I’ve been using the MacBook Pro I introduced in my [previous blog entry] for a few weeks now.
Between love and frustration I hang…
Here is a review of our relationship so far.
Whether running OS/X or Windows 2008 I’ve got no major complaint about the performance of the machine.
It’s fast, stable (except sometimes it’s not waking up from sleep or it does but the screen remains black). The screen is nice and vibrant, I just love the magnetic power connector and the small size of the power adapter.
I have a few complaints though, see below.
###OSX battery Power usage###
For such a large and powerful laptop I’m pleasantly surprised with the duration of the battery under OSX: I’ve been able to watch videos for 3h, full screen, without trouble and overheating (although I would lower the screen brightness to reduce consumption).
I haven’t had such luck under Windows 2008 where I’ve been struggling to find the right power settings balance, but remember that’s a server OS and it’s not really meant to be run on a laptop.
You wonder why Apple, in all its hardware expertise could design the mighty-mouse with a single big button that can still do right-clicking but can’t give us the same thing with the enormous single-button of the trackpad.
Now the new models -just released this week- have done away with the button entirely, which may be just as well although I’m curious about how well the drivers will work under Windows.
Mouse acceleration in OSX is pretty frustrating to me.
When you’ve got a large screen, you’re endlessly shuffling the mouse to get that pointer in the right place. It feels slow, inaccurate and is extremely irritating after a while.
The problem is even worse when you’re working in OSX under VMware Fusion: while it might still be usable under OSX, the difference is really severe and unnatural in Windows.
This does not happen under bootcamp though where mouse acceleration behaves as you would expect (for windows).
I’ve tried a number of utilities ([iMouse][imouse] , [SteerMouse][steermouse] and others) but none gave me what I needed.
The keyboard feels great to type on, with a nice spring and softness.
There are a few issues though:
Why is the Return key so small compared to the right Shift?
The rule is that the more a key is used, the bigger it is, yet the Enter is rather small, it’s the same size as the caps lock which serves almost no useful purpose in comparison.
The arrow keys are also minuscule, another probable example of Apple choosing form over function.
The lack of delete key forces you to type both the `fn` + `backspace` keys instead, which is an unnecessary pain, it’s not like understanding the difference between `delete` and `backspace` is _that_ confusing to people using a complex machine like a computer.
I love the way the hooks for the lid come out just when you close it. It makes for a neat screen without protruding bits of metal or plastic.
My main issue with the lid is with its limited opening angle: if you’re just a little tall and you place your laptop on your lap then there is no way to open the screen enough to have it properly face you.
This is also an issue if you place your Macbook Pro on a cooling pad or a riser that’ll put the laptop too vertical (for instance to free some space around it when using an external keyboard): you just can’t use these devices.
That one really makes me mad: the MacBook Pro has audio issues that you won’t even find in a US$15 MP3 player and it’s totally unacceptable.
When idle, I can hear hissing sounds that vary in power and frequency if I slide the volume control; when playing music, there is a lot of noise and “cutting” sounds between songs.
These are not noticeable when using the integrated speakers but,they become really annoying once you use earphones.
I am sorely disappointed with sound quality to say the least.
On top of the annoying sounds from the sound chipset, the LCD inverter also makes a hissing sound that increases in volume when I lower the LCD brightness…
Coupled with that, the processor also makes a hissing noise when it gets into its C4 power saving state…
The noise is probably not high enough to get the laptop fixed but it might be great as a mosquito repellent.
Apple knows best and they know that your only aim in life is to become a poster boy for the brand.
When booting/rebooting your mac, it likes to play its welcome song that says “hey, over here, I’m a mac and I’m telling the world I’m booting up. Everyone listen how awesome I am!”.
The perverse thing is that even if you have earphones plugged in (as in: you don’t want to disturb people around you) the boot song will be played on the speakers…
Of course, there is no option anywhere to disable it.
Apple knows best.
After much trials, I found that booting under OSX, lowering the volume to zero, then rebooting under windows and changing the volume there would be OK: no more booting song -at least for now- and I can still change the volume in OSX and Windows.
Would I buy a Mac again knowing what I know now?
Mmmm, probably _not_.
I find the annoyances a bit too much relative to my expectations and my usage scenario.
To be fair, it’s not all bad and most of the time I’m happy with my mac but I find myself trying to avoid the things that infuriate me and it’s not really what I want from a laptop; it’s supposed to liberate me and give me the freedom I need to get things done, not get in the way.
Re-adapting to a strangely layout keyboard, having to deal with Apple’s brand awareness arrogance, battling with stuff that you just normally take for granted, all this is a bit too much of a price to pay for what is essentially for me a Windows development machine.
I prefer to waste my time actually getting things done rather than searching forums on how to keep Windows and OSX time in sync or bring back my machine for repair if a CD stays stuck in the CD Drive.
So, let’s say that our relationship is more ambivalent than needed to be.
Other links to pages of interest.
* [Things that suck about Mac OS X]
* [Mac OS X annoyances: What’s up with the mouse acceleration?][mouse1]
* [A manual setting to change the speed factor in OSX][mouse2]
* The [Steermouse][steermouse] driver to unleash your mouse in OSX
* The [iMouse][imouse] utility to correct pointer acceleration in OSX.
* Another mouse utility called [iMouse][imousewin], for performing right-clicking in Windows this time.
I’ve also struggled the last 3 days with installing Windows Vista (32 and 64 bits versions) and it was not always as smooth as you would hope, but I like to share some experiences here, maybe it helps somebody else: A right mouse click could be done pressing two fingers on the track pad and then click the trackpad button. BTW, I also noticed this works in OSX (where you can also use CTRL-Right click). The sound cracks but as far as I found out, this only happens when your WLAN is turned on. Of course, this is unwanted behaviour, but I guess new drivers could fix this in the future. Make sure you reserve enough partition space for Windows when setting up Bootcamp. 32 GB is a good minimum I would say. Although it is possible to backup/restore your Windows partition (using a program like WinClone) and increase its size, I didn’t manage to do this successfully. I’ve tried Vista 64 bits but I’m not sure if it really adds performance (I tend to think so, but I’m not sure). IE7 also exists in a 64 bits version then, but things like Flash player are not available. Also, I noticed difficulties when installing Java in the \Program Files (x86) directory (which it does by default). So finally I switched back to the 32 bits version. With Parallels (I haven’t tried VMWare Fusion yet) you can boot the natively installed Vista in a virtual machine, but then the hardware changes and one of the things I’ve found out, is that Windows wants to re-activate then because it discovers hardware changes. Of course this is unwanted behaviour, anyone also experienced this or knows a solution? Performance in general seems to be very good. The Vista performance index is 4,8 at my MacBook Pro (Early 2008 version).
Hi Walter, I just found out that your comment was wrongly marked as spam. Thanks for the comments. I tried disabling the WLAN to see if it was improving my audio issues but alas, it’s not having any impact. I’m still hearing harmonics when changing the volume and noise, cracks and pops when listening to audio…
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