Friday, April 3, 2009

Macbook Pro

Yeah, I've joined the Cult of Mac. Here are my impressions after using my 15-inch MBP for a week or so.


The aluminum shell is nice. The whole thing feels very sturdy (way more so than my last laptop), without being overly heavy. I think I would have to really exert myself to put a crack in this thing. The display is good, even though I'm not really a fan of glossy displays. My favorite thing about it is that it dynamically adjusts its brightness based on the ambient light - it's a parlor trick, sure, but it's a damn useful one. I tried it outdoors the other day, and I'm happy to report that it's still readable in direct sunlight. I wouldn't recommend it, since the backlight can't quite keep up with a G-type star, but if you're desperate you won't kill your eyes trying to read it.

Input devices are a mixed bag. The keyboard is a little disappointing overall - I like the backlit keys a lot, but the keys aren't especially responsive, and worst of all, I can't rearrange them. Once you've gotten used to a non-qwerty layout, going back to qwerty is just obnoxious. The multi-touch trackpad is brilliant, on the other hand, and I predict that everybody will soon be copying multi-touch gestures for scrolling and navigation, assuming there aren't any patents in the way. I didn't think it was possible for something to be more convenient than a scroll wheel on a mouse, but Apple has done it somehow. I only have two small gripes about the touchpad. First, it's nice that you can click anywhere on it, but it takes a ton of pressure to click relative to what you use just moving the cursor. If they could dial the resistance back by like a factor of five, it'd be really convenient to use. Second, tap-to-click has a noticeable delay (maybe a quarter to a third of a second) compared to actually clicking. This is just long enough to be an annoyance, so it seems like Apple could clean this one up with a little tweaking.

As for the system specs, they're pretty satisfactory. So far everything is snappy enough, even with all the random visual effects, that I don't really feel like I need the system to be faster. It'd be nice to have a little extra RAM, I guess, since 2 GB isn't all that much these days, but Apple charges a lot for RAM. :( If it ends up bothering me more than it does now, I'll probably pick up some extra from Crucial or somebody else. The battery life is excellent - I haven't tried running it down yet, but based on some quick maths I think it'd go for about 3-4 hours on a charge.


Mac OS X is really unexpectedly nice.

You know how people say that OS X "just works"? Yeah, it used to annoy me too, but now I kind of see what they meant by it. Apple has put some serious effort into smoothing over rough corner cases, and it shows. Boot Camp, for instance, is a shining example of this - you can repartition the drive that the OS is running on by dragging a slider and clicking a button. This is the sort of thing which normally requires serious voodoo. Then, because apparently that wasn't impressive enough, they provide a complete set of drivers for the Windows side, so that Windows can work properly on the hardware in the laptop. Or, to take another example, printer configuration. I decided I wanted to install a shared network printer, so I started clicking around in system preferences. Twenty seconds later, the printer was installed. It Just Worked(tm).

The eyecandy is nice, but could be better - probably, I'm just spoiled by Compiz. The implementation of multiple workspaces, for instance, feels a bit sluggish compared to the Compiz desktop plane plugin. Overall, though, this isn't exactly a huge issue.

I know a bit about operating systems, and I can usually find plenty to criticize, but in terms of system architecture OS X actually isn't that bad. Software installation, for instance, is normally a sore point for me, but OS X is about halfway to what I'd consider a good implementation. (Linux, by way of contrast, is also about halfway, though it gets different things wrong and varies by distro; Windows has literally the worst possible software installation system I can imagine.) Programs go in a single folder, and by and large they stay there. It's not perfect, since it still allows programs to do retarded things, but at least the retarded way isn't the standard, accepted way.

Having a BSD-flavored system underneath everything is really convenient. I don't know how I'd ever get anything done without being able to drop down to a command line every once in a while. Plus, since it's UNIX, it integrates relatively nicely with the rest of my systems. It also means that most UNIX software is available for installation, via MacPorts.

Still not touching iTunes with a 10-foot pole, though. I can manage my own music kthx.


When my mom first saw me using this laptop, she said, and I quote, "Wow, that's a badass-looking laptop!" What more needs to be said?


Kiriska said...

Traitors, the lot of you. I still can't believe Goodwin converted, and now you? XD Humbug! Then again, the only real thing I have against Macs is that I don't use them. :P

Anyway, what is this multi-touch trackpad nonsense? And if you're good enough at your alternative keyboard layout, you shouldn't need to rearrange the keys!

Frank Church said...

Macs! They're nice. They're just too expensive, and hence I don't see myself getting one in the near future. Why must shiny things be the most expensive things. :(

Kiriska said...

At least you're still not touching iTunes. I guess you can have some of your respects back.

Æther said...

I kind of want a Macbook Pro, but at the same time, they're way outside my price range and I don't really need another computer. How do you get those things serviced, anyway? Do you go to an Apple store, or do you have to mail it off to Apple?

P. Static said...

Æther: No idea actually. Hoping it never comes up. :D

Anonymous said...

Solution for tap-to-click delay, from one recent switcher to another:

System Preferences > Trackpad > 1-finger: Uncheck "Dragging"

The delay only occurs when the OS is checking for a drag; otherwise it's instantaneous.

Best unsung feature: command-shift-/ opens up a search for any menu item in the current application, similar to the alt-shortcuts in windows. If only there were a way to select the items via autocomplete rather than by arrowing down, inside-program navigation would be ridiculously fast and mouse-free.

P. Static said...

Alright that is awesome. :D thanks for the tip!