MacBook Pro: The Perfect Computer?

macbookpro13My friend and Low End Mac’s publisher, Dan Knight, posted a nearly 3000-word essay recently positing a “what’s the perfect Mac” conundrum: MacBook Pro or iMac. I share Dan’s enthusiasm for examining and debating such hypothetical questions, and I thoroughly enjoyed the piece, but for me, the matter is much more open-and-shut.

I’ve been advocating for more than a decade that laptops are the logical Mac for most users, and in my estimation the unibody MacBook Pros — particularly the new 13-inch model — come as close to personal computer perfection as has yet been achieved.

As his top laptop candidate, Dan Knight leans more toward the 15-inch unibody model, with a particular nod toward the $1,699 configuration, which would be my second choice for ultimate Mac notebook value. First choice is the 2.26 GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro at $1,199, which gives you almost everything you get in the lowest-priced 15-incher, with the obvious exception of display acreage, and for $500 less.

However, for Dan, screen size and finish are much higher priority issues than they are for me. He developed his computing style and habits working as a professional book designer on two-page 152 x 854 and 1280 x 960 resolution screens, and finds smaller displays — say 1034 x 768 (SVGA) or lower resolutions — too restrictive for his tastes and work.

I, on the other hand, spent my first three Mac-loving years on a PowerBook with a 9.5″, 640 x 480, passive matrix grayscale display. After that experience, anything larger has seemed generously roomy, or at least adequate. The highest-resolution screen I’ve had in any Mac to date is the 1440 x 900 display in my 17″ PowerBook, which I like a lot, but adapting to the 1280 x 800 resolution of my 13″ unibody MacBook when I upgraded posed no real problem. Leopard’s Spaces feature has eliminated much of the inconvenience of working with modest display real estate.

Today, I would draw the line at 1064 x 768, which is what my two still-in-service Pismo PowerBooks offer. That’s also the highest resolution any of my desktop computer monitors have ever had, which sounds quaint when the entry-level $1,198 iMac today comes with a 20-inch 1680 x 1050 screen.

Dan’s current production rig is a dual-1GHz Mirror Drive Door Power Mac G4 driving a 1280 x 1024 a Dell flat panel display — hardware that befits the theme of his website, and ideal for a guy who isn’t yet willing to give up Mac OS Classic Mode. However, Dan says he’s excited this week because now that Apple has just added an “antiglare” display option for the 15-inch unibody MacBook Pro, he thinks it could become the perfect production machine for him, even going so far as to suggest that the 15-inch MacBook Pro is probably the perfect computer, period.

I won’t quibble overmuch with that, although I do still champion the 13-incher, since I’m more than satisfied with the glossy display. As Apple notes, with a glossy screen finish you get graphics, photos, and videos with richer colors and deeper blacks, which is better for most users who don’t have to work in print media. But if having an antiglare option helps persuade folks like Dan Knight to dismount the fence on the laptop side, I’m all for it, and let’s have it available on the 13-inch model as well.

So will Dan finally end up on a MacBook Pro, which would be his first production laptop since the original Titanium PowerBooks back in the early-to-mid ’00s? I think there’s a good chance he will, but he isn’t slamming the door on desktops by any means, noting that the perfect desktop computer would take the current iMac design, move some ports for easier access, and offer an antiglare screen option. Perhaps for him it will boil down to whatever Apple does next with the iMac.

How about you? Would you vote for either the MacBook Pro, the iMac, or something else entirely as “the perfect computer?”

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