Apple 15″ MacBook Pro Review

Chris Spera’s review in Black, Mitchell Oke’s Comments in Blue and italicized.

I’ve been a freelance writer for a while now. Recently, one of the principles at WUGNET (The Windows User’s Group NETwork) remarked to me that I had been writing for them for nearly 10 years. WUGNET is one of the best and only newbie/intermediate-skilled Windows resources still on the Internet. The site provides shareware downloads (screen savers, games, applications and utilities). They’ve also got some really great, free newsletters and one of the most complete Computing Tip databases on the ‘Net. I know… I’ve put most of them together, going back to April of 1997. Ok ok ok… enough with the shameless self promotion…but seriously, WUGNET is a cool resource for the not-so-savvy masses.

Not only did the realization of my nearly 10 year tenure make me feel REALLY, REALLY old, it got me thinking. The entire time that I’ve been writing, I’ve only purchased a new computer for myself twice. Just twice. Once in 1996 to get things going (I bought a Compaq slim-line notebook … Its been so long that I can’t remember the model number!); and then in 1999, I got a Toshiba 2060CDS. Both were budget line laptops and had budget performance specs too. In 2003, I bought a used Dell Latitude C610. In early 2005, I bought the big ma-moo docking station for it, also used (the one with 2 PCI slots and HDD expansion bay). That brought me through the end of 2006; but at the beginning of 2006, with Vista looming in the background just waiting to be released (and my seriously anemic C610 – 1.2gHz P3 with 1GB of maxed-out RAM) I knew there was a computer purchase in my immediate future.

I started looking around and finally decided on a MacBook Pro, but only after Apple’s BootCamp was released. My ultimate goal was to purchase a notebook PC that would run just about any version of Microsoft Vista. Looking at the Mac laptops, I always felt a bit of PC envy. The iBooks and PowerBooks were nice; but I wasn’t too crazy about Mac OS, or even OS X; but the hardware… Oh MAN! The hardware was slick! Nice lines, ok specs… not bad for a “real” laptop wanna-be.

I started thinking about the MacBook Pro after I got accepted into my university course studying for a Bachelor of Creative Technology (Film/TV Production). I would be using Mac’s (and Final Cut Pro) for all editing work, so a Mac was the natural choice. I could count on one hand the amount of times I have used a Mac before, and even then it was only a short time. I have never owned a Mac, so I would have to learn Mac OS X from scratch.
When Apple switched to Intel processors, and everyone started joking about Macs running Windows, I said what everyone was saying, “Yep…only a matter of time,” knowing full well, that it would be a cold day in the Hot Place before Apple would really do it. The day Boot Camp was released, I stood around with my mouth hanging open, thinking, “They did it. Those crazy fools really did it!” That’s when I got serious about the MBP. The more I researched, the more I played with them, the more I was convinced it was the right box for me.

Yes, it would have been a much bigger decision if I couldn’t run Windows as well, as there are some apps that I really wanted to be able to use on my new laptop (particularly a few games).

At about an inch thick, with built in web cam, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 FireWire 400 port, 1 FireWire 800 port, just about every wired and wireless LAN connectivity option available, and ExpressCard/34 slot, this thing is freakin’ awesome. The notebook’s complete specs can be found below, and here on Apple’s site.

You’re not kidding its awesome!! The specs on machine are fantastic!! No more lagging behind PCs in the performance arena

Specifications: The basic (listen to me… BASIC…Sheesh!) MacBook Pro comes configured with the following:

* 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
* 1GB 667 DDR2 SDRAM – 1x1GB – great for us upgraders!
* 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1600
* 120GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
* SuperDrive 6x (DVD+R DL/DVD?RW/CD-RW)
* MacBook Pro 15-inch Widescreen Glossy Display
* Backlit Keyboard/Mac OS – U.S. English
* Built-in 54-Mbps AirPort Extreme wireless networking (802.11g standard)
* Built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
* Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector)

Size and weight (15″ model)
* Height: 1.0 inch (2.59 cm)
* Width: 14.1 inches (35.7 cm)
* Depth: 9.6 inches (24.3 cm)
* Weight: 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg) with battery and optical drive installed

I sprang for an extra GIG of RAM, at $175 installed

I too got an additional stick of RAM for my MBP. When trying to run a lot of apps (particularly with Windows XP Pro in Parallels in the background) at once, RAM runs out pretty quick! I picked up a 1GB stick of Samsung PC5400 667Mhz RAM (AU$143) for mine and now everything is much better.

It’s small, it’s (relatively) light, and it’s extremely sexy. The Mac Book Pro is housed in a light, durable titanium skin that (sort of) resists finger prints and other blemishes. I say sort of, because its not completely perfect. Most of the time, smudges aren’t very noticeable, but as you’ll see in the unboxing pictures below, if you catch things in the right light, they do show…

I am amazed that it is so THIN! Compared to my sister’s 15.4″ Dell, it’s incredible.

The MacBook Pro tucked neatly in its box. The computer and its accessories are sandwiched between two pieces of Styrofoam. The box the notebook comes in is extremely thin, and you wouldn’t think that it had a computer inside it. I’m used to notebook computers coming in two or more boxes, and not one thin, low profile box.

From left to right in the contents of the box picture, the MagSafe AC adapter with travel connector attached, the AC cord for the MagSafe AC adapter, OS X Restore DVD’s and associated documentation, DVI to VGA converter and Apple Remote. As you can see, there isn’t a lot included in the box. However, Apple gives you the bare necessities to get it all done. The one item that is not pictured is the rechargeable battery (see the pictures, below).

The notebook is perhaps one of the most beautiful computers I have ever seen. The keyboard is set back far enough from the edge to give you enough support for your wrists; but the trackpad is a little different. See the section below for detailed information on the keyboard and trackpad.

I totally agree!! This is the best designed computer I have ever owned, or even seen. Smooth, clean lines, metal case, flat base, it’s just brilliant!! I could praise the MBP’s design all day…

I love the fact that this notebook has a built in web cam. I spent about an hour having a web cam conversation with Mitchell Oke, fellow Gear Diary Team Member. It was really cool speaking to him in Australia from Chicago, IL. I think we must have yacked for about an hour or more.

We certainly did!! And the quality was excellent too. The MBP has the best webcam I have ever seen!

A shot of the battery and the battery compartment. See those screws near the battery connector? That’s the cover for the user upgradeable RAM compartment. Take those out, and lift up on the cover to reveal the RAM sticks in the notebook.

The RAM is so easy to install. Simply remove the 3 screws, life up the panel, and voila! The top slot should be empty, unless the lazy engineer put the included 1GB RAM stick in the top slot instead of the bottom. Installing my 1GB Samsung was so simple. Booting it up required no configuration, and my “About this Mac” showed my new 1GB no problem for a total of 2GB.

Battery life is ok on the MacBook Pro, but not great. I can usually get about 1.5 to 2.0 hours of life from a single charge, if I turn the brightness down on the screen and turn WiFi off. However, that doesn’t do me much good… I use the Internet for just about everything, and not having access will usually have me searching for a CAT5 connection…

I would say I am getting about 2.5hrs with WiFi/BT on and screen at a 3rd from top brightness. That is with regular internet and MSN usage, and maybe some MS Word.

I’ve also had some very serious issues with hibernation, standby and powering off that can only be attributed to problems with Windows drivers. I’ve had the notebook freeze on a number of occasions when coming out of standby on the Windows side. It clearly shows the beta status of the Boot Camp Windows drivers. Its also very frustrating. I’m new to the whole Mac thing, and I’m not a total convert. I wanted the MBP for Windows and not necessarily for OSX.

I have had a problem coming out of standby maybe 3 times where the screen does not come on. Shutting the lid (thereby inducing standby) and opening it back up tends to fix the problem. I have never tried standby/hibernation on Windows because I only ever use it for games.

I would also like to point out that Mac OS X handles standby and hibernation together. If I put my MacBook Pro in standby, and then remove the battery, it will not loose the standby data. When I put the battery back in a press the power button, a small progress bar appears, and a few moments later I am back at the password prompt, then back to work, just like I have never turned it off. Great for if you have two batteries!!

All of the connectivity ports for the notebook are on the sides. The hinge is such that the back of the notebook is covered when it is opened. On the left side of the notebook, from left to right, you’ll find the MagSafe Power connector, a USB2.0 port, the microphone port, the headphone port and the Express Card/34 slot.

On the right side, from left to right, you’ll find a USB 2.0 Port, a FireWire 400 port, a FireWire 800 Port, an Ethernet 10/100 RJ45 connector, and the DVI video out port.

One thing that really annoys me is the inclusion of only two USB2.0 ports. These days everything comes with a USB plug, and two ports is no longer enough. Of course this can be rectified by using a hub, but that often will not power hungry devices like bus-powered USB HDDs. For that you will need an AC powered USB hub, and that means another wall socket used. My dad’s new XPS M1210 ultraportable has 4 for goodness sake! At least with the MBP you don’t need to hook up a USB webcam or Bluetooth adaptor (both are builtin on internal USB headers). A built-in multi-format card reader wouldn’t hurt either.

The one thing that is seriously missing from the entire Mac notebook product lines is a docking station connector. The biggest problem that I’ve had with this notebook is hooking and unhooking it from a full sized keyboard, mouse, monitor and network connection. With a docking station, you just pop the notebook in and out…all of the peripherals stay connected to it. The Mac doesn’t have such an animal in its arsenal; and it is a serious hole that needs filling. Why Apple hasn’t released a docking station for their top of the line notebooks is beyond me. The MacBook Pro is a desktop replacement class notebook computer and really should have a docking station.

To be honest I have never used a docking station, but that’s probably because I have only ever had one laptop with a docking connector. For me a USB hub with a mouse, keyboard and USB HDD hooked up works pretty well. It all depends on your usage I guess. I only occasionally use an external monitor to extend my desktop, so its not much of a hassle to hook it up. If I had a docking station I would have an additional two HDDs (1 USB, 1 Firewire 400) and a USB DVDRW hooked up all the time. If you did that all the time a docking station would definitely come in handy.

In the mean time, I’m using a USB hub to hold all of the important stuff, like the KVM/USB Y cable for my keyboard and mouse and other USB peripherals. Using the monitor I’ve got hasn’t been a great idea due to the resolution I’ve got on the actual MBP. I’ve had problems when moving back and forth between the two, and I’ve just taken to leaving the monitor out of it. Besides, the screen on the MBP is awesome.

My multi-monitor setup consists of my MBP and a 19″ Wide LCD with the same resolution as the MacBook Pro. So essentially I double my total resolution. I find this invaluable when video editing.

Apple was nice enough to include an Apple remote with the MBP. It is about as big as the first generation iPod Shuffle, and just as elegant. Honestly, I haven’t used it much at all. I’ve played with it a bit; but that’s about it.

I’ve used it a bit to control iTunes and it works well. Range isn’t that great though. But hey, it’s free!

Keyboard and TrackPadThe keyboard is well spaced, and isn’t too stiff or too mushy. I’m actually pretty pleased with its performance. I type quite a bit; and can peak at about 85-90 words a minute. When you type that fast, tactile feedback is important. I’m pleased with the keyboard, however, I haven’t been able to get the back lighting to work on the Windows side. While that’s not huge; it is a bit of a pain. I think everything should work. On the Mac side, of course, its all sunshine and daisies. Everything works like you’d expect it to, which is, the magic that Apple has created with their Intel Macs; AND what they are most famous for: everything just works.

Yes the MBP has one of the best laptop keyboards I have ever used. Its excellent feel and well spaced keys are great! And that backlighting…Yum!!

The trackpad is taking me some time to get used to. Honestly, the only time that I use it is when I’m NOT at my desk. I’ve got a KVM switch rigged up to 3 different computers at my desk. While its a PS2 KVM, it still works with the MacBook Pro because I’ve got a PS2 to USB Y cable hooked to a 4 Port USB hub and connected to one of the USB Ports on the MBP. The only thing I’m missing through it is sound and my 17″ LCD flat screen. I’m not too worried about either. The MacBook Pro’s screen is wider than the LCD flat screen I’ve got, and honestly has a better picture. The speakers also generate better sound than the desktop speakers I’ve got, so its all good. My full sized, Microsoft keyboard and all of its application and multimedia buttons work just fine, without any other drivers aside from the ones that came with XP or on the Boot Camp drivers CD. I am also using a standard Logitech optical wheel mouse. It also works without any problems or issues.

The trackpad on the MacBook Pro is easily the BEST one I have ever used. On my previous laptop (Dell 710m) it would often just stop moving, not scroll properly, and was too small. This one is big, is smooth, and scrolling works consistently. Way to go Apple!

Anyway, the trackpad… I’ve used Dell notebooks for the past 10 years. The trackpad on the Dell’s is pressure sensitive, meaning that you can tap on the pad, and its just as effective as pressing one of the buttons below it. Not so with the pad on the MacBook Pro. You can’t tap on it, and I’m having trouble adjusting to that. Further, the Mac only has a single mouse/trackpad button. The right mouse button is simulated by placing two fingers on the trackpad and clicking the button.

This is limited only to the Windows (Boot Camp) side of the MBP. In Mac OS X tapping the pad can simulate a click (need to be enabled in the mouse settings), and a double-fingered tap simulates right click. Shame it doesn’t work in Windows yet. At least two fingered scrolling does!

Wireless Radios
The MacBook Pro comes with both 802.11b/g WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0. The WiFi adapter in the new Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro’s is 802.11n capable. Recently, Apple released a software upgrade for its newer Intel C2D based iMacs, MacBooks and MacBook Pro’s to enable this functionality. While the upgrade is free with its new AirPort base stations, it’s going to set you back a whopping $1.99US. I downloaded and installed it on my MBP, and while I don’t have access to any 802.11n access point yet, I’m at least prepared for it.

I have been trying my MBP with a new Belkin N1 Router and while it shows a speed of 144Mbit, I can’t transfer files over the network. Other PCs on the N1 work fine, as well as a Windows laptop using the Belkin N1 ExpressCard, its only my MacBook Pro that has trouble with files transfers. Internet works fine (oddly). Still working on this (will update this article). On my previous Belkin “G” router performance was excellent.

Bluetooth also works great for transferring files to and from my Treo 750v. VERY annoyed that Mac OS X does not support A2DP yet. Gaming with an A2DP headset would be just awesome!

The performance of the adapter has been pretty good. I’ve been on and off wireless for the better part of 3 weeks here at the house. I’m pretty pleased with the performance of the adapter on the Windows side. I’m actually quite surprised and pleased that its done this well. I’ve used wireless at work, but not really at home. I recently purchased my first wireless access point for the house, and the MBP gets on the wireless network without a problem and performs well.

On the Mac side, wireless performances is as you would expect. It just works. I haven’t had any issues with the WiFi adapter in either OS, except when I tried running Vista.

Let me say this now… as of this writing, I don’t know of any Mac that is ready to run Vista. Boot Camp just doesn’t have the drivers yet; and there are some other issues that you’re going to need to be aware of (see below).

You definitely not only get better looks for your money with the MacBook Pro, but the size difference is amazing! The MBP is smaller in all dimensions, and is particularly much thinner than the 6400. The lines of the MBP are also a lot smoother than the 6400, and the base is flat as opposed to bumpy and covered with multiple panels and grills.

Software description
As of this writing, Apple’s OSX 10.4.x Tiger and iLife ’06 come preinstalled. I am NOT a Mac expert; and until the release of Intel chips on the Mac platform, I’ve not been a fan, either. My biggest criticism has been that use of a Mac by any student is short sighted. (Now, before you start plucking chickens and searching for the buckets of tar, hear me out…) Unless your chosen profession is going to be graphic arts or any kind of video or photo production, a Mac is not the right platform. No business that I know of really uses a Mac to run any portion of their business. Using OSX as a primary OS isn’t a smart decision. The business world doesn’t use it at all, unless that business is an advertising agency, or one that makes use of graphic artist; and even then, I don’t think Apple makes an OSX Server product. If they do, I don’t know of anyone that’s using it. My point is that if you want to eat after you get out of college, then you need to learn to use a Windows machine.

Yes it wasn’t until the MacBook Pro came out that I even considered buying a Mac. I have never owned or used a Mac before, and the MacBook Pro gave me the safety net of Windows. Since FCP is only available for Mac, it gave me the reason to try it out. The awesome design and specs helped too πŸ˜€

That being said, I can say the following about iLife and all of its components:

The easiest way to import, organize, edit and share your digital photos.
I expected this to work a lot like iTunes. I was wrong. iPhoto is good at what it does. Its a lot like Kodak’s application. The only problem that I found with it is the lack of configuration options. Like iTunes, I want to be able to specify the directory I want to use to store all of my photos in. With the current version of iPhoto, I have to have all of my photos on my main drive; or at the very least, I haven’t figured out how to have iPhoto store or use photos anywhere else other than the Photos folder on my Mac.

I hate this program. Too simple and organising. One of my favorite Mac apps so far is CocoviewX, which lets you view photos, run slideshows, and resize photos without having to add them to a “library” on your HDD. Highly recommend it.

iMovie HD
Turn your home video into home cinema and share it with others.
I haven’t had a chance to use this yet, as I am having trouble locating the iLink cable (which is a FireWire 400 cable) for my Sony video camera. I am also not wanting to do anything with video right now. However, once I am, I know I’ll be glad that iMovie is there.

Quite good for beginners, although I think Windows Movie Maker 2 has more power. Importing video from miniDV cameras is very easy with this program.

Author and burn movies, photos and music to standard and widescreen DVDs.
If this is anything like Pinnacle 9, then I’m going to be in good shape once I get done with iMovie. Like it, I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.

This program is very good. Quite stable, produces gorgeous looking DVDs, and is quite painless. Doesn’t crash like crazy nor stop rendering for no apparent reason like Pinnacle Studio 9 I used to use.

The best way to record music on a Mac is now the best way to record podcasts, too.
I haven’t had a chance to use this app either. Honestly, most of the things that iLife has to offer, I haven’t had the opportunity or desire to use. I don’t have the need or desire to make or record any kind of music. We also are not considering a Podcast at this time. If we were, I have a feeling that either Mitch or I would be putting it together simply because we both have this app.

Me either. Haven’t opened it once.

Easily create beautiful websites and blogs and get them online ? fast.
I really thought this was going to be like FrontPage Express… Yeah, not so much. I had a hard time editing just simple web pages without it being configured as part of a web site. If iWeb would have been able to edit what I wanted, then I wouldn’t have been interested in Mac Office.

I completely agree!! I couldn’t get it to do anything with single pages either. Only really good if you want to make a whole site which you upload en masse. As Tyler Puckett commented below, the iLife suite isn’t aimed at users like us, and therefore we don’t find it terribly good. For its target market it is an excellent product for people looking to build a website quickly and easily without having to see a line of code. For these tasks, it performs very well.

Running Windows on my MacBook Pro
As some of you may know, aside from some teaching experience with the original Mac’s back in 1984 (I used to tutor word processing at Oakland University in Rochester, MI.), I’m a total Mac newbie. I’m a long way from Finder and MacWrite 1.0.

I’ve tried Windows on my MacBook Pro under both Parallels Desktop and Boot Camp 1.1.2 Beta. If you get any Intel based Mac, and would like to run Windows XP or Vista on it, there are a few things you’ll need to know.

Parallels Desktop
If you’re familiar with VMWare, then you already know what Parallels Desktop is. It’s a Mac virtual machine emulator that will allow you to install and run any number of compatible guest operating systems. There are good and bad things about running Windows this way. The good first:

  1. You can run just about any version of Windows (I think) back to Windows 95.
  2. There aren’t any special installation requirements. You can use just about any combination of installation or upgrade options to get Windows on your Mac.
  3. You can run Windows full screen or in a, uh-hem… window.
  4. Once installed, you can flip back and forth between operating systems as quickly and easily as flipping back and forth between applications.
  5. You can access all of your data files on your Mac hard drive, as though they were another drive available in Windows.

Now the bad:

  1. You’re never going to run Windows natively. It’s always going to be a virtual machine. While the experience will be almost identical (you can run full screen if you want), it’s not the same.
  2. You can run into driver issues because you’re not running Windows natively.
  3. Running Windows in a VM may result in a performance hit
  4. Newer versions of Parallels have changed the way Windows will run, and will put the Task Bar right on top of the Mac dock if you let it. I’m not very fond of that. I’d prefer either full screen or in a window.

Last week, I took a few moments and talked about running Windows in a virtual machine using Parallels Desktop. This week, I’m going to talk a little about Boot Camp Beta, and what it took me to get Windows on my Mac with it.

I will be writing a complete review of Parallels Desktop soon, but sufficed to say, I am VERY happy with it. Performance is excellent for regular applications like Office and Internet Explorer. I find it invaluable.

Boot Camp 1.1.2 Beta
First and foremost, Boot Camp is beta software. I know a lot of us in this forum use beta software all the time; and the words beta, pre-release, or unreleased don’t mean much to us. In many cases, beta software gets released in prime time, and never looses its beta moniker. Don’t make that mistake with Boot Camp. If you’re not stout at heart, then this may not be the route for you. I’ve been working with Windows PC’s in the Enterprise for years, and this experience too me by surprise, and really made me reach for knowledge at the very outskirts of my skill sets. I was really challenged on this one, and I’m still dealing with some ancillary issues. You’ll read about those next week… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

  1. You must use a Full, not an Upgrade version of XP SP2 when you install. This one got me, I’m ashamed to say. The problem here is hardware related. The new Macs use a software based disc ejection system. When XP asks you to insert a qualifying OS CD in the drive so it can verify the install, the CD that’s currently in the drive won’t eject. The software eject system that I mentioned is activated by an eject key on the keyboard, and until Apple programs the eject functionality into its firmware; the disc is stuck in the drive until you boot back into OSX and kick it out. So…the XP install process will crap out at the, “gimme the your original Windows CD so you can really upgrade to XP” point.
  2. The CD you use, MUST be a bootable CD, and it can’t be a legal, but home burned, copy; unless the CD you’re using is a DIRECT copy (made CD to CD). Many CD burning apps use DR DOS to make bootable CD’s. DR DOS won’t run on Intel based Macs. I found that out the hard way too.
  3. Using the Boot Camp Assistant is fairly easy. Creating a drivers CD is pretty easy, and installing them will be the first thing that you do once the OS is done installing. Most of your hardware, including the Bluetooth and WiFi radios won’t work at all until you install the drivers. You won’t need to do much more than stick the CD in the drive after completing the Windows XP/Vista install

While that’s pretty much it, don’t let this fool you. Installing Windows on a Mac isn’t as easy as you might think it is. There’s a heck of a lot more to this…

Some of it has been great, while at times it?s been a bit of a challenge. If you?ve been following this series, you?ll remember that I?ve tried running Windows from Parallels. It allows you to run Windows without having to reboot your computer. You can run Windows full screen, and it almost seems as though you?re running Windows on a PC; but you?re not. It?s never going to be a true and real Windows PC. Parallels Desktop is a virtual machine, and not a true Windows install.

Boot Camp offers a true, native Windows experience; but it?s not without its pitfalls. The biggest problem that I?ve bumped into with Windows XP on the MBP relates to data storage. There are some limitations with OSX and Boot Camp that bother and puzzle me.

  1. Boot Camp can only create 1 additional partition. Using it creates a true dual boot situation. Current versions of Boot Camp won?t be able to create or manage more than 2 partitions on your Mac drive.
  2. Boot Camp will only be able to create a 32GB FAT32 partition. Anything bigger will automatically be formatted as NTFS. OSX can access a larger FAT32 drive; but can?t create a FAT32 partition larger than 32GB.
  3. OSX can read from, but not write to an NTFS partition.

These limitations create an interesting data storage problem with a Mac notebook. The default drive for the MacBook Pro is 120GB. The notebook can also be configured with a 160GB or 200GB HDD. However, the drives, even at 200GB aren?t as big as their desktop counterparts have. As such, with such limited space, you really only want one copy of any particular data file on your notebook at any one time; but with the limitations I mentioned, this is a problem.

Where do you store your data? Do you put it on the Mac side of the notebook where only OSX can read and write to it; or do you put it on the Windows side? Do you create a FAT32 partition limited to only 32GB; or do you say, “to heck with it” and store it on a larger NTFS partition that the Mac side can’t write to?

For me, this is a problem. I have a copy of Mac Office AND a copy of Office 2003. I want to be able to use Office on either OS to write with. Tonight it?s the Windows side. Yesterday, it was the Mac side. Due to the drive partition limitations, storing data and versioning files is difficult. What Boot Camp really needs to do is to allow you to create a middle partition formatted as FAT32, where both OS’ can read and write data to and from.

Unfortunately, Boot Camp doesn’t do this yet. You can’t do this with the Mac Disk Utility unless you’re a Mac expert (I’m not). It would be kind of like using FDISK on the DOS/Windows side to manage partitions. Definitely not easy to do. A partition tool like Partition Magic 8 doesn’t work. Boot Camp doesn’t create standard partitions and doesn’t work at all.

In fact, running Partition Magic generates a whole slew of errors that had me yanking it off the notebook just as quickly as I put it on. The fact that it doesn’t have a floppy drive also creates problems due to the way that PM8 works. There also isn’t a partition tool like PM8 that works on the Mac?at least not yet.

I have totally converted myself over to Mac OS X so I don’t spend much time in Windows. The only time I do is for gaming. Counter-Strike Source, Half Life 2, Age of Empires 3 and various other games all run AMAZINGLY on my MacBook Pro. The performance is just fantastic, and I can run all those games at 1440×900 with most settings up high (CS:S and HL2 run totally maxed out). My only problem in Windows is a weird skipping issue with the trackpad. When I am in Windows I always use a mouse. And considering the awesome mouse I have (and that I only use Windows for gaming) I haven’t found it to be a huge problem.

The MacBook Pro is an awesome computer. It’s probably one of the best computer purchases I have ever made. I can’t be happier with the notebook’s performance, form factor and profile. Its truly awesome to use and carry. I think this is perhaps the best notebook computer I’ve ever put my hands on, and I’ve used notebooks all of my professional career. There are a couple of things that I think need to happen with included accessories; but only because the thing is so darn expensive. At over $2000US after taxes, it really should come with some kind of a case. It also really needs to have some kind of a docking station to make it easier to connect and reuse wired LAN, mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, etc. The lack of a docking solution for the Mac is a huge hole that really needs to be addressed.

I took think the MacBook Pro is THE best computer I have ever bought. It is ultra fast, looks amazing, has a great screen, awesome keyboard, runs Mac OS X and Windows, is great for gaming, and is a great size. I paid AU$3400 for mine, which included the 3 year warranty and a student discount (normally would cost about $3800). This is the most I have ever spent on a laptop, but it is so good I think it was worth it.

The MacBook Pro is available from Apple, BestBuy, Fry’s, or any authorized Apple Dealer.
$2174 (as configured); $1999 to $2799

What I Like:
* Nearly everything
* The specs and performance are awesome
* The form factor is superior to anything I’ve ever used
* The screen is amazing

What Needs Improvement:
* The keyboard backlight won’t work for me under Windows XP
* The battery life could be better – MUCH better
* The notebook has hibernation and standby issues under Windows that need to be resolved

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About the Author

Mitchell Oke
Mitchell is a video producer and director working with Australia's leading motoring news sites and car companies. He's always on the go with a camera in hand. With a Bachelor of Creative Technology (Digital Video Production), Mitchell's worked for News Limited, and as a freelancer for many years.

8 Comments on "Apple 15″ MacBook Pro Review"

  1. Tyler Puckett | February 9, 2007 at 1:14 am |

    Mr. Spera, You have listed many facutal inaccuracies in your comments. Some are small, and easily missed. However, some are pretty big.
    The first one I saw was you listed the Ethernet port as 10/100. In fact, it is 10/100/1000 (Gigabit), and has been standard on all 15 and 17″ PowerBooks/MacBooks since 2001-ish.
    Also, you state students using a Mac is a bad decision. I disagree, as I am a student and I use a Mac. I have a 12″ Powerbook. Here, at UNC-Charlotte, all the computer-related classes I have taken use the exact same system you review here, but in OSX, not Windows. That’s right, in Charlotte, NC, every computer class I’ve taken (be it Business Computing, C++ Programming, or Network Engineering), all use Macs exclusively. Also, I know of several companies in this area that use Macs. I’m not saying Windows isn’t more prevalent (it most certainly is), but Macs definitely aren’t only for “graphic designers or advertising agencies” as they have been in years past. OSX is a beautiful multipurpose OS that can do everything Windows can, it isn’t limited as OS9 and earlier versions were. Times are changing πŸ™‚
    Additionally, Apple has made Servers since before the iMac. Currently, they’re called XServe and XRaid. They’re among the most powerful servers available. They run OSX Server edition, and are “mildly” popular (in relation to Macs in general). They power iTMS and the Apple site, obviously, among other sites. Our entire university of 24K students are served from a cluster of XRaids and XServes.
    Also, iWeb (like the rest of the iLife suite) isn’t really targeted for people like us that handcode our websites and upload them via SSH. It’s targeted towards home users who want to set up a cutesy little website without ever having to touch code. That sounds cliched, but iWeb won’t even allow you to edit code. The option isn’t there. Needless to say, I’ve never messed with it. I don’t want to create a family website. It’s just not for me, nor for you as I gather πŸ™‚
    Additionally, You say Only Win XP SP2 will work because of EFI. Actually, what’s going on s when you run Boot Camp, Boot Camp creates a header partition before your OSX partition that is in effect a /boot partition in Linux. This partition includes the Boot Camp Boot loader, and also translates the EFI-based firmware into what is effectively BIOS, which Windows can understand. No version of Windows can understand EFI. The reason Apple requires SP2 isn’t because of EFI (because no version of Windows can use EFI, including Vista), but I’d guess because of drivers. The drivers Apple provides are made for SP2, and in order to cut down on customer service calls they just said “SP2 only” to cut down on confusion.
    I’m not trying to call you dumb or anything, I’m just trying to hopefully rectify some errors. I know you’re new to Mac, and I’m not a mean person so I don’t believe in being hateful. Hope you enjoy Mac-dom πŸ™‚ Tyler

  2. Tyler Puckett | February 9, 2007 at 1:19 am |

    Also, there is an application that is supposed to allow you to read and write to NTFS drives. I haven’t tried it, as I’m on a PowerPC Mac, but it’s worth a shot. It’s located here: and called MacFUSE. πŸ™‚

  3. Tyler, thank you very much for your comments. I am making the adjustments now πŸ˜€

  4. Tyler Puckett | February 9, 2007 at 9:21 am |

    Mitchell, Thanks. I hope I didn’t come across as holier-than-thou or anything else, I was just trying to point out some misconceptions. Indeed, a lot of people are under the impression that iLife should be the be-all, end-all suite for users. If it was, they wouldn’t make Shake, Photoshop, Aperture, Final Cut Pro, or even Final Cut Express or Dreamweaver. I see you’ve switched to Mac entirely minus games, congratulations :). I think that in a year or so we’ll see more games ported to OSX natively much more quickly because of the Intel chips, it’ll be much easier to port them over.

  5. While we are on the subject, Mitchell, I would like to know your opinion. The price difference of the Macbook pro in the US and Canada vs Australia is ridiculous. Its the same story for many more devices too. Personally, I think it is an insult. Are we good natured enough that we can be charged 1000$ more on every notebooks and not be offended ?

  6. I completely agree!! Every time I buy a computer, phone, camera, whatever, I look around on the internet and find prices much cheaper over in the USA.

    For example, the MacBook Pro I bought without student discount is AU$3777.99 (including 3yr warranty and everything else standard). The exact same MacBook Pro on the USA website is AU$3008 after conversion. Where the hell is that extra $770 going? I didn’t see anything special extras in the box to account for it.

    Its the same with Dell. This is one manufacturer that REALLY infuriates me with their pricing difference. They regularly get HUGE coupons which bring excellent laptops under US$1000, when we over here are paying AU$2300 for the same thing.

    Many other devices share the same markup as well.

  7. Tyler, I was very glad you brought up those things. I didn’t take them as an insult at all.

    You are quite right that it is a bit unfair to judge iLife from the point of view of a advanced user. That’s not its target market. For whom it targets, it will perform very well.

    Yes I have been pretty happy with my switch to Mac OS X. Everything is just a bit smoother, but it’s not all roses like some will say. I have had a few crashes, and bizarre stuff happen, but overall I have been suitably impressed.

    One game that runs amazing on Mac OS X is Call of Duty 2. The Mac version is universal, and takes advantage of the incredible performance that the Core 2 Duo has to offer. Even with the X1600 128Mb I can run everything setting maxed out at 1440×900, and its stunning!! And best of all it works great for LANing with PCs!

  8. DOMINIQUE9 | March 11, 2007 at 6:47 pm |

    Hey Mitchell I have got to hand it to you! Great review!…I have spent the last week looking for a good review about the 15inch mac-book pro to decide weather it is worth switching to Mac from Windows as i have heard the occasional rumors that vista is microsoft’s unsurpassed release yet… i mean although im sure it wouldn’t be a regrettable choice lol , i know somewhat software ideas came from apple!…neway moving on just read through your post and i have to admit it covers point-blank literally! everything I need to check before i make a switch especially the “windows on mac” section, now that i have been able a check all the boxes that needed to be confirmed before i make a not so difficult decision, doh ive been using windows all my life, making it possible for me the operating system in and out! specially the hacking part its fun:-)…however you have managed to convince me the mac usage is a lot more smoother than all the other brands out there including my Compaq presario which has served me for about 4 years without 1 problem. doh 192mb ram is hardly hardware routine these days. OK! before i get carried away.

    Bottom line. Is Thank you for the review. i have now considered buying a mac-book pro to start university πŸ˜‰ good job.

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