When I first started using a PowerBook G4 over a year ago it quickly turned into the best experience I'd ever had with a notebook. My biggest issues with notebooks were always related to reduced productivity, mainly because of screen size and resolution constraints. Despite its name, Windows does an absolutely horrid job of managing lots of windows, something which looks to be on the road to getting fixed in Vista but back then there was no hope in sight. It also just so happens that when I'm getting a lot of work done and when I happen to be my most productive, I have a ton of windows open at once. The move to tabbed browsers alleviated some of the problem, but for the most part it still existed. And on a notebook, with a small lower-resolution screen and an uncomfortable to use pointing device productivity suffered.

My experience with OS X and the PowerBook G4 changed all of that; window management under OS X was significantly improved for reasons I've outlined before (Exposé, hiding vs. minimizing windows, the zoom to fit control, etc...) and it even addressed the issue of user input. With the large number of keyboard shortcuts that existed for virtually everything in OS X, I spent far less time using the trackpad and much more time actually getting work done.

But my PowerBook experience wasn't perfect; I opted for the 15" model because I did want to get work done and needed the large screen with its higher resolution. The problem was that the 15" PowerBook weighed at least a third more than any notebook I had used in the previous couple of years, and although initially I had no issues going to a larger, heavier notebook it eventually became a pain. I still wouldn't trade away the added productivity for something smaller and lighter, but you always want what you don't have.

On the CPU side, the PowerBook G4 was growing a little long in the tooth. While for the most part the performance of the notebook wouldn't bother me (and outfitting it with 2GB of memory definitely helped), there were definitely times when doing a lot of Photoshop work at an IDF or doing anything other than writing where I missed my desktop. The battery life of my PowerBook G4 also left me wanting more. It's tough to test notebooks with five hour battery lives and then write about them on a unit that can manage only half that.

Despite my complaints, I still wouldn't part with it. The PowerBook G4 was the best notebook I had ever owned, and even when the MacBook Pro was announced it wasn't a big enough leap (at least on paper) for me to justify the upgrade. Having just tested Intel's Core Duo processor and wanting it used in every battery-powered device I owned, I still resisted.

When it was finally announced that the first Intel based Macs had booted Windows XP, there was a lot of excitement from those who were on the fence about giving OS X a try. Had this all happened to me back in the summer of 2004 when I first gave Apple and OS X a try that probably would have been me showing my excitement as well. But for almost two years now I've been living a life happily as a dual user, so a hack that let me boot Windows on my Mac meant nothing to me.

Then Apple announced Boot Camp, effectively a very handy utility to partition, boot and run Windows XP alongside OS X on any Intel based Mac. Even more people wrote me, telling me that they were extremely excited that this had happened and that they wanted a review of the experience, much like I had done OS X in the past. You see, Apple is very careful about where and when they send review hardware, so any sort of MacBook Pro article was going to require me going out and buying a unit myself - thus an extensive cost benefit analysis had to be performed every step of the way.

But the straw that broke the cost benefit analysis model's back was the announcement of Parallels' Virtual Machine 2.1 beta. The beta would let you run Windows XP under OS X in a virtual machine with support for Intel's Virtualization Technology (VT). After that announcement I knew there was no avoiding it, an article had to be done; not only on the MacBook Pro but on Boot Camp and Parallels' solution.

What follows is that article.

The MacBook Pro: So very similar, yet so very different
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  • Sengir - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    I'm mainly a PC guy, but while working on Apple notebooks at a Notebook Depot, I've become interested in the Mac OS. Previously I had little to no exposure to it.
    I will say this. Apple has made alot of improvement with the Macbook/Pro in terms of repairing. Alot easier to get to the motherboard, hard drive, memory or anything.

    Unfortunately they didn't redesign for the heat of the CPUs, the ventilation just doesn't seem adequate and as a result, overheating is common.

    There are other issues with the hardware, but none I can really go into. I believe people buy Macs for the OS and not the hardware. Since some of the design/materials are cheaper than an HP notebook, for more cost. If I buy a Mac, it will probably be a mini, due to cost. The Macbooks are very nice, but have several flaws that need to be addressed.
    Reply
  • redison - Tuesday, September 05, 2006 - link

    "I've become interested in the Mac OS ..... believe people buy Macs for the OS and not the hardware"

    Right on, and check out the Leopard ( OS X 10.5 )Preview on Apples website, even better if you have the time see Jobs Kenote

    Reply
  • hasapi - Monday, April 17, 2006 - link

    Excellent reading - I just received my 2GHz MBP - and its just fantastic in every way. My only gripe which was noted in the article is the battery life of just over 2.5hrs!, its probably unrealistic but my old PB was getting 3.5hrs - maybe a new third party battery might help but would have been nice to see upwards of 5hrs imo? Reply
  • Eug - Sunday, April 16, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I would recommend waiting for a Merom version if you can. By the time Merom is introduced later this year there will be even more Universal Binaries available for the platform and hopefully by then all of the issues with the current MacBook Pros will have been worked out.

    I agree. Moreover, Boot Camp and Parallels' Workstation both will be improved by then, and Apple's pro line of laptops may just have Blu-ray drives as well available as an option. Even if we don't get Blu-ray drives by the time Merom is incorporated into MacBook Pros, in the very least we'll have 8X DVD-R support as well as dual-layer support.

    I'm most interested in a smaller model though, so I have to wait regardless. I suspect the smallest model may get a 13" 1280x800 widescreen too, considering that as of the Aperture 1.1 update, Apple has arbitrarily (and very annoyingly) removed support for my 1024x768 iBook G4 12" 1.33 GHz, and is saying that a minimum 1280x780 screen is required, even though no such laptop is available yet from Apple.
    Reply
  • tekkstore - Monday, April 17, 2006 - link

    http://www.tekkstore.com">tekkstore.com Reply
  • gamehack - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    Hi there,

    I have a question to any owners of a MacBook Pro - Is the keyboard suitable for heavy use? I planning to get a MBP and use it as my main dev machine so I would typing quite a lot.

    Kind regards,
    gamehack
    Reply
  • bertd - Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - link

    in my opinion, the keyboard is one of the best keyboards i've ever used on a laptop... and i code a lot of html, php and css so i use it a lot too Reply
  • bertd - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    Anand:
    great review!

    I've also bought a Macbook one week ago, and I also had a keyboard issue... My 'e' button wasnt working sometimes... When i lifted the key off the keyboard i could see the plastic under the key was kind of broken: there was a little crack in it. I went back to the apple shop, and because I only had the laptop for like 2 days they just gave me a complete new one...

    I've also experienced the 'heat' problems.. the first macbook i had was an 'earlier' version of the macbook : the serial number was W8611*****... With the new one, the one they have given me to replace the one with the broken 'e' key, the serial number started with w8612****, and I've read that macbooks starting with these numbers in their serial should be newer revisions...
    The heat problem is not as bad as with the first one, but still the bottom gets kind off hotter than with any other laptop i've ever had...
    Reply
  • mzlin - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    Excellent review, Anand! The Parallels vs Boot Camp comparisons are really well done and very helpful.

    I thought the comment about PowerBook weight being 1/3 more than any other laptop you've used was a little misleading. I'm sure you didn't mean to say the PowerBook was especially heavy, but since you didn't actually mention what it weighs (5.6 pounds), it could be construed as the Powerbook weighs 1/3 more than other 15.4-inch laptops.

    I have been looking for 15.4-inch laptops, PC or Mac, that weigh less than 6 pounds with an integrated optical drive. (For me, having the drive integrated is non-negotiable; I wouldn't want to have it in the wrong place when I needed it, so I would be carrying it around regardless, and much better to save the hassle of digging it out and plugging it in when one needs it.) But the Powerbook/MacBook is the only one I have found so far. On the PC side, the VAIO BX and Toshiba Satellite A105 manage to get to 6.0 pounds, but are also are 1.5 inches thick.
    Reply
  • hechacker1 - Saturday, April 15, 2006 - link

    I'd just like to point out that the buzzing due to power state switching (transitioning between C3 and C4 states) also happens in windows and linux. It's purely a hardware issue, and in most cases it just means the manufacturer used low quality components (capacitors).

    In windows it is not as noticible because it runs with a kernel frequency of 100Hz. In linux it's often run with 1000Hz. Because of the increase in frequency of power state switching the buzzing becomes audible to the ear.

    In windows it happens 10 times less than most linux boxes. Hence you don't hear it as much even with low quality components. My own Dell 700m laptop has this issue.

    The only solution in linux is to disable the lower power states, or change the kernel timer to 100Hz like windows. The best solution is to use dynamic tick switching so you get exactly the responsiveness you need, only when you need it. With a patched linux kernel my laptop automatically goes to 54Hz when idle, and 1000Hz when under load.

    Anyways... the only reason those "fixes" work is probably because they cause the processor to do just enough work to avoid having to go into the lowest power mode.
    Reply

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