Blog Post

Mac Book Pro; Mini Review

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

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. my friend got a MBP he sed it heated up and started to burn his leg! he found out that the intel core dual over heats andd the machine cannot cool it down. Anyways thanks for the help it looks like a killer machine


  2. Unknown

    As we all know, the new 17 inch mac book pro has released..reading reviews on the net and doing some research shows that this computer is impressive…

    However, I suggest that people wait a little longer and see what’s in stock then..According to me, Apple is following a trend… The Powerbook G4 had a 1.67 Ghz processor.. the same processor became the lower end mac book pro, it got upgraded to 1,83 and 2 GHz making the 1.67 GHz obsolete.. In the same way, I believe that the 17 inch mac book pro (bad name..will just call it the pro) will come with better speeds in a few months to come…maybe like a 2.4 GHz..which believe does make a difference…

    So all mac enthusiasts, i suggest you do it my way…wait for sometime and then go mac shopping as there will be even more improvements

  3. yeah, phillip, i’m new to apple so i haven’t yet had to deal with them in the same way you have, but i’ve heard lots of complaints about apple support. is it really any different with any other computer company, though? geez, or cell phone co? my boyfriend’s 4 month old powerbook died spontaneously a few weeks ago, and he made the mistake of taking it to the apple store (seems things would have gone a bit better had he sent it to apple, at least that’s what he thinks). they told him it would be no more than 5 days before he’d have it back, so he didn’t make any arrangements to find a back-up computer – it took two weeks and daily calls and they were pretty rude about the whole thing. he lost work (=$) and missed some school assignments as a result. they were completely unapologetic and turns out it took so long because they kept misdiagnosing the prob (trying to do as little as they could get away with, when in fact the logic board and the harddrive had both gone bad).

    i agree that the mbp gets pretty hot, but i have to say that it’s still better than my 1 year old gateway laptop. while they both get about equally as hot, the pc’s fan runs so loud it’s distracting! my solution: buy a lapdesk, like the one you might have used as a kid. it’s comfy and puts some distance between your bod and the hot computer.

  4. Phillip

    Hey guys,
    I posted earlier. I just got my MBP, and I am happier than I have been in a long time. Yeah I’ll agree it gets hot, but the manual (yeah, I read the manual) says that you can actually risk burns if you keep it in your lap for prolonged periods. Obviously, then it isn’t a freak chance that one is a “hot” laptop. Honestly look at the processor, with one that fast, and everything crammed in that tiny space, how else is it going to keep cool? It is going to be hot unless you cart around a ten pound liquid cooler. Besides, with an aluminum case, at least you know the heat means it is not ketting kept inside. I have a friend who had a Fujitsu with a P4 and it melted down.

    Another note is that this is a FAST computer. Mine is the 1.8ghz and it plays Halo beautifully. I have never had a better performing computer, and I have a 3.0ghz desktop pc. The only thing I don’t like is, oh, there’s nothing. The price really wasn’t bad either for how good the computer is.

  5. Scott Shepherd

    Well I keep hearing about how great the performance is on the MBP and it is nice but lets get back to a major problem. Some of you have read my previous comment. I tried to be balanced. I researched for weeks to see if other owners had the same problem with too much heat and I found alot of comments. I called mac support and they side stepped my concerns. After one week I returned the mbp in hopes I would get one I could keep on my lap without getting very uncomfortable. It actually raises my blood temp. I am not one to return things quickly. If I had not been given hope by the following I would not have gone through unloading and loading another computer.
    1. Comment quoted on a recent review from a Mac rep. if it is getting so hot that you can not keep your hand on the bottom it should not work like that and should be replaced.
    2. Local rep in Atlanta Apple store. She said I take 80% of the calls here and this is the first I have heard of probles with overheating. Again she said if it is that hot it is not right and should be returned. Because there was some hope I went down the Apple store I bought the computer from the week before and was told by the manager that I would have to pay a 10% restocking fee ($190.00). I was not happy. The other alternative was to see the Mac tech in the back and have them confirm my problem with the heat. I checked with them and was asked to wait over two hours in line. I spoke with the manager and complained that the line was 2 hours long and then we would need to let the computer crank up for 15-20 min. so someone could put there hand on the bottom to see how very hot the computer got. I theatend to stand by the new Mac Book Pro demo stand and tell everyone what I have been through he treatend me with security and I said my first phone call would be to Apple. He let me hang around for 20- min before coming back to say he was going to override his policy and work with me. A week in Apple hell and I end up with another hot computer. I am going to keep it this time because like you I like the performace, however if you do not let Apple know how bad the heat really nothing weill get done. Good luck!

  6. Chris J

    Hey everyone I think your being a bit hard on apple here no FW800 c’mon how many of you complaining actualy use that bandwith (ok the guy with the video deck) it aint gonna matter with photoshop or any web design apps and yeah it gets hot its the fastest laptop in production today what you expect it to be cool to the touch? no modem? who uses dial up? no pcmcia? its ancient and needs replacing! and finaly in my rant most software is coming out with FREE updates for their apps to run on x86 chipsets and with these updates will come LOTS more speed I am currently saving for mine but damn its expensive but it is new!
    All in all I think apple have delivered a good machine!
    Its gotta be better than any windows based machine!
    My only gripe is the name your asking for trouble if you call any machine “Pro”

  7. Hey guys, i was wondering, does the MBP runs faster photoshop CS or dreamweaver 8, because i am a web designer, i have a powerbook G4, and i was thinking to switch to the MBP because i sometimes use 1 or 2 softwares only avaiable for windows, but i have my doubts with that stuff that theres no PCMCIA slot and that if you used for a long time it gets hotter, so, what u guys recommend me?…


  8. Well im going for the approach of, its an apple i have alot of faith in the company and over the last couple of years they have suprised me all the time! I think im going to order mine this week shame it cant run final cut pro? but thats what i got the G5 for im sure for all the problems its got there will be a perfectly good explanation or remedy!!!

  9. Did anyone notice this quote in the article:

    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.

  10. Scott Shepherd

    I love all the new and great improvements that have come with the Mac Book Pro. The one issue I have is difficult to overcome and I am considering returning my new laptop. The heat is terrible. As long as I run on batteries I can tolerate the heat. It goes to warm. If I can not hold my hand on the bottom of my computer for more than a few seconds what is it doing to the computer? I am concerned about the long term effect of so much heat. Last year I lost my one year old HP laptop due to extream heat. Like the Mac Book Pro the heat was enough to raise the temp of my blood, no kidding. I am very dissapointed. I spoke to mac techs and they have nothing to say. They totally plead ignorant of the problem. If it does not say anything in Mac News it is not a problem. I call the Apple store and spoke with a very nice lady. She said she answers 90% of all calls to the store and mine was the first she had heard of a heat problem. She encouraged me to bring it in and replace it. I am not the kind to do this so fast, however if there is a chance to get a Mac Book Pro that I can place on my lap without concern. I have a few more days before my 14 day period is up and would be interested in how others feel about the extreame heat. Again running on the battery seems to keep the heat down other suggestions. My brother loves macs and says if I increase the ram I could keep the processor from working so hard and hot. Why can’t mac support help with this?

  11. I’m new to Macs, and considering getting the MBP. Does anyone know if the MBP supports current version of QuarkXpress 7, Photoshop, and Illustrator?

    I know Final Cut Pro does not work on MBP, but do the others?

    Would I be better off, buying a powerbook? I can hold off, on getting the Final Pro, until an update is released, but need to work with the other programs.


  12. thanks everyone for the replies.
    i just read on cnet that photoshop performance on that MBP is not be conisdered thaaaat good.
    well, untill Apple releases that update or fix or whatever that will match the non-apple graphic applications to the apple based ones regarding speed on the intel-processor-MBP, the question i’ve been asking around and found no answer for:
    is it slower than the other PC-based laptops or is it “just not that 4x times faster” when it comes to photoshop or similar graphic applications?????

  13. There really might not be a 12″ MBP. There have been rumours of the 12″ being dropped from the line. For my part, I think there’s been too much overlap between the 12″ PB and the 12″ iBook for some time. I have a 12″PB and love it, but if it were my own money (and if I’d bought anytime in the last 12 months) I’d have gone back to the iBook, hacked the video firmware to handle monitor spanning and spent just a bit of the money saved on an external DVD writer.

    Assuming that (i) Apple have gotten over the ‘consumer macs don’t span screens’ nonsense (firmware differences do not a Pro mac make!), and that (ii) iSight and Apple remote is now a part of the Mac platform in general, then I’d be happy to see a small, light, core duo consumer mac as my next machine. Yeah, silver is nice, but not worth $600 or so extra..

  14. Kelly Lowry

    On the heat issue, I just wanted to mention that my boyfriend has a 15″ G4 Powerbook (bought about 4 months ago) and I have the 2GHz MBP and we’ve compared the heat output and I have to say that they seem the same. And still less hot than my Gateway PC laptop.

    Also, on software running through Rosetta…I have the new PowerCADD 7 software (they haven’t yet come out with the update for intel Macs, but when they do, it will be free for those who have already purchased version 7)…anyway, without comparing scientifically, I and one of the software developers for PowerCADD (they happened to be based nearby) compared the speed of the software on my MBP to his G5 desktop and decided hands down that mine was running faster. I can’t wait to see how it does when the intel update comes out.

    So, all in all, I LOVE my MBP. This computer was my official switch from PC’s, and I will NEVER go back!!



  16. I intend to get a laptop, will be mainly using it for graphics, 3D. i m a photograperh and soon will be turning totally to graphics..
    i ‘ve been told that mac is more stable and more efficently performing than the PC/windows combination, but from what i been reading here [about this software issues that for each new mac i have to purchase new software..] it really scared me ..
    in case i want to use the virtual pc to run applications and software i have for windows, will it perform great or i will have trouble doing so?
    i really need an advice [i don’t want to regret paying around 3,000 USD for headache]…

  17. Fungke

    Looking to get a new laptop over the summer…
    perhaps a little later. i am am mainly a web and photo guy and i am looking to get a MBP. i run PC at home with a Mac Mini. I find the Mac not to be bad….i don’t have problems with file sharing and all at the moment…but i know that i will have trouble with fonts.

    in any case, what do you guys think about Asus notebooks as opposed to the MBP?

  18. Great article with limited time to test. I am a Final Cut HD user and will wait til the end of the year to see what happens. I would also miss the fire wire 800. It’s nice to know that the computer is fast but not compatible with everything I need yet. I can wait a year til my PowerBook warranty runs out and they possible work out the downs sides and possibly upgrade to a g5 chip. thanks!

    P.S. Nice to know they’re getting back on the bicycle at Apple

  19. Stephanie, I’m probably going to have to replace a PowerBook G4 12″ soonish, and on the basis that it’s been powerful enough for my needs, and that there’s no real sign of a 12″ MBP, I’m waiting to see what Apple do with the Intel iBook replacement.

    All the rumours point to a widescreen 13″ white-clad MacBook that should prove a worthy successor to the 12 PB and 12/14 iBook alike. These machines have been way too close in all but price for ages now and, assuming Apple have finally gotten over the idea that consumer Macs can’t do monitor spanning, my next Mac will probably come in white.

  20. i’m in the same boat as some other folks whoi posted — i need to move up from my 3 year old i-book. i was planning on the powerbook g4, but am tempted to step up to the most recent model, although i do loathe and despise the name. i’m a writer and not a millionaire, so this purchase will need to do it for me for another 3 years. what should i do? please advise oh wise ones.

  21. Hello,

    I am on my way to the mac store. I still don’t know what to buy: A powerbook G4 or the MBP. I guess I will take the G4.
    To the guy who already has the new MBP: How is it with the software? -The Photoshop and the Final Cut? That is very important to me…..

  22. Hey Singh – Can you keep us up to date on the temperature issue with your new MBP?

    I was at the Apple store today and made a point to feel the bottoms of the new MBP for excessive heat – then I compared it to the Powerbook. There was little if any difference – if anything, the MBP was not as warm as the Powerbook. I wonder, though, what happens when you start running high powered programs…

  23. I recieved my MacBook Pro 2.0Ghz yesterday. I am not sure if anyone else has experienced this but this thing runs very hot. underneath and near the back of the keyboard where the vent is its almost too hot to touch.

    I hope Apple is not going to have problems with this thing running too hot this early in the game. I better get some AppleCare on it ASAP.


  24. Chris Balaska

    Thats not all the macbook pro is missing….. it is also missing a modem. you can buy a usb modem for $50.If you can give updates on the specs and weight i would aslo like to know the price.
    much ablidged

  25. Do you think the powerbook g4’s will go on sale now as a result of the macbook pro? Also, I was curious to read anyones answer to merediths question about. Can anyone help? Thanks.

  26. Hello,
    I am not a mac user but I was planning on getting a 15in. powerbook. I’m wondering if that’s a good idea, I don’t know mac very well. Awesome intel and mac machine. I’ll probably still get a powerbook because it has been iterated so many times, it is tried and true.

    Still a dual core laptop is very… exciting, especially mac.

  27. A regular web guy

    Now I love macs. I’ve had every version mac has come out with since I switched from my old Amiga. I am currently running a G4 tower, a Powerbook, an I just bought my girlfriend an ibook. So I am a devotee, but come on…

    …why, after all this time investing over $20,000 in software to get where I am today, Apple is now making me do it all over again? Why, when you can get a PC that is already as fast as the “New” macs, would I continue down this path?

    I don’t see it as a new mac. Because I can’t run any mac software on it! It’s not a mac, it’s a scam to make all us mac users unload even more money than we have been to get a computer that need all new software that isn’t even out yet!

    By the time all you guys get the new MBP and the software to run your business on it, there will be a newer, better, faster one that needs all new softare again.

    So it’s faster, other than that there’s no difference between it and the powerbook (I have virtual PC and it’s runs great!). It’s a hole to throw money in just so you can look cool when your at the coffee shop.

    I hate to say it, but if apple is going the way of PC, I might as well buy a Dell, it’s already got the intel chip, and there’s tons of software already available.

    Mac died with the Mac Book Piece Of Sh*t.

  28. OK, for those who are asking about Final Cut. No it will not run on MBP. Or, not yet anyways. I believe the release date for Final Cut and Aperture and the other professional programs offered by Apple will be released for the Intel in late spring or early summer-ish. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple released it earlier. And as far as Vista goes (OK,Vista is a WORSE name then Mac Book Pro is by far. And!, if you look-up the word “vista” in the dictionary, its very ironic. By the way the definition is something along the lines of “A distant view or prospect”), There is an article on Apple’s website in their “news” section that briefly discusses this platform crossing. As I take it, Microsoft will be making their programs run on Mac, not the operating system itself. Which, hopefully, they’ll run natively so that you don’t have to buy special Mac version of them.

  29. I’m in the process of choosing a laptop for college for next fall. I’ve had so many problems with stupid Dell and Windows all together, plus I do a lot of filmmaking. Does anyone suggest I get macbook pro? I’m not too enthusiastic about buying something that just came out because there are always problems. Things that seem important are; memory (need quite a bit), several USB ports, firewire, DVD/CD burner, good resolution, and something that runs fast. If none of you suggest macbook pro, then what other powerbook do you think?