Saturday, December 05, 2009

Quick early review of the MBP 13' with Mac OSX Snow Leopard

After having the MBP for just about 5 days, I thought I'd give my impressions of using the shiney apple laptop from the perspective of a long time windows user (this is my first Mac). To make it easier for me, I've broken my review down to three sections: Hardware, Software and Usability. Enjoy and be nice if you're commenting!


Probably don't need to say too much here, since its obvious that this is a beautiful piece of design and engineering. The fit and finish is stellar, the backlit keyboard is glorious, and the screen is nice and sharp. The device is compact, but feels solid - I'm still in awe of how Apple could fit so much computer into a thin and attractive package, while many other laptop manufacturers fail so miserably. I used to scoff at Mac apologists/fanboi's attempts to justify the Mac's higher pricing - but having scrutinised the build quality of the MBP's hardware, I can see what those extra dollars are getting me.

I was a bit worried how I'd get on with the depressible touchpad, but my fears were unfounded - using the touchpad either by tapping or pressing was accurate and precise - and for the times when my brain forgot, I could still use the touchpad as per usual, by clicking on the bottom left or bottom right for a left and right click respectively. I'll talk more about the touchpad later, because the most impressive thing about the touchpad is the underlying programming that makes it work.


Despite working almost exclusively with Windows PCs, I have had some experience with MAC OSX Tiger before, so I knew there were subtle differences in the way Macs and PC interfaces worked, things like the screen close/min/max buttons being on the top left, and using the command key vs ctrl for keyboard shortcuts. I did get a bit put off by the absence of a "My Computer" equivalent on the Mac Desktop, but you can actually activate that option in the preferences anyway.

The dock is nice for accessing your most commonly used apps, but I keep it hidden just to reduce clutter, though it doesn't matter so much day to day, but for things like iMovie and iPhoto, you need all the screen real-estate you can get.

I've not really played with many of the supplied apps that came with the MBP, with the exception of iMovie which I used to edit and post the unboxing video (taken with the iPod Nano!), but trying to move the video from the Nano to iMovie was a little more complicated that I expected. In the end, I found out that you actually download the movies from the Nano using iPhoto, which was a little counter-intuitive. Regardless, iMovie was a quite useable editing tool, though I was a little frustrated that it didn't work the way I wanted it too, but I'll chalk that up to being too used to using Windows moviemaker and Corel VideoStudio on the PC.

I had a brief play with Garageband (I was thinking of using it to make a soundtrack for the unboxing video) but it was a little too difficult and too much work at 12am, so I left that alone. I suspect that its complicated nature means that its quite a powerful audio editing and creation tool, but I may need to see a few more video tutorials before I tackle it again.

Safari is usable as a browser. So far I've only encountered one website it doesn't play completely nice with (Nokia website), but there's Google's Chrome and Firefox if I need them.

TextEdit works fine for my basic word processing needs (I'm typing this review on it) - and seeing as I'm expressly NOT going to use this computer for work, I'm not going to bother with getting Office or OpenOffice/NeoOffice on it right now.

But far and away the killer app for me has been the touchpad gestures. OMGWTFSWEETJEEBUS! You've got one finger tap, two-finger tap, two-finger scroll, pinch and stretch, three finger swipes, FOUR finger swipes! Ok, so beyond the use of two fingers it get's a little crazy, but the way Apple has implemented all these gestures is very clever, and done in that classy Apple way. Another on these apple touches (was that a pun? I dunno) were the mini videos that demonstrated the gestures and what they did - these are found in the touchpad preferences screen, where you can choose to deactivate the different gestures individually. My favourite gesture so far is the four finger swipe: swipe up, and it clears all your windows to expose the desktop; swipe down, and it lays out your opened screens, and you mouse over and click on the one you wish to view. No lag, no stuttering. Now usually I don't go gaga over all this kind of fluff - I turned off all eye-candy on XP and VIsta - but when something can be pretty AND functional, I am the first to admit that I'm impressed (and maybe a little aroused).


Now by usability, I guess I'm really posing the question "Can I function with this as my primary/only computer?" - and my answer would be a definite "Yes". Now as far as PC users go, I'm probably one of the more flexible in terms of needs, since all my email is on the cloud, and there isn't one app that I am absolutely bound to. Sure, I could think of some peripherals that I won't be able to use on OSX such as my current HDTV dongle, Nokia and Windows Mobile phones (for syncing purposes), but if I need to, then I can either install XP via bootcamp, or virtualise it via VMWare Fusion. Either way, any hurdles to switching are easily solved.

Final thoughts

Like them or loathe them, Apple knows how to make a good-looking device with a great user experience to boot. You may have to pay more for it, but you only have to use one to see exactly what your money is paying for.

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