David Every looks at the MacBook Pro

Specs you really care about? – If you’re a geek

Lots of people will parrot specs — this is more observation. I played with one, asked questions, and just dinked around. Here’s what I found out.

While Apple doesn’t have a party line for battery performance (yet), they will say they are hard at work getting numbers. By yanking the cool new magnetic cord (which takes a lot more force than you’d suspect, and leaps back to position at the slightest opportunity) the new machines said they had about 3:11 of battery life. I thought this was a little less than the current generation of PowerBook. However, I tried on a few Aluminums, and they showed numbers in the high 2’s (2:58 or so). And with the MacBook, the display was brighter (on full), it is far better performing (I couldn’t find a way to disable one-processor while on battery, or other tuning options). Of course that little time menu has never been horribly accurate for me. So I suspect things will get better over time, and the MacBook will outperform the current machines in both speed AND battery life.

The display looked brighter and better — but it was slightly lower resolution than the current 15″ PowerBook (at 1440 x 900 instead of 1440 x 960), but higher than the past generation Aluminums or Titanium’s. It also uses a double clasp lid-locking system like the 17″ Aluminums, but on the 15″. I think this is an improvement as I sometimes have problems getting the single clasp to latch, but didn’t on my 17″.

I also wanted to do a far from scientific “cooking genitals” test, and see how warm the machines were after continuous operation, while being charged. The MacBook felt substantially warm on the bottom and over the entire surface — this was a demo being pounded on continuously for hours. The Aluminum books I worked on felt a little cooler, but others I talked to describe theirs as being unbearably hot. While the MacBook was creeping above warm to hot, it wasn’t uncomfortable, and the MacBook felt substantially cooler than my 15″ Titanium PowerBook. It also was warmer over more area than the Titanium (more like an Aluminum Book). In general, the two hands underneath a few machines test were inconclusive. It felt like I could use the MacBook on my lap regularly, without cooking anything important. But it is probably going to take something a lot more scientific than two hands.

I also asked about the nerdy boot sequence stuff. It uses EFI the new Intel Standard that is not BIOS. Welcome to the new millennium. For network admins, it has something that behaves a lot like OpenFirmware — it allows them to lock out snooping users that want to dink with the firmware, or at least they changed that key sequence on me so this snooping user could do so. But I was told the new machines cannot only boot off FireWire but also USB devices (which I believe is new).

Since I was rebooting it a few times, I wanted to do some mental time tests on reboot. It was mixed. The machine took a lot longer to start booting. I think the self-test is slower, and since the machine was loaded with 2GB of RAM, that isn’t a huge surprise. But it was a lot slower at this than I thought it should be. Yet, once it gets the little Apple logo and the progress bar, the damn thing flies — fast. Very fast. It was probably like 20 seconds to get to Apple (as the idiot counts, “1001, 2002…”), then probably two or three seconds for everything else. It was so fast, I couldn’t get a good feel for it.

I sat around booting apps, and quitting them. It was frighteningly fast. Without doing the actual benchmarks (I didn’t have a both machines side-by-side), it was still perceptively faster. That usually means it is a whole lot faster. All in all, I was quite pleased with the machine and would gladly buy one and be an early adopter. You’d definitely get your money’s worth. However, if you’re patient and a value type buyer, there’s some things that hint that while this is a nice incremental bump to the current generation PowerBook, and I was left feeling that there is a little room for improvement that may be coming fairly soon (sooner than their normal refresh cycle of 12-18 months). But I wouldn’t let that hold me back from buying this generation; assuming you need an update, you’re not doing things that are completely performance intensive, and those things are not just Apple’s Universal Applications (like iLife).


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