Nemo Memo
What I Learned Last Night At the Local Apple Retail Store

A pleasant young woman greeted me and everyone who entered our Apple retail store in Tucson. Her job was to make us feel welcome, and to guard the MacBooks and iPods on the first pair of display tables. Rumors are this store was robbed recently, and the professional thieves only grabbed from those two tables, which were beyond the range of any video surveillance. No apparent robbers were evident at 7:30 last night.

She and I discussed the new MacBooks at length, while I was typing, clicking, and examining every aspect of one. I had done a lot of reading in preparation, so I wasn’t expecting many surprises. I found a few.

The most expensive black model is overpriced. Black doesn’t ring my chimes, and the physical surface shows smudges and fingerprints too easily for any frequent usage. The mid-priced model is best value for money and style, given the current initial lineup of three choices.

Front edge on all MacBooks is unpleasantly sharp, where the base of your palm will reside for thousands of hours. This is intentional design, facilitating magnet-tight closure of the case, but I hope some rounding or beveling modifications are done in future.

MacBooks may be ultra-cool, but they are physically warmer than I anticipated. Aren’t those Intel chips supposed to run much — oh, never mind.

Glossy displays are exceptional, in fact brighter, sharper, and clearer than on the MacBook Pro. Glare is a factor, so you MUST see one before you buy one.

Internal speakers are recessed behind the horizontal keyboard, providing reflected sound off the bottom of the vertical display bezel. Audio output is not loud, but it is accurate. Headphones and/or external speakers are necessary for serious listening. (For comparison, the 17″ MacBook Pro’s in-deck speakers are much louder, but not necessarily more accurate.)

I’m shocked that Apple gives MacBooks two built-in 265MB memory chips as standard equipment. I honestly thought the company wouldn’t play those cheap bait and switch games again, forcing intelligent buyers to throw away two perfectly good but mostly useless RAM sticks in order to have acceptable performance with a minimum of 1 GB of memory. Would it be so difficult and prohibitively expensive to provide a single 512MB chip, please?

During my remaining minutes in the store, I spent quality time with every new product since my last visit, several weeks earlier, beginning with iPod speaker systems. Most of them are stylish, but are inferior, overpriced, or both. It’s easy to compare output, because the same couple of dozen mostly mediocre songs are embedded on each iPod that is attached to every speaker.

You’ll have to spend more than $250 to purchase a decent quality iPod external speaker+dock from Klipsch, Bose, or Apple. I suppose that’s fair value, when your iPod typically costs that much or more. If you need specific recommendations, I’ll provide them, but again you NEED to hear for yourself before making such an important acquisition.

Grumble: why not have exactly the same songs on every iPod AND every display computer in the store? Computers have different playlists, not necessarily more interesting, but just different. This is stupid. What’s not stupid is buying a set of Sound Sticks by Harman Kardon. They are still the best value for superior audio, still exciting to have in your home or office, and still without an iPod dock, which is not much of a handicap.

iMacs and Mac laptops are in great evidence, but Mac mini and G5 tower computers are second class citizens, for visual impact on potential purchasers. Carrying cases and software are plentiful at the rear bookcase racks, but books are scarce, and seem to be entirely published by Peachpit Press (that’s not a complaint, merely a pointed observation).

Apple consistently has the busiest activity in our La Encantada shopping mall here in Tucson, Arizona, USA. This store is well managed, and I refer many people to it. They are almost always satisfied. Being able to try-before-you-buy is a huge benefit to our local Macintosh community, and we thank Apple for providing it.


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