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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  • chui101 - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    "I wanted to take the vaunted MBP and put it in an apples-to-apples comparison"

    Shouldn't that be an *Apple*-to apples comparison? :D
    Reply
  • numberoneoppa - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    o ho - i see what you did there. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    the article is very well written. However, i would say that comparison section was not well justified.
    i mean.. look at the price.... if you want to do a "apple to apple" comparison, aren't you suppose to have product in the same ball park? at least for products that carries similar MSRP (i am not even talking about street price, which we all know you can easily get 30% off for all dell).

    i know anand review are based on computers that send to you for reviewing at the manufacture's cost, and this chart is probably the best anand can gather. but reading this review is akin to read, say a MB S550 destroies Toyota corolla in term of comfort and features. OKAY.. what i really know is does MB S550 a better vehicle than Lexus LS600. (besdies, the Macbook seems to carry a better screen, but doesn't offer much else if you want to run windows)

    i recently discovered you can easily buy a AFFS screen from ebay and swap it yourself. what this means is that instead of buying expensive tablet IPS/AFFS screen, one can just spend 75 dollars on ebay and get a 8 bit AFFS screen for computers such as Thinkpad X200/X201, which will be infinity better than TN of any kind. i am shocked that lenovo doesn't make it a option.

    anyhow. good write up, but next time please do a "apple" to "apple" comparison.
    Reply
  • newrigel - Saturday, November 27, 2010 - link

    Yeah, everyone's a tech. Reply
  • Maxed Out - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    I have been running Windows 7 Ultimate from the beta stage and up on my MacBook Pro 17" (Early 2008) and have had no real problems. Before 7 I was running Vista Ultimate x64, so no real surprises. The only real gripe would be that the key (Windows=command & ALT=option) positions and the lack of a contextual menu key, but in the Mac world, right click has been frowned upon by Steve and the rest of the board, so i understand that.

    The only bad thing I have to say is that, yes the MacBook runs hot in Mac OS, but apple has not done anything to port the ASIC driver that controls the fans, it there for runs even hotter in Windows.
    Reply
  • Stokestack - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    A far bigger annoyance is the lack of a real Delete key. Alone among manufacturers, Apple has only a Backspace key (which they mislabel "delete"). Meanwhile, they have a dedicated Eject key, for seldom-used optical media. Oh, and they decided that they had to put a hardware delay on Eject, to prevent the bloody mayhem of accidentally ejecting a disc. That prevents you from remapping it as a Delete key.

    Apple could easily have solved both problems by replacing Eject with a real Delete key, and making Eject a secondary function on some other key (or even on the same one). Instead, they require you to use a secret two-handed key combination to delete a character. The vast majority of users spend their time arrowing to the right across the text they want to delete and then backspacing over it. Yes, that's "elegant."

    The reviewer also should have hammered the asinine glossy screen, and lack of a matte option. It makes no sense: The computer most likely to actually leave the house is the one denied common-sense options like a matte screen. Glossy screens suck in all conditions; even in a pitch-black room, you see YOURSELF in the screen because you're illuminated by it. Those "deep blacks" and "rich colors" you were promised with a glossy screen are neither deep nor rich when washed out by the sheen of reflection that covers them 100% of the time.
    Reply
  • JS - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I definitely prefer glossy screens on desktops. To me, seeing a vague reflection of yourself under certain lighting conditions is nothing compared to the "sparkling" surface finish of all matte screens that I have used so far.

    It's a matter of taste.
    Reply
  • SoCalBoomer - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    That would be fine - if he were reviewing a desktop. He's reviewing a laptop and on a laptop, a glossy screen is asinine! :D Reply
  • Tros - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I'm using both a matte desktop screen (Samsung P2570HD) and a MBP side by side right now. Guess what. I can read things easier on the glossy high-contrast screen better than on the matte-monitor. The blacks are deeper, the whites are brighter. I can also read on the MBP outside (Texas).

    I would like to think that this isn't because of glossy vs matte, but because of contrast, period. I have another laptop around here with a glossy screen, and have a hard time reading it in a lit room.
    Reply
  • B3an - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    High contrast will make a screen easier to read and whatever, but if that MBP had a matte screen it would be yet more easy to see with no distractions. The whole point of a display is to see what's displayed on it, not to see what's reflected on it, which is also going to affect colour accuracy. Glossy screens are totally not usable as far as i'm concerned.

    Even in the pics posted here it looks ridiculous, imagine how much better and easier to see that screen would be outside without all them reflections over it.
    Reply

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