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Mac Book Pro; Mini Review

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MacBook Pro. I hate the name. I mean, I really hate the name. Say it out loud and you’re almost guaranteed to mess it up. Despite its horrendous name, the MBP (as I will call it for the duration of this article), certainly has a lot going for it. Apple likes to awe the press with its internal tests that show that the MBP is 4x-5x faster than the current top end PowerBooks, but in reality, how many people can actually make an association between a benchmark score and how a machine handles in every day use. Yesterday afternoon, I set out to test just that.

Even 3 hours after its announcement, the MBP was still surrounded by a layer of press 4-5 people thick (its down to about 3 today). I patiently took my place in line, and began waiting. Now, no matter how patient you are, when the guy in front of you keeps playing around with the toy you want so desperately to fondle, all those laws against maiming and rioting start to seem a bit silly.

After about 20 minutes of standing around, it was my turn. Naturally, the first thing I did was shut the machine down. The first and best indication of how fast a computer starts up. We are all used to pressing the power-button on our respective Macs, seeing black, then grey, then blue, then the login screen/desktop. I think David Pouge of the New York Times described the boot process of the MBP best.

You know normally you see the Apple logo and the spinning circle on startup. On these things it’s more like; press the power-button, BLIP, and you’re up and running”

So the MBP passed the boot test, but I wasn’t done putting it through its paces. Jobs had noted the speed of Safari on the new machines, and he wasn’t kidding. I can say with 100% certainty that the Intel build of Safari is the fastest web browser that I have ever used, on any platform. Instead of bouncing in the dock and forcing you to wait, Safari opens a new window and loads a page almost instantly when you open it.

One program at a time is nice, but Macs are about multitasking. I went to the Applications folders, selected all, and double clicked. Now, I know this is far beyond anything that would show up in normal use, but just wait until you hear the results. After slowing down significantly for around 30 seconds, the MBP started working smoothly again. And I mean smoothly. If you have ever had 3 or 4 resource hungry applications running simultaneously, you will be all too familiar with OS X taking a few seconds to switch between applications. Not so with the MBP. Clicking around between applications produced instant results, new documents opened quickly, and pages “Scrolled like butta,” as Reverend Jobs would say.

I didn’t have a chance to play with the remote or iSight, but I think its safe to assume that they work, and not much beyond that. Gimmicky is certainly the word that best describes those two features.

I hasten to say that the MBP is the fastest Mac I have ever used, keeping in mind I have not yet had a chance to play with the Intel iMac.

However, the MBP doesn’t lack its down-points. The MBP looses two things near-and-dear to my heart, a PCMCIA slot, and FireWire 800.

First, lets chat about FireWire. Apple was the first major manufacturer to include Firewire standard on their machines. This was a good thing. Firewire is a terrific interface with advanced features and blazing speeds. However, not many people actually need 800 megabit/s speeds, especially at the premium they were running. Apple started killing Firewire with the nano, and soon it was gone from the iPod. However, I don’t see Firewire going away for good any time soon. FW400 will certainly be with us on consumer level machines for a good time to come, and 800 should reappear soon. My hypothesis is such: At this point, the Pro Applications are not able to run natively on the MacBooks. No Final Cut, no need for fast ports. I see Apple announcing 12 and 17 inch MBP’s along side native Pro Applications some time in March.

As for PCMCIA, Apple obviously knows something we don’t about the new ExpressCard. PCMCIA is obviously still the de-facto standard, and this says to me that there is a big influx of ExpressCards coming to the market.

A nifty new feature on the new machines is a re-designed power plug. Apple designers have finally conquered the ages-old problem of cord trippage. Everyone has a story about tripping over a power cord plugged in to their machine, with the result of the machine flying across the room. The new plug attempts to solve this problem by introducing a mechanism that you don’t plug in, per se, but clip on. The plug is magnetic, and when you get the adapter close to the machine, it clicks snugly into a small depression.

A few little notes about the new machine before I sign off:
– The MBP uses a battery with a similar form factor to the 17 inch PowerBook
– The Airport antennae have been moved from the sides of the display to the hinge below the display.
– The track-pad is now the same size as those found on the 17 inch PowerBook

Update: No, the Pro Applications (Final Cut, Soundtrack, Motion, etc) do NOT work on the MBP, and will not until Apple releases native versions of the applications sometime in March.

228 Responses to “Mac Book Pro; Mini Review”

  1. Michael Rose

    I’m also hoping to see another firewire connection — 800 would be nice. I use my Powerbook for video editing and hook up a drive and a video deck to my laptop. Each one on a separate firewire port. A PCMCIA slot would at least give us a way to add more fiirewire power.

  2. No PC card slot, no firewire 800, less screen resolution, no startup keys,
    this is MacBookAmatuer not Pro,
    I’m usally the first in line for the new apple offering…not this time.
    I’ll wait this one out until the add the “Pro” features.

  3. I wish this portable could support a PCNCIA card — especially the ones that verizon national broadband access uses for access to its national high speec wireless service. Any idea if the MBP will eventially be able to support this — e.g., by some kind of usb or ExpressCard adapter to PCNCIA cards?

  4. yeah I just heard form a friend that 804.11N is due to come out by spring it is something crazy like 600MPS wireless and has like 10x the range anyone else heard about this.
    the problem with windows vista is going to be the 7 differant versions that bill has planned how dumb is that home, home pro, buiniess, small B, large B, corprate server, and probable some free thign or some thing. I smell compartability issues although it will be cool to get more people convereted to apple hey jet buy an apple and you can have everything. oh yeah and it won’t crash.
    but yeah I’m planning on getting a MBP this summer when the new HD DVD vs blue laser and the new wireless stuff comes out I think this year is going to be full oh technichal leeps, exciting

  5. FYI PowerBooks were PowerBooks long, and I mean LONG, before the PowerPC chip was ever dreamed up.

    Long Long Long before. It was indeed a great Brand name, and Apple has committed the cardinal sin of Branding…change a known brand for the sake of changing a known brand.

  6. Re. running Winxx apps on the mac…

    One of the neat things about the shift to intel chips is that it should be possible for VMWare to be ported to the new OS at some point. Assuming that this happens, you should be able to run MSVista or whatnot in a virtual machine…

    All in all it looks like a nice machine. The loss of native FW800 will annoy a lot of the professional types that require that level of bandwidth to disk, and the loss of some vertical resolution will annoy a lot of folk who need every last dot… On the other hand, the DVI out handles 30″ displays. Not bad I say!

    Sure… things that are useful to _some_ users are missing – modems, native FW800, native S-video out. On the other hand:
    * it seems that S-Video/VGA will be handled as per PB12″ – with an external adapter
    * Apple already ship a tiny little USB modem which costs a handful of dollars
    * New card format notwithstanding, I daresay it won’t take terribly long for FW800 cards to appear.

    Not that anyone really wants to shell out for extra bits on top of a laptop purchase… but hey, it’s not as if the machine is neutered by the lack of features..

  7. Adam Michna

    The issues with the Mac Book Pro seem to be minor. With lack of a PCMCIA slot and FireWire 800, The Mac Book Pro will have it’s own problems. People are so hyped up to see the minuses rather than noticing how unique and powerful it is, rather than realizing problems that arose from the production of the Mac Book Pro and issues concerning how it’s going to funtion in everyday use. Apple takes the time to go over each products longitivity, durability, and read comments about what the publics point of view is on it’s products. What most people around the office wonder is to what an Intel chip is doing in a mca in the first place and what kind of conflicts are going to occure with Mac software, like Final Cut Pro.

    Coincidently, Apple states that the Intel chip sitting inside of its new Mac Book Pro is as fast as if it had two G5 processors in them. Huh.. Well if Apple said it, It must be true. Anway, Theres still no guarentee that for people, such as myself who film and edit, Final Cut Pro will handel way more efficently than a G4 Powerbook could, with no exceptions to even inconsistent self shutting program problems that Final Cut Pro ususally encounters on G4s.

    One way or another, I’ll be there when it finally arrives and taking notes for myself on how it handles.

  8. yeah don’t think that jobs is going to currupt is machine with a bunch of windows stuff. I find it ironic that people who have never used an apple are callin gthem subpar however I do understand the veiw that it is lacking in some areas but we all need to realize that you can’t put a tower on you lap period. I’ve head of hacked versions of os10 for PC but I think that was just BETA test for the new chips that was hacked. besides I don’t think it would ever happen bc then gates would have to deal with another monopoly lawsuit.
    what i’m really waitin gfor is for ox11 to come out not sure when but I think with the new chip sets and all it s a good bet that it will happen soon.

  9. I have read some material to suggest that it will run WINDOWS VISTA OS, but no one will know until it is out and you are actually, physically able to put a CD into the drive and find out if it boots-? If not then there is the answer-!

    I am however, a bit of a skeptic when it comes to the new MBP- i think i will wait and see what the next version brings, before dropping $3,000 Canadian for a subpar machine.

    I am however strongly in favour of switching over to MAC from PC, but i will wait and see what happens in the next months.

  10. They won’t, thats why they changed it to a 15.4 inch screen as opposed to the previos 15.2 and altered the resolution to a more standard 1440×900 instead of the unusual and odd 1440×960 which should cure the problem.

    as for running PC software, i highly doubt it, actually i’m quite sure you won’t be able to, of course their will be a handful of people who will have hacked it and made it work, but thats about as far as i see it going. If you could, manufacturers wouldn’t bother making mac and PC versions which they still are for the few apps that were announced at macworld

  11. Did you notice if the new MacBrook Pros suffer from the same “horizontal banding” (subtle yet noticable lines across the LCD display) as the 15” G4 Powerbooks? This is obviously important to many users who encountered this problem before. Thanks.

  12. “and M$ vista will be able to run on it for any apps i need there.”

    I am curious if this will be true. I am presently a PC user and actually very fed up with all the f$%&@ virus trouble i have had in the last few years-constantly re-installing..

    Anyways, because i need certain programs which are presently only available for PC, does anyone see Apple making it possible to run PC software?

    Speaking about the new MBP now. I am curious to see what the changes might be after the first ones come out? When might the new ones come out-8 months, 12?

    Dan, thanks for your take on things!

  13. I cant wait for mine to arrive, work here is getting me one to play with…
    I’ve never even messed with a mac, this will be my machine to learn it on.
    perhaps i will convert….
    and M$ vista will be able to run on it for any apps i need there.

    ps, the magsafe connector will have no affect on the screen, or anything else, its a great idea.

    february cant come too soon….

  14. at the WWDC in 2005 Jobs brought in the Head of adobe and he announced that Abobe would be one of the first onboard for the intel switch (of course there were banking on the the second/third quarter of 06 for apple to release them), so i’m gonna guestimate that adobe will start rolling out universal binaries around June. Lets hope, i need photoshop and well lightroom too.

  15. Let us not forget what we have gained here in all of this now I can plug a mouse in on both sides of my computer 1 gig ram standard. these are cool everyone is talking about firewire 800 but who really uses that I never have had too. Some one mentioned usb 2.0 repacing it but remember hat FW400 is standard for DV cameras ie imovie I can understand why some one can’t run a pro app on their new machine to me that is apple telling us “if you have waited 4 years for a G5 pB and have the money in the bank buy right now and be the first kid with the new nintendo” But for me what is the point if it isn’t optomized to do what i need yet and I know I can wait a while.

    does anyone know what the long term reprocussions of the intell chips will be on softwear I can’t imagine what adobe is going to do they just merged with macromedia and now this their programmers must be pulling their hair out:) or is this gonig to increese over all compatability with PC softwear adn their for increase avalibility and thus draw more people to use an apple?

  16. well…der is a new mac book pro on the market as everybody knows…about there being a Firewire 400 instead of a Firewire 800, well mac hasalready taken out stuff for the intel based computer like final cut pro and other stuff like that..( with Rosetta) and its a possibility that these devices run on the Firewire 400

    The good news is :- It’s a mac..we’ll really never know..
    The bad news:- It’s a msc..we’ll really never know

  17. I’ve heard alot of speculation on this new macbook people praising it and other passing it off, waiting for next generation. But for me this is great, I love the machine. All I use my computer for asides from mail and internet is basically eiditing with photoshop for my photography and with the upgrade to the X1600 256mb graphics card, gig of standard ram and a dual core processor this makes it a dream machine.

    Asides from my previous mention of the loss of PCMCIA, What were they thinkging, or do they know something we don’t. You can never be sure with Apple.

  18. Nothing that Apple makes can ever live up to the wild speculation and dreams of dedicated Apple-philes. Yes, we all want something impossible for half the price with Firewire 1 billion and a built in mind reader but that’s not practical. This is the best Apple portable ever…period. I for one already have my order in.

  19. the new mbp blows…ppl should just wait for the next gen ones. That way all the bugs will be solved. What i really wanna see is a new tower, so at least if they screw up…i can always upgrade

  20. Thanks for the performance review. Too bad about the rest of the machine’s features. It’s not like this dual-core thingy is going to make my Word docs type faster, is it… Which makes this Powerbook Duo Pro a really odd pro machine — it seems to be not quite here nor there.

    Thanks, Apple, but no thanks. My Powerbook 12-inch is more complete than what you’re trying to pass off as a Pro machine here (nice try)… so I guess this is one sale you’ve lost for this round.

    Should’ve listened to us fanboys and gone with the widescreen iBooks instead. Then maybe you’d have been left with resounding squeals of delight instead of collective thud of disappointed arses hitting the sofa.

  21. the Intel chips are 32 bit.

    i was crushed to hear of the loss of PCMCIA slot because now i have now way of just snapping in my CF cards, i’ll have to resort to a cable which isn’t that practical on the go.

    a couple other message boards are saying the Macbook’s battery life is 3 hours (running wireless internet)

  22. Merits of the various technology aside. I am not impressed with the offering . Furthermore, from an economics standpoint, very disappointed at the price point reletive to the offering. This akin to paying a 10 cent per gallon premium for diesel over hi-octane gasoline. ( diesel is in fact cheapest fuel to make b/c of higher yields and least cost addatives)

    I think I might wait for dell version at $999