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Summary:

I’ve now had my new MacBook for two days, and the expectations of what I’d hoped or suspected the machine to be have been true. It really is sweet and, along with the PowerBook 170 and the PowerBook 12″ G4, may be the best overall portable […]

I’ve now had my new MacBook for two days, and the expectations of what I’d hoped or suspected the machine to be have been true. It really is sweet and, along with the PowerBook 170 and the PowerBook 12″ G4, may be the best overall portable Apple has ever made. 

Of course, nothing is prefect, and there are a couple of things I’ve noticed that I’d like to point out. One of them can undoubtedly be fixed via software, but the other is what it is. 

Glossy Border on the Screen

I’ve been using a white MacBook out and about quite a bit and must admit I’m a huge fan of glossy screens. It’s never been a big issue for me to change position slightly to reduce glare/reflections, and then you simply don’t notice it. (In contrast, while changing position can “fix” a glossy screen’s glare, there’s nothing I can do to a matte screen to make it not look so dull, boring, and lifeless.)

Given that the new MB’s screen is even brighter than the old model, the gloss should even be less of an issue. And it is…except for the border! I love the black border around the MB. Much like with the iMac, I think it helps make the screen colors pop out even more, and it also hides the “bullet hole” camera as well. 

The problem is that the border is always reflective. Since the screen doesn’t shine through, you’ve got over a half-inch “mirror” around the screen! This can be especially distracting because it naturally leads the eye to notice the reflections on the display itself that may otherwise have been easily ignored. 

On my iMac this is not an issue because it’s permanently situated to minimize glare in the first place. Plus, I think it’s less of an issue on a 24″ screen than 13″. As it is, as great as the border looks, I’m finding it a bit more problematic in terms of glare. 

The Cursor is “Going Deep”

Remember cursor “submarining”? In the earlier days of Windows laptops, when you used to strap the mouse to the side of the machine, and the OS wasn’t exactly responsive, sometimes the cursor would disappear (frequently in the middle of moving it). It was basically a performance/graphics thing, but it was akin to the cursor “sinking” and then “surfacing” in another location. This gave rise to the name that described it. 

Well, I’ve had my cursor disappear on the new MB as well. It’s not really the same, as it never happens while moving, but rather when I go to move the cursor I simply don’t see it. I have to move around on the trackpad a bit and then it shows up in a couple of seconds. 

It’s happened perhaps 10 times in the last two days. It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s quite irksome. I assume this is a software issue that will get corrected. 

So far I’m thrilled with the new machine (and people at work think it’s cool, I’ve got VMWare Fusion and XP Pro on it), and the above are my only negative observations on it. I’ll post more as I run into them.

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  1. The Mac has always hidden the mouse when you type a character incase the mouse obscures the cursor; which is quite likely if you have just clicked on a text field. Is that perhaps what is happening?

  2. I have seen the same cursor behavior on just about every Mac OS X machine I have used. Seems to be a common thing that is only made worse by having the “Ignore accidental trackpad input” option turned on in the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane which causes the trackpad to be unresponsive for a few seconds when you first start using it. With this option turned off I don’t notice it as much. I believe that the option is on by default so you might try toggling it to see what you think.

  3. Simon and Twist,

    No, this is different. When the cursor disappears when typing it immediately reappears as soon as you move it. I use that option on my other MacBook and like it. But what I’m seeing on the new machine is something else. I move on the trackpad and it is definitely not showing the cursor at all. It takes a second or two to appear. Not every time, but a few enough times to notice.

    I notice that on the new MB the option to ignore when typing is no longer there. I assume it’s always on. The issue I see may be somewhere in that functionality (after all, I’m sure it’s a software glitch) but no matter where the glitch is what I’m seeing is definitely not a case of normal functionality.

  4. There’s a nice little bit of utility freeware that you might find helpful. It is called “Mouse Locator” from 2points5fish.com. I hope it helps.

  5. the glossy screen is indeed very pretty to look at, but, what about us pro’s who work with graphics every day? yes I have a pro monitor, but, I like to design things on my notebook while away from my monitor for clients and I need a screen on my notebook that actually shows the real colours, not enhanced or more wet looking, but, as they are, how they are.

    What are we to do?

  6. Ben,

    I have no direct answer for you other than to suggest there will likely be matting options for these screens from third partys shortly.

    However, I think your characterization of the screens is backwards. The glossy enhances nothing, and is in fact showing the “real colours”. I guess the reason those used to a matte display think glossy looks enhanced is because it’s simply not being “muted” by the “filter” of the matte screen.

    The matte display is altering the light to reduce reflection, and in the process it is absolutely altering the colors as well. How could it not be? It is impossible for the matte display to alter just the light you don’t want, and leave everything else.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I understand that the desirable effects of the matte display far outweigh (for you and many pros) the effects of not having it. I simply take issue with saying that somehow a matte display is “real” and glossy is artificial. If anything, it’s more correct to say it’s the other way around — especially if there are no reflections.

    In any case, since laptop displays utilize 6 bits per pixel (instead of 8) and dither the remaining 2, it’s unclear to me how a professional does anything but fairly basic touch ups on a laptop. That’s especially true if they do not find a location where they can have control over the room lighting.

  7. I have something to say about gloss. Please consider my perspective.
    I use my notebook everywhere. At home, on trains, outdoors, at the coffee house, etc…
    I just don’t understand “[...] change position slightly to reduce glare/reflections, and then you simply don’t notice it [...]“.
    I’d like to point out “change position”, “reduce” and “notice”.
    Why should I be forced to go through all this (imperfect) process to write some code, learn from a blog, edit a photograph?
    I sincerely have no use for a rich, exciting screen. I have a serious need for a readable one. One that also lets me do more stuff off the battery at minimum brightness if I really need to.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying nobody should prefer gloss, I just think it’s insane to force something like this.

  8. Using my week old MBP now and the only time I’ve noticed that outer border was reflective was just a minute ago while reading this article. It’s hasn’t been an issue, and I suspect that in a few minutes, I’ll completely forget about it.

  9. I agree with you for the most part. It truly is an amazing product. Its flexibility and power make it a very good choice for many. However I find it’s lack of new ideas disappointing. I realize they can’t really risk new products being ill-received by the general public so they have to keep them tame. But I feel like Apple’s older models like the G3 PowerBook, the Mirror Drive Door PowerMac, and the Mac Mini held more uniqueness and unprecedented advance.

  10. Pedro,

    I think that changing the screen slightly is not an example of going through some kind of process. The “change position” I’m talking about is a little more then the shifting one would do in the course of a normal few hours work anyway. Not sure why people always seem to think glossy fans are suggesting you have to stand on one leg with a hand over your head like adjusting an aerial for TV in the 70s.

    As for the part about not noticing it, it’s just as true for matte displays. Geez, matte fans like to act as if the screen isn’t dull and boring. Well, it is, and using one I always have to get used to that.

    Finally, the idea that a “rich” and “exciting” screen can’t be a “readable one” makes zero sense to me. The text is razor sharp on this thing and incredibly readable. In my opinion, far more so than a muted matte display.

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