you making a single criticism will have to get reasonable and actually face the problem of Apple being tied to a single service provider.

  5. bullswool permalink
    June 10, 2009 3:54 PM

    I use external drives to run vms to run and support various versions of commercial software. The express card slot is ideal for providing a high speed interface and vms that run at a decent speed. Customers are very impressed with the capabilities of the mac in providing this functionality. Why would any intelligent person take out a fast slot and go backwards.

  6. scotslawstudent permalink
    June 12, 2009 9:00 PM

    There’s a lot of reasons why the ExpressCard should have been kept. I was gutted that the new machines couldn’t use my old expansion cards that work in my current machine but that’s hardly a new world for computer upgrades. It’s annoying, it’s very expensive if you’ve got a big collection of peripherals but it doesn’t mean that your current peripherals suddenly don’t work, they do and your current computer does too. They just won’t fit in your next one, I think I remember a bit of horror when ADB was replaced by USB in the first iMac, (“what will I do with my old mouse?” etc). That was understandable because ADB is for mice, keyboards, colorimeters, graphic tablets etc while USB is for -everything- and in time that’s been seen as a good decision.

    I do find it a bit surprising and not immediately obvious why, because you want to add an SD slot to the front right you need to remove an ExpressCard slot from the left edge. It’s annoying because there’s not an improvement, just a feature trade – you lose a port to gain a port.

    I’m not too torn up about the idea that you’d need to get your cellular internet (which wasn’t exactly saturating the high bandwidth ExpressCard slot with its mighty throughput anyway) over considerably slower, but still faster than cellular internet, USB2. I think it’s a bit like getting annoyed that your inkjet printer doesn’t have a Gigabit Ethernet port. Again, same with storage, it’s often hard to find devices that actually tax the interface they’re plugged into, for example with many hard drives it’s not the throughput of the port that’s slowing you down, it’s the hard drive – the fastest desktop hard drive I could find on Tom’s Hardware just now was rated at an average read throughput of 105MB/s – that’s less than USB2′s rated 480MB/s and certainly less than ExpressCard’s rated 2.5GB/s. If you connect a large group of very speedy hard drives etc to your laptop and use them all at once then then yes that will completely strain an interface’s throughput but it’s an unusual way of doing things.

    And, of course, the silver lining – this now means that everyone who needs an ExpressCard equipped Apple laptop needs to buy an old one thereby driving up the prices on the used market. Instead of you paying Apple, Apple has made your old machine more valuable and that’s hardly a service you’d get from Dell now is it?

  7. Factor70 permalink
    June 13, 2009 8:20 PM

    Removing the ExpressCard slot from the MacBook pro is FAR WORSE than removing Firewire 800 from the unibody Macbook. After the Firewire blunder, why the hell would they repeat the mistake and remove a CRITICAL port for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of users? I use my ExpressCard slot. In fact, it now has a Sonnet 21-in-1 multimedia card in it. If I want to, I can remove that and put in my eSATA card or Verizon broadband card. I can do a number of things, as it is a flexible, high performance port.

    I am actually so disturbed by this change, it is sometimes hard to sleep at night, and this is no exaggeration. If crappy PC laptops can have ExpressCard slots, 6 USB ports, Firewire, SD card readers, and HDMI ports, all in one machine – why does Apple have to REMOVE the ExpressCard slot to accommodate the SD media slot??? So Apple says *only* 10% of people use this slot? Really? I would say 10% of people don’t use all of the processing power a Mac provides. Maybe they should disable one of the processor cores to save battery life. Is this where Apple is going…taking polls to see how frequently ports are used, and if the threshold reaches 10% or lower, they’ll just remove it? It is nice to have the OPTION to use the ExpressCard slot – that is why I bought the higher-end notebook. Maybe I won’t use it for a few years but find the need for it when my circumstances change.

    It is nice to see the prices drop on the MacBook Pro – that will please the “masses”, but at least offer a configuration option for the ExpressCard slot (+$50) or something like that. Apple used to offer the high-res option on the 17″ MBP for an additional $100 – I LOVED having that option. Options are nice to have, especially when you are limited to a relatively small number of notebook choices with Apple.

  8. krowten permalink
    June 14, 2009 12:26 PM

    If they’d add built in 3G (either EVDO or HSDPA) as an option, I wouldn’t mind as much. But currently, I rely on that slot for my Verizon Express Card for mobile Internet access. I was ready to pick up a new MBP 15″ and almost missed the fact that the ExpressCard was eliminated!

  9. anth0mii permalink
    June 17, 2009 6:53 PM

    Okay so let’s say there are 20 million macbook pro users with ExpressCard slot. If 10% of them are using peripherals then Apple just screwed over 200,000 potential new MacBook Pro owners.
    And SD card slot is hardly a step forward, in fact what I don’t understand is why they didn’t even give that slot much love to then raise that percentage. If they’re in for the business this was clearly NOT the way to make money, just insults actual pro customers.

  10. scotslawstudent permalink
    June 17, 2009 7:46 PM

    I’m not a fan of that sort of argument because I don’t think that making up figures helps prove points. All that says is: okay so let’s say there are a [random, off the top of my head number] of users and a [random, off the top of my head percentage] of those use the slot and they can’t have it if they were to upgrade right now. You then can’t say for sure that everyone of those people will or won’t buy a new one for this or any number of reasons. It’s just something that needs more that dividing by ten to work out.

    Your point’s entirely valid and there are definitely some users affected and they’re definitely annoyed their slot’s gone but I couldn’t possibly go out on a limb and say “it’s 200,000 people”. Citation please.

  11. sterlingz permalink
    July 9, 2009 11:33 AM

    I completely agree with you, and will take the time to write Apple as you suggest. I think it’s a completely stupid move, and it moves the supposedly “Pro” line in a consumer direction. SD is completely a consumer, not a pro, standard. No pro DSLRs on the market today from Nikon, Canon or Sony use SD as their primary format, and no professional video cameras do either. So this prophecy that “everything is moving to SD anyway” is completely misguided.

    Further, and much more importantly, the 15″ (which others have commented is the ideal form factor) is now robbed of any expansion capability, most notably eSATA. Using a 15″ as a true desktop replacement is now much more limited. For photo and video pros, access to fast storage really matters, and Firewire won’t cut it.

    So I applaud your call for direct complaint to Apple, I think their adding Firewire back to the 13″ shows that it can make a difference. I think this is a big enough deal for enough people, that we could see something similar happen.

  12. jedy1 permalink
    July 22, 2009 2:45 AM

    So Apple increase the ram to 8Gig which would be very useful for pro designers, video editors and pro musicians and then remove the ExpressCard which would be needed, for example, for esata drives or to increase the number of firewire inputs, only to replace with a single medium. I personally can’t see who’d use the SD slot. For the majority of consumers using SD equiped cameras, I’m sure most would use a usb cable. Sorry folks I can’t come up with a single reason why the ExpressCard has been replaced with a useless (IMHO) SD slot, other than a ploy to force new buyers into purchasing the 17″ model.

  13. Scott Rose permalink*
    July 22, 2009 2:52 AM

    Yeah, that’s exactly what it feels like to me — a financial ploy by Apple to force people into buying the more expensive 17″ MacBook Pro. I hope this ploy backfires on Apple… I was going to buy a new 15″ MacBook Pro this summer, but now I’ve delayed my laptop purchase because I need the ExpressCard slot and I am NOT going to be tricked into buying a bulky & heavy 17″ laptop. I do NOT want a 17″ laptop!

  14. rlp75 permalink
    August 17, 2009 8:38 PM

    well… it’s the last step to finally turn the MacBookPro in the perfect teenage toy. I see in this forum that college and high school students are really happy because they can transfer their girlfriend’s photographs much easier now Apple’s got rid of that funny hole … what the hell was that expresswhatever for- anyway!

    seriously… it’s really pathethic. I am keeping my Santa Rosa MBP and I pray to god that it lasts a couple years more. New MBPs were a pee over professionals’ heads just for the matte screen and firewire removal but this SDexpresscard tradeoff is a poo over us!!!! And it’s just fun how people here talks about booting the OS over the SD card…. guys, it’s USB inside my god! (and by the way I suspect then all USB ports are shared) … What is going on?

  15. rlp75 permalink
    August 17, 2009 8:50 PM

    good try, but I am sorry to say you’re completely wrong in your assumptions. Unfortunately, USB 2.0 has only 480 megaBIT /sec transfer speed, that is, roughly 60 MegaBYTES. Have you ever tried to hook up an eSATA drive to the MBP? and compared it to a FW800 or USB 2.0 HD?

    And to worsen things, with the fabulous SD card reader, the USB’s on the MAC are really overcrowded: the iSight, the trackpad and now the SD/Card runs over USB. Add a hard disk and these 60MB/s will dramatically decrease.

    It’s a pity Apple has destroyed the PRO line in just 2 years. And they had the best laptop in town, the silver-keyboard MBP’s were truly years ahead of the competitions. Not this cool-kid-toy.

  16. August 17, 2009 9:17 PM

    Thanks for your comments, rlp75… I couldn’t agree with you more on all of your comments!!! You are absolutely 100% correct on all of your posts.

  17. rlp75 permalink
    August 17, 2009 9:31 PM

    hey Scott thanks a lot for your kind words…. The truth is I am really sad to be right… I am really dying to upgrade my MAC, but I found the current models to be a huge step back. Isn’t it frustrating these flaws are so easy to solve? Ok, drop the expresscard, but put a bloody eSATA port (that is already on the motherboard) at least!! but trade an eSATA for a SD card that is roughly superior to USB 1.1? come on!

    I know many professionals over here that had to buy a PC – not because they like windows, but because the new MacBooks were unusable for them.

  18. ilsa80 permalink
    September 4, 2009 3:02 AM

    For me it’s the worst case scenario…
    All my workflow is based on that system, I’m using the Sony XDCam Ex as pro videographer. And this investing was done not a year ago. I’m also travelling much so I don’t want to buy the 17″.
    Why not letting the choice of it availliable like they do for the Display?
    I’m a big Mac user fan but this is blowing my mind…

  19. thankeeww permalink
    November 22, 2010 9:57 PM

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this goes from bad to worse. Those Unibody 15″ MacBook Pro’s that do have the ExpressCard could very well be completely unreliable and unstable… we’re talking actual electrical sparks here, people (link below). And if you think about it, isn’t that one of the more believable motives behind apple removing the ExpressCard slot and inserting something with much, much slower read/write speeds?

    I’ve also read that Apple doesn’t sell any expresscards in their stores, and although I currently see one in their online store, it is pictured with the previous generation (which has no ExpressCard problems), which leads me to believe that it is leftover stock from when that generation of MBP was out. I didn’t see any the last time I was at a store, and I’m tempted to believe that it’s the same at every Apple store location. All in all, it looks like Apple put out MacBook Pro’s with half-assed ExpressCard ports, withdrew them and took a vow of silence over the matter, complete with removing all traces of ExpressCard accessories from their stores.

    Here’s a long thread documenting many peoples’ system crashes and more! http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=678101

    Here’s a link to a respected retailer that warns customers of the incompatibility, towards bottom of page, http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/EXP34SATA2F1/

    I think a little more than a complaint is in order…

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