New MBP - a mini-review.

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by dpope, Dec 2, 2006.

  1. dpope macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    #1
    I just got my new MacBook Pro 10 days ago or so and have been meaning to write about it since then. I hope this will be useful for people trying to decide whether or not to get a MacBook Pro, particularly those coming from a Linux background.

    First, I should say that I spent a long time researching the MBP (and trying to descide between an MB and an MBP) and, when I went to buy it, I asked them to let me try it out first to make sure it had none of the problems that I had read so much about. I would recommend anyone investing 2K euro/dollars on a laptop do this.

    Now to my opinions. So far I'm really enjoying this laptop. It hasn't had any of the problems that I've heard about (and I'm hoping it stays that way) and also meets all the criteria I was hoping for. Its very nicely built, it looks wonderful, I find it very portable. My previous laptop was a 17" Sony Vaio (which I still have) with a wonderful screen. I do feel I've downgraded screen wise but now I actually have a _laptop_, not a portable desktop. I think the size and feel of the 15" is just right for someone who uses their laptop a lot and yet needs portability. I carry it to work and back in my backpack and also carry it round town to work in a cafe and have no problem with the weight. I also find the battery life quite good, especially compared to my last laptop.

    Performance wise I actually do _not_ find it to be spectacular but that's probably because I had unreasonably high expectations. Still, except when there's some kind of software glitch it is very fast. I haven't really compiled anything on it, not even LaTeX files (which is what i would normally compile nowadays), so its hard to judge really. Screen-wise its not bad though my 17" sony was better quality (and not just because its larger). They are both glossy but my sony has no color or other distortion if viewed from weird angles while the colors look quite different on the MBP if looked at from the side. Also the MBP screen does have uneven brightness which is not noticable unless you really look for it but the sony screen has no such issues. Overall the MBP screen is fine since I usually just look at it head on and adjust the screen to get a good angle but sony definately beats apple here.

    I have not had any problem so far with heat and noise. My sony, despite being quite a nice (mega) laptop overall (and two years old) often sounds like an airplane, particularly when I have nifty 3d desktop effects in beryl/compiz (Linux opengl desktops). The MBP on the other hand only ever makes any noise if there's a CD in the drive. It feels quite warm at the base when I touch it there but I use it on my lap a lot and it just feels comfortably warm. I probably wouldn't advice putting it on your naked lap and I'm a bit concerned as to how it will feel in the summer but for now I find its heat output quite bearable. I often use it in bed and it does not get uncomfortable.

    I have only a few complaints hardware wise. First, I don't like the feel of the keyboard at all. The keys are squishy and sometimes I'm not even sure I've pressed a key. This is quite different than the keyboard on my sony which was very crisp and comfortable. This is quite annoying (especially one or two keys which don't even feel like they press down properly) but I guess I'll have to learn to live with it. My second main gripe is the tilt angle of the display. I've heard that the MBP displays tilt back to 135 degrees and perhaps this is true but its really not enough. On a desk this is bearable but when I'm using it on my lap I often am sitting over the laptop so I want the screen to tilt back a lot more. My sony used to go back as much as I cared to push it and it was never an issue. Another annoying thing is that the resistance builds up as you tilt it back, particularly the last 15 deg or so (I'm guessing) so for a while I didn't even know that it would go back further. Ever since I discovered this I'm never sure if its at its maximum tilt or if I should apply more pressure - I'm also always worried about breaking it this way. A powerbook owner also told me her display became wiggly after a year or two so I'm worried that pushing too hard will induce this.

    So overall I'm very happy with my purchase _hardware_ wise. Unfortanately I can't say the same thing about OS X. I'm sure many Mac people out there won't appreciate hearing this but, after having bought a Mac with the intent of switching to OS X as a more usable version of Unix, I am now more convinced then ever that Linux is the best OS there is - certainly its the best OS for _me_. To avoid turning this to flamebait let me qualify this further. I've been using Linux as my main OS since 1996 or so (I usually have windows lying around somewhere but never use it). In the last few years I saw a few things go downhill particularly regarding stability. My needs also changed as I switched from being a primarily desktop user to a primarily laptop user and I was annoying that Linux didn't have very good supsend/hibernate support. I recently switched from the venerable and lovable slackware to Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED) which is very well packaged and integrates most of the same features that are found on Winblows or OS X while maintaining linux's transparency and configurability. With Beryl/Compiz Linux now has desktop graphics effects that surpass OS X (I've used both and can attest to this) though they are not very deeply integrated into the OS - animaitons are mostly window level rather than application level. Since my sony 17" was too large and had limited battery life I thought I would get a new laptop, and, since the MBPs looked so delicious I figured I'd try out OS X and see if it can replace linux. Having tried it for 10 days I don't think it can though I'm going to try and stick with it for a while longer. I'm going to try and avoid installing linux over christmas break but the temptation is quite strong - one thing OS X does shine in is that it requires a lot less time to get it to just get all the hardware working.

    Although OS X is very nicely integrated (or maybe because of that) its quite uncomfortable for a linux user like myself. Its very hard to customize things to work the way I want. Alt-tabbing is one such example, as it focus-follows-mouse. Unix has a modular application philosophy that lets you pick how to mix different applications. So I could use gvim to edit Tex files and xdvi to view them and using Latex-vim I can do everything TeXshop can in OS X (and more) while sticking with vi as an editor. I've been trying to do this in OS X for over a week without much success. I can run everything directly in X11 but that's very ugly on OS X and it doesn't integrate very well with the rest of the OS.

    Although I have a lot more to say about OS X vs Linux I won't for now because this is already a very long post. Perhaps in a future post.

    Feel free to ask any questions or respond with comments.
     
  2. dpaanlka macrumors 601

    dpaanlka

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Illinois
    #2
    I feel sorry for you if you think Linux is *better* than OS X (or even Windows for that matter). I've definitely lost all hope for Linux being a desktop OS, and now consider it nothing more than a geek OS.
     
  3. clevin macrumors G3

    clevin

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2006
    #3
    i'd agree MB/MBP's LCD isn't that good, I never used a SONY, so have no comment on VAIO.

    and yes, MB/MBP, even Mac MINI for that matter, is very quiet

    About Linux, I would say you should give more time to OSX before making judgement, I know as you have been using
    Linux for 10 years, you will find OSX to be little strange consider its a unix-like structure, lol. maybe also less free and flexible as linux. but hey, you can always get a duel system, im sure thats doable. I know YelowDog used to resale apple machines with duel system.
     
  4. Garden Knowm macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2006
    Location:
    California
    #4
    A design flaw having the firewire ports where I use my mouse (righ hand side).... I have already accidentaly banged the firewire 800 port while connected to an external hardrive and lost connection..... and I get the dreaded error message... this is not something ONE wants to see while working in FCP....

    Obviously this would not be a place to put a firewire port on a pro machine..

    iloveyou


    THE MACHINE, C2D 17 inch is AMAZING besides this design flaw...
     
  5. dpope thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    #5
    I tried to qualify my comment but I suppose it was too much to hope that this would not be seen as flamebait. Linux is the best OS for _me_. I am a geek and just getting OS X to do the things I want it to do has taken a lot of my time. The same time that, in Linux, I would probably spend getting all the hardware to work well. The point is that I had hoped to not have to waste this sort of time getting OS X to just run the way I want it to.

    Actually, a more relevant point, particularly for people who've only used OS X, is that OS X was not that different than Linux. I would like to think of OS X as the nicest, most smoothly integrated *nix distribution but I think Apple horribly crippled it by intentionally dumbing down the interface when they could have easily added features that would make power users more happy. It would have been very easy to make alt-tabbing more configurable, to more tightly integrate their application launcher system with the command line, to just add more options everywhere. They could have done this all without sacrificing simplicity by simply having an overall setting like "User Level" which would range from Novice to Pro and which would control how sophisticated a set of options users are presented with. I think this would really have helped apple win over the Linux/Unix market which is not a small market (relative to Apple's own market, anyway).

    I will keep OS X no matter what (I kept windows around on my old laptops just in case) but I'm also trying to avoid installing Linux since I would like to avoid spending unnecassary time configuring and playing with my system. Please don't be confused by this tweaking (i.e. trying out new alpha linux software as its developed or getting barely supported hardware to work) and just being able to have my desktop setup in a way that maximizes my productivity (which is something I think is worth spending your time on and something I can't seem to get OS X to do). I miss virtual desktops, focus follows mouse, real alt-tabbing, real window raise-lower, and completely configurable shortcuts.

    Finally, regarding Linux or OS X being better, I have one more comment. Apple and OS X have to support at most 10-15 different hardware configurations that they develop themselves, they have a suite of very tightly integrated applications that allow very little flexibility on the part of the user, and they have a considerable budget with which to do all this. Linux on the other hand runs on almost any processor/hardware environment designed, has an ungodly number of desktops environments, graphics APIs, etc... Hardware support is generally very good except when vendors intentionally refuse to provide specs or good drivers or if the hardware is esoteric enough. This wonderful flexibility is why some people, such as myself, like it so much. We can keep trying and mixing different things until we find exactly what we like. Of course for novice users this is not really ideal and this same flexibility is probably why you say linux is a failure as a desktop OS. For desktop linux what is needed is someone to pick a very specific set of software and integrate and support it well. Novell is already going in this direction. If they also pick a few fixed hardware platforms and focus their efforts on this I think you will find a system that looks as clean and tightly knit as OS X. Of course the difference there is that you should, in principle, still be able to modify those systems to augment them using any standard linux stuff. Apple could have also made this possible but unfortunately they haven't.
     
  6. dpaanlka macrumors 601

    dpaanlka

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Illinois
    #6
    Pretty much every reason you just gave for using Linux is Linux is far from touching Windows and OS X for the desktop. You're confusing a user that wants to have the ability to configure every little nit-pick thing, while sacrificing overall usability, refinement, and capability... with "power user."

    But, of course, that is perfectly fine for _you_ and we're all glad you gave Apple your money.
     
  7. clevin macrumors G3

    clevin

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2006
    #7
    Well, my friend, I would suggest this exchange stop here, This is MR forums, and you need to understand most user here are not really have passion nor enough knowledge about linux. and some user, for the passion, will never agree any other OS actually have advantages over OSX. so arguing will not result in any improvement for both side, and eventually both side feel angry, lol, I learned this previously, and I would suggest you to do the same, lol, afterall, the comparison of linux/OSX/windows is not something anybody can explain in 2000 words.
     
  8. Ryan1524 macrumors 65816

    Ryan1524

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2003
    Location:
    Canada GTA
    #8
    I can feel the tension rising in this thread. ;)

    Honestly, I can understand where you're coming from, especially since you have used Linux for 10 years, being restricted from at least half the user-configurability that used to be in linux must be a little frustrating.

    I've recently been exposed to a lot of Linux. My buddy decided to install Ubuntu and try out Beryl (under my suggestion). So i get to watch and help him troubleshoot. To be quite honest, I must admit that Beryl/Compiz is lightyears ahead of OSX in terms of eye candy and customizability. (if you have never used Beryl before, the level of customizability goes all the way down to deciding how jiggly you want your window to be + every single physics variable can be manipulated). I can only hope Apple would beef up the eye candy in Leopard a little bit.

    The reason i say eye candy is because, while i was impressed by it, i also realzied that the said effects are really unnecessary. For example, i turned off the magnification effect on my dock cause i find it irritating. It added nothing to my productivity other than being pretty. I fear that Beryl/Compiz's benefits will only go as far as making me 'like' my computer more. Some people might say this will make me more productive, but i'm not so sure. lol.

    As for customizability, you are sso RIGHT about Apple giving us an option oh how transparent the system is. However, there's two considerations here: they've gone through great lengths to make the system very easy and intuitive, it would take double that amount to know where to draw the line when it comes to giving users limits to system access. which parts should be protected no matter what or which parts should be open. Not to mention the concern of people copying their codes if it's all open. Second consideration is that people who go to OSX normally don't care much to tinker. I'm a geek/nerd/comp-whiz myself, so tinkering with soemthing like Linux can be a huge hobby for me, but at the same time, at the end of the day, when i wanna work, i go back to OSX.

    The reason i'm not convinced Linux is the right choice for me, and for a lot of the more typical mac user was demonstrated a few days ago when my buddy's comp became completely useless cause his tinkering has led to him destroying his Master Boot Record. It took him two days to find a fix for it. Not only that, the initial setup to get things to an acceptable level took about 36 hours - then it crashed and he had to re-install everything again from scratch. lol.

    I'd say Linux is awesome to play with, and it's got a lot of powerful stuff in it, but i'd never make it my primary OS. You on the other hand probly can, cause you're experienced enough to tackle most of the obstacles that would take me a few more months to learn. :eek: Once my exams are done, and i get my nicer GPU back from another computer, I'm definitely gonna play with linux again.
     
  9. dpaanlka macrumors 601

    dpaanlka

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Illinois
    #9
    Honestly, Beryl is not light-years ahead of anything. It's just more intense use of OpenGL than Quartz Extreme. Beryl, in my opinion, is just way too much. It's overkill. Does every single object really need to twirl and flip constantly? The whole thing feels like a distracting, childish game.

    Mac OS X is subdued. There is refinement and elegance in simplicity. I would never want my OS to act the way Beryl does.

    You can watch a video of Beryl here.
     
  10. Pili macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2005
    Location:
    Orlando/Miami, FL
    #10
    When you start looking around there actually a number of applications and haxies that enable you to change the look and feel of os x and most are setup to so that they have a backup and going back to the default is pretty easy.

    There is shapeshifter which allow you to modify most parts of the gui for what you want.

    Than there are haxies like windowshade and witch which allow you to change some of the functions of hot keys and minimizing.

    There is also tinker tool which gives you some options as far as customization that are only otherwise accessible through the command line.

    There are tons more, those are just some of the ones i can think of off the top of my head.
     
  11. clevin macrumors G3

    clevin

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2006
    #11
    they mostly cost $$$, which is not acceptable for linux user, lol
     
  12. Pili macrumors regular

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    Nov 1, 2005
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    Orlando/Miami, FL
    #12
    Well lol, you do have a point but it can be done haha.

    Witch and tinkertool are free though i believe.
     
  13. ero87 macrumors 65816

    ero87

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    #13
    woah, Beryl is annoying-looking! I too am glad that OSX doesn't look like that.
     
  14. dpope thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    #14
    Well, I have no intention of raising the tension level anymore. Please remember that the main post of my thread was to compliment the hardware and to advice people similar to myself (experienced linux users) that, despite first impressions, maybe OS X is not for them.

    Thanks for all the info and comments. I'm playing around with haxies and what not trying to get OS X to run the way I want it. And yes, I won't pay money for stuff (except maybe I'll support some OSS projects) ;-> And yes, Beryl is way too much eye candy and OS X's subdued interface is much more practical - Beryl is more a proof of concept (I hope). The best features from Beryl are already in OS X. And no, when I said tweaking I meant for productivity - virtual windows, flexible keybindings, arbitrary application integration (via command line, etc...) not just i* products.

    Anyway, the main two points of the thread (and then people can go back to flaming me and each other if they feel like it):

    - Hardware is very nice and I'm enjoying it.

    - OS X is not all I had hoped for and (please note qualification) I would not really recommend it to an experienced Linux user (at least I would not recommend basing a purchase descision on it). Of course I think OS X is much better for me and others than windows ever could be.

    Just to point out: I don't regret getting this wonderful toy and I'm okay with giving Apple my money.

    cheers all
     
  15. smacman macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2006
    #15
    dpope,

    I personally enjoyed reading your review and I feel that everything you said is fair and accurate. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    smacman (not smart enough to learn linux)
     
  16. MacGuffin macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    #16
    Well then, that's settled. Many, many large companies have been holding their breath to see if they should drop Linux, and this will pretty much change the course of history. :p
     
  17. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #17
    Well, I've always thought that OS X is best either appreciated as-is or not at all...but good luck to you! If it puts you in better company, Linus was / is running Linux on a Powermac / Mac Pro....
     
  18. dpaanlka macrumors 601

    dpaanlka

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Illinois
    #18
    Well... can you, or anybody else, show me any reason why Linux as a desktop OS should be used instead of Windows or OS X? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. So far the main reasons pointed to have been customization and configuration. Heck, Beyrl was pointed to as an example! Now what company anywhere wants to deal with this on a desktop level? Sacrificing application and hardware support for the sake of customization is hardly a reason Linux is a better desktop OS than Windows or OS X.

    Furthermore, I don't think any major company uses Linux as a desktop OS anyway. Can you name any? (Linux servers are not being used as a desktop OS)
     
  19. Diatribe macrumors 601

    Diatribe

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2004
    Location:
    Back in the motherland
    #19
    Thanks for the review. As a die hard Linux person it might be hard to adjust to the limits of OS X but keep in mind it is not supposed to be that customizable.

    Anyway, about your keyboard comment... the MacBookPro keyboard is actually the nicest keyboard I have ever used, so smooth, big keys. So this is clearly different from person to person although I have heard more people say they love it than the other way around.
     
  20. Ryan1524 macrumors 65816

    Ryan1524

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2003
    Location:
    Canada GTA
    #20
    Well, yea, Beryl is definitely over-the-top. But the fact that the system is in place is a good thing. I'm sure apple or users, given the choice can customize beryl-like eye-candy to something elegant and pleasing. And don't tell me eye-candy is not important. it adds to the organic feel of the OS. You just gotta know when to stop. Just look at Time Machine, or Keynote's animations, or Expose. I'd rather have the option, and turn it off if i'm tired of it, then none at all.
     
  21. dpaanlka macrumors 601

    dpaanlka

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    Nov 16, 2004
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    Illinois
    #21
    Honestly now, Expose hardly compares to Beryl in terms of crazy zany childish actions. Keynote animations? Well, you have to add those yourself.
     
  22. symlink macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2005
    #22
    Are you using your computer for work? or just messing around with user configurations? like desktop settings, etc.?
     
  23. jeremy.king macrumors 603

    jeremy.king

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    Jul 23, 2002
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    Fuquay Varina, NC
    #23
    Not going to touch the Linux vs. Mac OS debate, but wanted to say your so-called review came off pretty negatively to me whilst trying to compliment the hardware...Comments about squishy keyboard, lackluster performance, poor display viewing angle, uneven backlight and constantly comparing it to your seemingly perfect Sony seems like you were indeed trying to bash the MBP. But it could just be me...
     
  24. dpope thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    #24
    Thanks to everyone with a thoughtful comment. I'm glad my review was useful/enjoyable to some.

    I did not intend my review to come off lackluster but balanced. I just spent a lot of money on this thing and I want others who are considering it to know what they are getting into. My sony has lots of faults - its way too big (much heavier than the 17" MBP), it has a very short battery life, the processor fan spins on and off like an airplane turbine when 3d effects are running and it is, of course, much slower than the MBP. On the other hand it has some very nice features - excellent keyboard and one of the best laptops display I have ever seen (this was the main reason I got it and everyone is amazed when they see it). Remember they are both top-of-the-line laptops so they should both be very good. If it helps convince you ... I don't think i'll ever buy a sony laptop again even though I still think they make some of the best displays.

    I did, after all, dish out ~2k euros only two years after getting my sony in order to replace it with this MBP. I really like my new toy and guard it jealously. It does, however, also have flaws. Some, like the screen have been discussed extensively on various threads by die hard mac fans who say apple should make better screens. Others, like the keyboard are personal but I wanted to point them out (my keyboard also squeeks when I hit the keys sometimes, like now, does this happen to anyone else?). Incidentally I have not found the backlighting to be a problem - I've just heard about it so i wanted to mention it - but the display angle is annoying for me when I work with it. It was not fair of me to comment on the performance since I haven't done any objective benchmarks... i guess I just compared it to the floor models I've seen that launch firefox in one bounce whereas mine sometimes takes 2-3 bounces. The difference is of course due to having a bunch of other applications running and only having 1 gig of RAM. I also haven't compiled anything on this machine and that's where the real speed test comes in.

    Perhaps it was a mistake to make the OS X/Linux comment but since it was an important part of my desire to get a Mac (though by no means the only reason) I also wanted to point it out, particularly for others from a similar background. Even if I do install Linux I will probably keep using both which is not something I ever considered with windows. OS X is usable for me ... there are just a lot of things I would like to change. In case I haven't emphasized it enough ... I am (so far) very happy with the Mac Book Pro.
     
  25. emotion macrumors 68040

    emotion

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2004
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    #25
    I've used linux on desktops and servers since 1994. I've always displiked the clunkiness of linux on the desktop (no matter what window manager I use). I just want to get on with the task at hand (and that task isn't messing with computers), linux get's in the way of that and OSX doesn't.

    The OP has had time to get used to linux/x11 but OSX also needs time to get used to.

    For example, the request for real alt-tabbing is just because the alt-tabbing is different. You alt-tab to an application and then apple-shift-~ around the open windows for that app. Or use Expose (which in small screens is a godsend).
     

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