Review: MacBook Pro 13″

Why a Mac?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What for one is “one large depressing metallic greyathon”, is the dawning of a sleek, professional-looking era to another. I belong to this latter category, even though it is purely coincidental that my switch to Mac has occurred in precisely this time.

Whether one deems a Macintosh “expensive” is of course a very personal matter. I bought a MacBook Pro for a very simple reason: I needed a laptop; I did not want one with Windows or Linux; Haiku and Chrome (Google’s Linux) are still too premature. I have always had a distinct preference for the Mac OS, but I was never able to overcome the financial barrier attached to buying a computer for which the operating system is officially designed. I overcame the price tag and was willing to make the investment. Truth is that I could almost not be happier with the way my aluminum-and-glass machine looks.

Before I threw money at Apple, I wanted to orientate myself on the merchandise they were offering. In the store of one premium reseller, it immediately became clear that the silky-smooth multi-touch trackpad of the MacBook Pro is worth the extra money over a MacBook with its rough touchpad. Yet would a 13″ screen suffice? In the end I felt that its advantages outweighed the perfect 15″ choice. It has a lighter weight, a more compact size, and it can do everything a 15″ does. It’s fine for watching movies, reading PDFs, and doing word processing (just set it to 150% zoom).
The list of unique features and benefits that this laptop has over a generic €~400 laptop is extensive. So let me just go over them, one by one, while pointing out also what should have been done differently.

Multi-touch trackpad

Let’s start with the feature that lured me into buying a Pro; its multi-touch trackpad. But was it really worth the 200 extra Euros? I would definitely say so. There are no buttons, just one rectangular area that you can depress (though I prefer tapping), and you can dedicate a corner to simulate the right mouse button (though a two-finger tap gets you the same result).

After you get used to its controls, the things you can do inside one small rectangle using just one hand is magnificent! I do not even wish to go back to hassling with mice. Just the basic operations like moving the cursor around, selecting items, scrolling and right-clicking (you’ll be amazed at how often a day you actually perform this latter action) can all be done with one or two fingers. There are many more things you can do with it that makes computing just that more comfortable and intuitive.

Selection of ports

Looking at other people’s laptops nowadays, I can’t help but notice how much the hideous bright blue DVI connector draws the attention, especially on jet-black laptops. Instead, I have a row of gaps in my metallic casing that is perfect for me. With the MacBook Air, I would certainly miss some of them, while the only thing this far more expensive machine has going for it, is that it weighs only three pounds instead of four and a half.

As with other laptops, at the top-left side is a power connector. Let me first explain my history with laptop power connectors. Years ago I had a Dell laptop that worked perfectly fine, except its power connector got worse and worse. First I could only get it to work with the connector resting on an inch-thick pile of books, later it just refused to connect at all. I ended up taking it apart trying to fix the power connector, but to no avail. Gone was my otherwise perfectly fine laptop. Even though I treat my MacBook Pro with great care, I already tore out the power connector twice by tripping over the cable or moving the laptop farther than the cable was long. But no harm done; the MagSafe power connector disconnects pretty easily and will never break, because it’s connected using a magnet. Considering my past experiences, for me this is of course great news.

Next to the MagSafe power connector is an Ethernet port (I will get WLAN in December); a Firewire 400/800 port (backing up using TimeMachine at 800 Mbit/s is cool); a Mini DisplayPort (so I can connect to VGA, DVI and HDMI using overpriced cables); 2 USB ports (for my printer and a memory stick); a very fast SD-card slot (great news if you do a lot of photography like me), and an audio in/out port (which I use both for my headphones and to make crude recordings with a keyboard). The only downside to the audio in/out port is that it always takes a few seconds to realize something got plugged in.

On the right side of the MacBook Pro is a DVD drive opening. I’ve had one of the first drives like these in my PC and even though it does away with the tray, these drives definitely are more susceptible to collecting dust inside. I’m hoping that this won’t happen too much. Also, where is that small gap to forcefully eject a disc with a paper clip in case the eject mechanism fails? Every time I put a disc in, I hope it will come out. Next to the DVD drive is a Kensington lock slot (to make sure it does not get nicked), which I find a basic necessity on expensive machines like this one. The infrared port is the only one I actually don’t use as I don’t use an Apple Remote.
Regarding the “invisible ports” of the MacBook Pro, Bluetooth works like a charm and has a very intuitive interface, while AirPort is just adequate. It does by far not pick up on the amount of networks that many other laptops do see. Connecting to low-signal networks is difficult, if not impossible. However, for your average wireless network at home, at school or at work, it is ideal and configures really well.


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