Armen Chakmakjian

My new 15″ MacBook Pro…Review

In technology on October 17, 2008 at 12:46 am

The powerbook was feeling its years, and I’m now a happy new owner of the new MacBook pro 15″.  Yes the new one that Steve presented the other day.   I purchased it last night and brought it home.  They hadn’t even put them out on display yet.  Spent most of the evening migrating my account from the powerbook to it over the home wireless g.

here are the stock specs:

Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2.53 GHz
Number Of Processors: 1
Total Number Of Cores: 2
L2 Cache: 6 MB
Memory: 4 GB
Disk: 320G SATA 5400rpm

FIRST WORD OF WARNING:  Don’t let the Apple store help give you the first firewire cord they think might help migration.  The powerbook had both firewire types, the MacBook Pro only has the 800.    The cables are different and if you just let them grab one, you’ll be surprised when you plug one end into your powerbook and sit there at midnight not able to plug the other end in.  I didn’t look and trusted the guy as I was playing with an iPhone at the time.

Migration Assistant: worked intuitively even though I did a network install.  Anyway, this morning moving my 70G of docs, pics, music and movies was over.

Virtualization: During the day I installed VMware Fusion, then XP.  Worked like a charm.  It is slightly disconcerting to hear the XP song coming out of my apple speakers, but I’ll get used to it.   I did not install XP on the bootcamp partition.  I hear it works really well that way, but my windows needs are very specific and it just wasn’t compelling to waste my time.  I could always do it later.

Windows/Office: A little while later I installed Office 2003 (Office 2007 barfed complaining that I didn’t have Windows installer 3.1).  Way cool.  Now I have IE for those goofy sites that only look right in IE and Firefox and Safari for everything else.

iSight and VMware: My next problem was that I couldn’t activate the iSight camera under the XP VM. XP knew it was attached but didn’t have a driver.   I googled it and found that all I had to do was put my leopard dvd in, explore till I found the apple iSight driver in the boot camp directory and voi la, the camera was up.  I need this because the hybrid classroom software at Bentley U. will only allow you to use video from the VM not from the native drivers when in OSX.  Whatever.  I’m up.

Next I did notice that that VM and OSX fight over the camera.  This is kinda dumb I think.   It should just work for both, depending on which os/vm is got control.  Yes yes, if both screens are up this could prove confusing, one does have to win.  That’s the kind of problem sw engineers are supposed to relish…a mutex here, a semaphore there.  Anyway…

Performance: Did I mention that this machine SCREAMS.  It is so fast (compared to my powerbook of course…)  The XP vm is pretty good.  I haven’t done any serious stuff on it yet but it looks ok for running excel and stuff.

Battery-life: I know I’m supposed to get 4-5 hours a charge.  In normal mode, I probably got 4+ but I don’t think it was a whole 5 hrs.

Keyboard: works great.  has a good tactile response.  backlight works more consistently that on my powerbook (the powerbook always seemed to get itself tied up in knots as to whether to light the keyboard from being asleep.

New Mousepad/Trackpad: It’s huge, responds well to multi-touch commands (although I’m still learning about what to do with more than 2 fingers).  The mouseclick is a bit awkward.  The primary place where it responds mechanically is right along the center axis.  If you click high or low it makes a mechanical clicking sound but it does not actually do anything.  So I have to train myself to get my thumb pretty close to the middle for a click.  I expect that this will be a disat for new users as it is not always responsive.

Display: oh it is so beautiful.  It appears to have more overall control than my old powerbook.   dimmest to brightest is a huge range.

Built in Audio: Strangely enough it sounds very tinny at low volume and then when you push it up a bit it sounds like it gets a bass boost that I didn’t have on my powerbook.  I could be imagining it of course because the display is so beautiful it could be making think that it sounds awesome.  I’m listening to Pure Prairie League’s “Aimee” right now and it sounds really good.

Other Software Compat: I had to reinstall the Air engine so that Tweetdeck would come up right, evidently the migration assistant didn’t get it right.   Firefox works great.  iLife 08 seems to be converting things over pretty well.

Conclusion: this is an incredible machine and I can see that the quality that went in.   As I come up with more thoughts I’ll post them here.

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  1. A little update.

    The problem I was having installing Office 2007 on the XP VM was due to the fact that I hadn’t run windows update. Once I got the VM to XP SP3, Office 2007 installed correctly.

    The trackpad click is still driving me a little batty. It’s truly not as intuitive as it pretends to be. I’ve settled on clicking near the way bottom at this point for about a 75% hit rate. This is one of those situations in high tech where you the user take advantage of a “learned response” 🙂

  2. One other thing I’ve noticed. The new machine runs about 30 degrees cooler on the legs than the old powerbook.

  3. Have you tried Parallel Desktop? How would you compare that with VM?

  4. No I have not tried Parallels, although I’ve read it was quite good. I read in a couple of places that the new version of Fusion was a big improvement and that in some areas it was more stable that Parallels. I have no data to confirm that.

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