Apple MacBook Pro 13—Introduction

Anand has already given the latest Apple MacBook Pro 13 a comprehensive review, but I wanted to give a different take on it: I wanted to evaluate it as a Windows laptop. Oh yeah. Basically, I wanted to take the vaunted MBP and put it in an apples-to-apples comparison with our favorite thin and lights from the PC world. Now, since Anand has already reviewed it, I’m going to gloss over the hardware—if you want an in-depth analysis of the notebook and its features, I point you towards his review.

Here’s my one major problem with the MacBook Pro 13, at least on paper: it’s still running a Core 2 Duo processor. The C2D P8600 debuted as part of the Penryn-3M lineup on June 13, 2008. They’re selling a notebook with a 2 year-old processor for $1199. And that’s just the low end model; the high-end MBP13 SKU costs $1499. Only Apple can get away with pulling a stunt like that; I don’t think the other manufacturers would even dare to try it. By the time Apple updates the MBP line to Sandy Bridge, the P8600 will be nearly three years old.

But other than that wrinkle, I basically love the MacBook Pro. The industrial design is absolutely peerless (except for maybe the original Dell Adamo). The overall aesthetic just seems so cohesive, so well thought out. There’s nary an extraneous button or design element in sight, giving way to a clean, sleek, and elegant notebook that could only come out of Cupertino. The build quality is excellent, definitely one of the most solid notebooks this side of a ThinkPad. The keyboard is one of the best chiclet keyboards out there, and the glass trackpad with two finger scroll is awesome. None of this is new for the MacBook Pro, but it’s still striking to think that this chassis debuted two years ago and there still isn’t a PC notebook that is designed or built on the same level as this. (Yes, we know about the HP Envy and we're still working to get a review unit, but while similar the Envy line still isn't like a MacBook Pro.)

So what is new then, if the processor is from the Stone Ages and the chassis is basically unchanged from before? A faster IGP, a bigger battery, and 4GB of RAM standard (finally!). Let’s start with the new IGP, NVIDIA’s 320M. As Anand detailed in his review, it’s got 48 CUDA cores versus the 16 CUDA cores in the old 9400M, and as such should offer far better performance. In fact, it outdoes the G 310M by a significant amount, but we’ll get to that later. The battery has now been increased in capacity to a sealed-in, 63.5 Wh lithium polymer unit that claims 10 hours of battery life under OS X. We’ve noted that OS X gets better battery life than Windows, so we expect less out of the MBP as a PC, but it should still be pretty competitive. Just how competitive is what we're here to find out.

Apple MacBook Pro 13 - Some Quirks as a PC
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  • IlllI - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    umm.. some many months ago i made a comment in a review here in regards to glossy screens. specifically i suggested possibly using an anti glare filter (here is one for example http://www.photodon.com/c/LCD-Protective-Films.htm... ).

    the reviewer at the time (i forget who) said he'd buy one and then do a review about it later on anandtech.. well that was many, many months ago. maybe even almost a year ago. to this day i keep wondering what ever happened to that review

    i'd still like a review of these things, since i completely detest glossy screens myself.. but seemingly most laptops are going this way. i think only business laptops offer matte options now :(
    Reply
  • appliance5000 - Sunday, October 24, 2010 - link

    Based on the article's title the answer is yes - it's a decent windows machine. If you want to run OSX it's the only option (legal).

    I'd ask a few questions: is bootcamp more efficient than parallels and/or vmfusion?

    RE the old chip: Mac's are optimized for OSX and apps designed for OSX use the GPU via openCl. The new intels do not allow this.

    Mac is stingy with memory - always has been - nothing new.

    Check the resale value on ebay. The value becomes more apparent.

    Apple is not so much interested in pure performance, from ipod to ipad they use readily available components. What they excell at is user interface: they make products that people want to use.

    There are many things to hate about apple but until other software/hardware manufacturers take the user into consideration, apple will do just fine. Borrow a friend's apple product for a few days and use it. 2 things will occur:

    you will be able to use it well in a short time and enjoy the process ,

    and you will hate apple all the more because Jobs is totally annoying while being generally correct. That, my friends, is a toxic cocktail.
    Reply
  • deathdemon89 - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    .. you had compared it to models that were actually in the same category as the MBP 13, like the Vaio Z. It would have been interesting to see how it stacked up to something its own size, but (seemingly?) superior in every other respect - processor, display, keyboard and all. Reply
  • newrigel - Saturday, November 27, 2010 - link

    Why in the hell would you want it to be if you can but a 17 inch PC laptop for $500? Reply
  • ChuckDarwin - Friday, January 07, 2011 - link

    I think the answer to the question posed by the article's title is, "yes." The current 13" MBP makes a "decent" Windows laptop, in terms of performance, but it certainly can't justify the price for the performance.

    But here's the thing. How many people use a thin-and-light laptop to do heavy video encoding? Practically nobody. And that is where the newer i3-i5-i7 hardware matters. What do people actually use their thin-and-light laptops for? Office, surfing the net, and light gaming. All of which the 13" MPB delivers on Windows just as well as Brand X with a Core i5 and integrated graphic.

    Meanwhile, the MBP really delivers on things you notice in everyday use rather than checking off a features list. Only the Apple has a screen you actually want to look at for hours on end, and only the Apple has a multi-touch trackpad that is effortlessly responsive. Apple's close attention to "user experience," and build quality, are the real reasons why the 13" MBP is still competitive with other manufacturers' machines despite running on 2 yo hardware.

    For the record, I bought my 13" MBP 2 years ago when they debuted, replacing a 12" Sony Vaio. For my money, there was no comparison at the time between the Vaio line and Apples in terms of build quality, and back then the MBP was basically the same price as a similarly-specced Vaio. The MPB looks still delivers, as described above, as a work-oriented travel machine, whereas my 12" Vaio looked like it had been through a war after 2 years--it had a cracked case from a 2' drop, the screen latch wouldn't close properly, the hinge on the screen was a little loose, and the rubber on the keys was becoming discolored. Meanwhile the MPB has survived at least as much abuse and looks like new.

    Admittedly, though, I'd never buy a 13" MBP today until Apple updates to Sandybridge--but then again, I wouldn't buy ANY laptop from any manufacturer today for the same reason.
    Reply
  • dqnet - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - link

    I'm really considering splashing out on the 13" but I've read countless articles and all I hear is the glossy screen is either horrible or awful. I dont want the 15", I need the portability and I dont know what on earth to do!??????????

    The comes the SSD issue, if I want this option I have to wait 6 weeks!
    I can always get this later down the line I guess?? well from what the article suggests??

    Any help (opinions) would be great as right now i'm lost! :(
    Reply
  • asuka10456 - Wednesday, April 06, 2011 - link

    I installed windows 7 on my gf laptop and attempted to play magic workstation. It was unplayable but it played decent on my hp 210 mini netbook. MWS is used to play card games and doesn't really use a lot of resources, I don't understand why it doesn't run Reply

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