While in Seattle visiting my brother and his family, I got a chance to sit down and spend a little quality time with my dad’s MacBook Pro. Here are my impressions.
First and foremost, the good stuff.
the Core Duo is Beefy
I’ve been encoding DVDs on my Dual 2.0 G5 for the last couple of weeks, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise to download handbrake and throw a movie at it.
I’ve been thinking about moving over to H.264 and AAC for all of my encoding needs, and it punishes my G5 tower. I usually average about 20fps encoding this way. The MBP crushed my Dual 2.0Ghz G5 with about 32fps using the same settings.
When I encode Divx on the G5, I see much better results, somewhere in the range of 75fps. The MBP matched this performance almost exactly.
It seems the H.264 encoder is not taking advantage of Altivec, and therefore suffers against the SSE3 optimization of the intel chips. Divx encoding is optimized for both processors, and it would seem that the MBP is right on par with the G5 desktop. A pretty impressive feat.
Some people are complaining about how hot these machines get, and I have to say I noticed almost no difference between the MBP and the other Aluminum G4 Machines. They do get warm enough that you don’t want to be wearing shorts, but with pants you’re fine.
The keyboard seems better on this machine than the previous Aluminum powerbooks. Very firm. I might be making this up in my head though.
I heard none of the whines or droning that many people are complaining about. Could be that my Dad got a good unit.
Man that screen is bright. Very nice. One thing I noticed when set to low brightness was a lot of small fluctuations in brightness. I’m guessing this is the fault of a too sensitive ambient light sensor making changes to the screen brightness, but I guess it could also be inconsistent voltage from the inverter.
The built in iSight seems like it would be very convenient, but it’s quality is not as good as the external iSight. Not a huge difference mind you, but enough to notice. It’s low light performance is so so, and it seemed to have a distinct blue cast. For what it’s built for, I personally don’t care too much.
The Finder Sucks
Man I hate the finder. My dad was commenting on how the MBP didn’t feel faster than the 1.5Ghz machine he was moving from. I think a large part of that comes from how bad the finder sucks. I was getting beach balls all over the place just moving from folder to folder. Why? What’s so difficult about it?
Also, we had mounted a drive over the wireless, but wanted to switch over to a wired connection. My dad turned off the wireless card before unmounting the share, which sent the finder into a death spiral, which eventually meant restarting the whole machine to bring it back. The finder is lame. Just lame.
optical drive speed
In order to encode video, we first pulled it off of a DVD. Pulling the 7GB of data off of the disk was agonizing. It was averaging 1.5MB/sec. This is a very bad number. I didn’t check to see if the disc was scratched, which it could have been, but I suspect the thin line drive they used in the MBP is just a dog in general.
With universal apps, this machine flies, and rosetta does a good job on non-universal apps, although I managed to kill powerpoint dead to the point it wouldn’t launch at all. I did find myself waiting around a lot, which is a hard symptom to nail down. Is it rosetta? Is is the shitty finder? Hard to say. Also, the cursor graphics had somehow become corrupted.
My dad did have a second 1GB stick of RAM in the machine from a 3rd party, which could have been the culprit for a lot of issues, but I was definitely seeing lots of weirdness. He also said that a lot of issues had shown up after the firmware update included in the Bootcamp download.
Would I buy one now?
As much as I hate to say it, based on using it for a short amount of time, probably not. Once photoshop and Office are universal, it may be another story however. Without knowing if the machine had bad ram, makes a difference. If I hadn’t hit so many beach balls, I would probably go for it. It’s clear that the MBP is just as fast as my current G5 tower when using universal apps, but it’s hard to see just where the current speed issues lay.
I’m still thinking about getting one for work, and switching to it as my primary work machine, but the Office apps would have to be rock solid, which I’m not sure they are at this point.