Problems in Mac-land

As I mentioned before, I purchased one of the earlier revision MacBook Pros and as such I've had a total of three major problems/annoyances with the MacBook Pro:

1) What has become known as the MacBook Pro "whine" is an extremely annoying whine/buzzing sound that emanates from the area around the MagSafe connector. The sound appears to be related to CPU load and seems to be caused by whatever power circuitry is affected by the CPU switching into lower sleep states. While this noise was present on my PowerBook G4, for whatever reason it is more annoying/present on the MacBook Pro. I have not seen a fix for this problem as of yet nor do I think one is possible without a redesign of some of the internals of the MacBook Pro.

2) The bottom of the MacBook Pro gets extremely hot; hotter than any notebook I've ever used. On the plus side you can barely hear either of the two fans running but the downside is that you've got to be careful with what you rest it on while using it. I've found that it only really gets extremely hot when doing something very CPU intensive. While I was benchmarking the unit the heat got almost unbearable, but during normal use it was mostly fine and when simply writing on it there were no problems at all. I've heard that this problem has since been fixed with later revisions but I don't know first hand as everyone has different definitions of fixed and tolerances of heat.

3) The third and final problem I've had with the notebook are the two keys that are mounted improperly on the keyboard. I haven't been able to fix this myself and suspect that it may actually require a keyboard replacement. After publishing this review, I'll head down to Apple and see what they say.

The problems I encountered with the MacBook Pro are definitely bothersome, but they aren't enough for me to personally want to opt for a non-Mac notebook. When I sit down and think about that statement, there's something horribly wrong with it. It's my job to be tough on manufacturers when they release products with these sorts of problems and it's my job to not recommend purchasing a flawed product, so am I just terrible at following my own advice? Am I so hooked on OS X that I'm willing to deal with fairly annoying hardware problems just to get my fix? In a sense, aren't these the same complaints many have about Microsoft: that you put up with the problems because it's the only way to get what you want?

Apple has an extremely important responsibility to its users not to release questionable hardware. Spending the past few days surfing through Apple's support forums it's all too often that I've come across the statement that Apple's quality control has gone down hill as of late. As the only provider of hardware for the Mac OS X platform, that should not be a statement that's frequently encountered. Yet it is, and it seems that the statement has quite a bit of truth behind it.

While I would definitely recommend a MacBook Pro because of all of the positive things I've said in the past about OS X and about Intel's Core Duo processor, I would strongly urge you to wait and get a model with all of the kinks worked out. It seems that the later revisions have addressed a number of the problems that existed early on, so all you may have to do is just make sure to custom order a configuration through Apple's online store so it gets built rather than shipped from what's in stock. It's unfortunate that as well designed as many of Apple's products happen to be, you'll want to stay away from the first run of any new model.

Network Performance and MacBook Pro vs. PC Notebooks Final Words
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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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