Wednesday, October 17, 2007

MacBook Pro: first impressions

As predicted last week, I bought a 17" MacBook Pro when I dropped my PowerBook G4 in for repairs. I've had it for almost a week, so I am ready to make some observations about my first impressions.

Physically, and although I don't have them side-by-side at the moment, they're pretty similar. The MacBook Pro certainly slips straight into the same carry bag I was using for the PowerBook, for example. There are some nice improvements:
  • The MagSafe power connector on the MacBook Pro is brilliant. I never quite tripped over the PowerBook's cable and caused any damage, but I came close several times.
  • The built-in iSight camera is hardly a necessity, but it's nice to have. Everyone who walks by the MacBook Pro, for example, gets a picture taken for their Address Book entry. Even cooler, I finally had a reason to purchase Delicious Library, and I've started scanning in my library. (I don't expect too many people to find that prospect as cool as I do.)
  • I opted for the standard 17" display (matte, 1680 x 1050 pixels), and there's noticeably more screen real estate compared to the PowerBook's 1440 x 900 (if I recall those dimensions correctly—it's still at the shop). I've had to increase the default font size on more than one application.
As it turns out, although I had little choice given my PowerBook had died, at least temporarily, I purchased the MacBook Pro at a somewhat unfortunate time: Leopard has now just been announced as shipping on October 26. Daring Fireball seems to be claiming that Apple (in the US, at least) will provide free upgrades for machines purchased on or after October 1. It will be interesting to see if this applies in Australia.

The new machine shipped with iLife '08. I make some use of iMovie for importing and editing HDV video, so it will be interesting to see how this compares to iMovie HD '06. There have apparently been good and bad reviews. It also ships with some trial versions of various software:
  • iWork '08, including Numbers. With an application that can open Microsoft Excel documents, I should finally be able to dump Microsoft Office once and for all.
  • Microsoft Office—I suspect I'll be uninstalling this real soon now.
  • Aperture. I had a brief look at Adobe Photoshop Lightroom when it was in public beta. I liked it, but never had an opportunity to try out Aperture. I suspect that since Apple has pre-installed a fully-functional 30-day trial version, I'll be hooked by the end of the month and end up buying Aperture. Bad luck Adobe.
I'll quickly make a kind of orphaned observation which is neither positive nor negative: the fan (when it ramps up, and it's only done so doing some RAW image processing with Aperture) is louder. I presume the Intel CPU just runs hotter than the PowerPC.

I've already accumulated a few negatives, and they're potentially big ones. I sensibly opted for the extended warranty plan this time.
  • The display completely froze, and the machine became unresponsive (at least to the keyboard and mouse—it would be interesting to try to contact it over the LAN) on two occasions now. I was doing nothing in particular at the time. I need to do some Google work on this, but if it happens too many more times (for some value of "too many"), it's going back.
  • There have been two or three episodes of what one might call "sleep-wake confusion". For example, I've closed the lid, and I can see the display is still on. Or, I'll open the lid, and the display stays blank and the front indicator light keeps flashing as if it's still asleep. It will usually recover, but once it required a power-cycle. Again, I'm going to have a low threshold for return if this continues.
  • The keyboard seems subtly different in ways I can't quite describe, but I keep missing keys, and some seem a little sticky. To be honest, I pretty much hated the PowerBook's keyboard when I first got it. Hopefully I'll break this one in.
The PowerBook's demise has an interesting post-script, which I'll get to in another post.


  1. The freezing sounds like a problem, so you should run a RAM test using the firmware CD that came with the machine.

    I had the sleep-wake problem a couple of times, so I lost confidence and set it to wake only on keypress.

    You do seem to be a bit of a shit-magnet for computer problems.

    When buying labs of Apple gear, I noticed that the problem Macs kept on being problems despite going back for repair several times.

  2. You bitched about the keyboard.

  3. I also think the keyboard is a bit sticky at times. Seems to miss the first keystroke many times. Getting a bit annoying. I am hoping a bit more use will clear it, but not sure if it is an OS issue that will be fixed soon.