My first experience with an Apple was back in elementary school. I can still vividly recall having a blast on the Apple II playing a game called Word Munchers. Since then, I have not touched an Apple until I bought my iPhone last year. The MacBook Pro is my first Apple computer.
I was and am a long time patron of Windows. A lot of people were making fun of Microsoft and Windows, but it got the job done for me for years. I rarely had problems with virii and spyware due to my computing habits being pretty good. Each iteration of the operating system was backward compatible, which is no small feat (and which can’t be said about Macs). I have been using this MacBook Pro for about five days now.
Am I convert? Read on to find out.
You Had Me at Hello
Those famous words from the movie Jerry Maguire (a movie I have not seen yet) is a fitting first impression of the MacBook Pro. The size of the box in which UPS delivered the laptop was not in proportion to how light the box was. I opened it to see the laptop in a nicely packaged box with a handle on it. I opened that box to see the beautiful unibodied, aluminum MacBook Pro.
I took the power adapter out to plug it into my laptop to find it magnetically snapping onto it. I opened and closed the lid to find that it too was magnetic. I powered it on to notice the beautiful glossy screen which automatically adjusts the brightness to the amount of ambient light in the room. Then I noticed that the keyboard was also illuminated.
I have never seen such attention to detail in a computer. From the presentation of the packaging to the design of the unit itself, the laptop had me excited even before I started using it. The positive, feel good mood was already set before I started using the computer, and I wanted to like it more and more. I believe that this is a powerful force of why so many Apple fans are such fanatics. Just as the culinary arts stress the importance of presentation in food, the MacBook Pro gets a resounding A+ in this department. It truly is decorative art meets functional art.
So This is What Windows Vista Tried to Copy?
It took me no time to get used to the new operating system. I have been a Unix user in the past and have used many windows managers, so to me the operating system was just another windowing system running on top of Unix. However, the degree of control that Steve Jobs has over the look and feel and the functionality of the OS is what sets this baby apart. Everything is more polished. For example, on Windows when I copy a directory and it notices that a file with the same name already exists, it will prompt you asking if you want to replace or skip. Then it does what you told it to do, and then it will ask you the same question again if it finds another file that already exists. OS X seems to find all files that exists when you start the copy process and asks you for the action it should take for all the files that already exists. And then it starts copying the files. Anyone who has tried the time consuming task of copying a large number of files and then stepping away only to come back to see that it was not complete because the operating system was waiting for your input knows that this behavior in OS X is a nice touch. This is a small difference but this is the kind of attention to detail to which I am referring.
Underneath the system runs a powerful and secure Unix operating system, so you will have access to a shell terminal where your fingers can dance in joy at the command prompt. I have long since outgrown the command line snobbery, so I do not mess with it too much. But it is there if that is what you so desire. It also comes with iLife which makes the computer useful without having to buy additional software. If you want to access your Microsoft Windows file share and access the system remotely, that is also supported out of the box. Expose and screens (screen and window management with nice animation) are the two features that I find myself constantly using. Having such easy control over my workspace really increases my productivity. Windows Vista tried to mimic these features of OS X, but I find that OS X is more useful.
My favorite thing about the laptop is the multi-touch trackpad. It has been a joy to use. I do not like using the trackpad so I always end up connecting an external mouse to my laptops. However, with the MacBook Pro, I do not want to use the mouse. The multi-touch trackpad allows me to do everything without ever having to click or my hands ever having to be too far from the keyboard. Tap with two fingers is a right click, swipe with two fingers is a scroll, etc. Everything is intuitive and very convenient. The large buttonless trackpad with ample real estate really makes this thing a joy to use. I even edited and retouched photos using the trackpad, which would have been a practice in annoyance at best on another laptop.
That is not to say that it is not without its faults. I find that restoring deleted files from the trash is a pain. You see, it does not have a restore function. Once you delete something and decide you want to undelete it, you will have to go into the trashcan and manually copy it to the proper location. This can be a serious chore if you have many files you want to restore. I do not understand why such a basic function is not included. There are a few head scratchers like these. Another thing I missed was the ability to create a new file from the context menu. It has an option to create a new folder, but not a file. I am sure it is possible to add that option in the context menu somehow, but why is it missing in the first place? I realize what I say here kind of contradicts what I said about the extra attention to detail. Perhaps it was a conscious decision on the part of Apple? I just have not been able to figure out what that is as of yet.
The MacBook Pro comes installed with Bootcamp which allows you to boot to Windows located on another partition. However, there are some overheating issues when using Windows on the MacBook Pro due to the inability of Windows to control the fan speed. There are hacks to get around it by setting the fan speed in OS X and then rebooting to Windows, but that is a lot of hoops that you have to jump through for something that should just work. I was hoping to play some Windows games on it, but it looks like this will not be much of an option without risk of damage to the system. There is VM Ware and Parallels which lets me run Windows inside OS X, however, this is not optimal for games due to performance issues.
It does not bother me at all, but a lot of people have been complaining about the glossy screen because of its super-reflectivity. I also have one dead pixel on my screen which is pretty annoying seeing that I had to pay a premium to use an Apple product. However, a certain number of dead or stuck pixels is within tolerance level so they will not exchange it. It is just that when a company charges so much for their product because of its quality and luxury status, people have certain expectations. I would say not having any dead or stuck pixels ranks pretty high among them.
Finally, the last glaring fault I see with the laptop is its enormous price tag. I understand that it is a beautiful piece of hardware. I understand the extra attention to detail. I understand the build quality, but is it really worth $2,500? More if you pay sales tax on top if it. Similarly furbished Dell XPS laptops can be had for a little over $1,400. I do not think that the MacBook Pro is worth the extra $1,000 plus. I would not mind paying a few hundred extra, but Apple’s price is just ridiculously exorbitant.
Am I a convert? Yes and No. It is too expensive. Anyone who cares about getting a bang for a buck should stay well clear of the laptop because there is a lot you can do with an extra $1,000. However, if you can afford it, I highly recommend it. Using the laptop is more of an “experience” than any other computer I have used. With the level of extra attention to detail and the well polished presentation, Apple has tapped into certain intangibles. But just as a Toyota Corolla will get you from point A to B for years without a single hiccup, so will a cheaper Windows laptop. Just know that you are not paying extra for any extra features or functionality. The extra price you are paying is for the brand name — the same reason your girlfriends love their shoes from Prada and hand bags from Louis Vuitton.
Note: I just reviewed the late 2008 model, aluminum unibodied MacBook Pro @ 2.53 GHz, with 4 GB of RAM, 320 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive. Also, I would like to mention that I originally wanted the 7200 RPM hard drive, but I am happy with 5400 RPM hard drive as I have not felt that it is too slow. Additionally, opt for the 2.54 GHz instead of the 2.4 GHz because the 2.53 GHz chip has twice the amount of L2 cache (6 MB) which makes a significant difference. And I forgot to mention — it is extra quiet and screams even when running dozens of programs simultaneously.