I’ve been playing with a MacBook Pro for a few days now (Apple have sent me one on loan for review purposes). So far, there are some things I like about it and some things that I really dislike. I thought I’d share both lists with you now. I’ll produce a more rounded review in a week or two.
Screen The MacBook Pro screen is lovely. Everything’s very bright, sharply defined and there’s no sign of any flaws. In some lighting, I think I can just make out a 1cm-high strip along the bottom that might be a little brighter than everything else, but to be honest my eyes don’t detect it most of the time.
Rosetta, concept and reality I recall people being very dismissive of Rosetta when it was first announced, saying real-time translation would never work, at least not in a productive way. In reality, Rosetta does a superb job of making PowerPC software usable, and its best feature is that it is completely invisible to the user. There’s no “environment” you are forced to work in, no hoops to jump through to get your software running. You just launch apps and they run, as simple as that. Sure, there are some apps that won’t work at all and some that are uncomfortably slow, but Rosetta as a whole is a masterstroke on Apple’s part, and is a key factor in making the architecture switch as smooth as possible.
Universal Binaries Rosetta aside, the surge of Universal Binaries being released by developers is nothing short of amazing. The speed with with which the development community has latched on to Universal Binaries, and with which developers have got them compiled and released, says it all. The majority of the apps I use day-to-day are already UB, if not they soon will be.
Speed, mostly Some things on the MacBook are impressively faster: iPhoto just glides, it “scrolls like butter” just as Steve said it would. The Finder does seem more responsive, but I’d say only slightly more so than my G4 PowerBook.
It’s still a Mac There aren’t many people remaining who fret that a Mac with an Intel processor can’t really be a Mac, but let me reassure the wavering minority that they need worry no longer. This machine looks like a Mac, behaves like a Mac, and is as Mac-like as a Lime Green iMac. Honestly, if Steve hadn’t told everyone they were changing chips, no-one would have any clue this machine was any different. Until they ran System Profiler.
No Intel branding This was something I was really surprised about when I first saw a MacBook Pro at the launch event. I didn’t expect a gaudy “Intel Inside” badge - I knew Apple’s designers would never allow such a thing - but I expected something. But nothing, not even an engraved logo on the underside. Not a word.
MagSafe Yes, I thought it was cool when I first heard about it. But about an hour after unpacking this laptop, I stood up to cross the room and promptly snagged my foot on the power cable. MagSafe saved the machine from a 75cm fall to the floor, and consequently saved me a great deal of money. MagSafe rocks.
AirPort is fine It’s hard for me to comment on this, because I never had any problems with AirPort on my PowerBook. But suffice to say that the MacBook Pro works fine, so far, with any wireless network I can throw it at.
Photo Booth Yeah, really. I’m that shallow. Everyone who has visited the house in recent days has had their turn in front of Photo Booth, and all of them have had a fantastic time. Apple still has a sense of humor, and still knows how to make computers fun.
Wider trackpad No longer reserved for owners of 17 inch PowerBooks, I like the wider trackpad.
Noise Yup, this machine whines. Or hisses. It appears there are two common causes of MacBook Pro noise problems - the ’screen whine’ and the ‘CPU whine’, and to be honest I’m not really sure which one this machine suffers from. Either way, it’s near-constant and can be distracting. It’s not a big deal, but it is an annoyance. There’s much discussion about this on Apple Discussions. Good news is that machines showing signs of the ’screen whine’, which changes when you change the screen brightness settings, are being fixed by Apple.
Heat I thought my G4 PowerBook got hot, but that was nothing compared to the MacBook Pro. I seriously, absolutely cannot work with this computer sitting on my lap. The heat builds up very quickly and is particularly strong around the MagSafe connector and the rear of the base. Not everyone thinks this is a problem, but for me it’s a serious disappointment. I think the whole point of owning a laptop is that it is portable, that you can use it almost anywhere. Sure, it’s always nice to have a desk or table to rest on, but in some circumstances (most air travel, for example) your lap is usually the best work surface you’re going to get.
So what do I really think?
In many respects the MacBook Pro is a great machine, just the kind of evolutionary step forward the PowerBook needed. So, if your mission-critical PowerBook has just died on you and you need a top-range Apple laptop for your work right now, go buy one.
But if you can afford to wait a little longer, I think you should; revised models, hopefully without the irritations, will be appearing in coming months and they might well turn out to be a better choice in the long run.