As you may have already guessed, I caved in and got a new Macbook Pro (MKII, Unibody….whatever it’s called) last weekend. Since there’s no sense in beating around the bush with this one, I’ll come right out and say it: This is possibly the most beautiful, functional, and elegant piece of hardware I have ever owned (or been in the same room with for that matter). Obviously it’s a looker, there’s no denying the aesthetic appeal; it feels as if you’re in the presence of some artifact transported back from the future. It’s almost impossibly thin and the weight is perfectly balanced, it feels almost like a solid brick of aluminum. The most incredible part is the power hiding beneath that sleek skin, it’s hard to believe Apple crammed it all into this svelte form factor. I think the real key to the success of this design is the fact that it feels and looks like one solid object. All laptops I have used until this point sort of felt like a loose collection of disparate components shoehorned into a flimsy shell. The new Macbook feels like a single unit; a rugged, seamless, integrated tool. As it should, the body is carved from a single piece of aluminum.
The battery life is also great, I have been squeezing around 4 hours out of a single charge which blows away my previous HP laptops. I Would have to say my favorite part though is the new trackpad. It’s huge, lacking a button (actually, it’s just one big button), and very responsive. The gestures are genius: four finger gestures activate expose functions, three fingers handles navigation (fwd, back, etc..) and the old two finger scrolling is intact. This is the first laptop I’ve used where I wasn’t constantly wishing for a mouse. The keyboard is great too, very nice tactility with a solid feel. A great improvement over previous versions in my opinion. Bottom line: Believe the hype, this thing is a winner.
Ok, so enough gushing, everyone knew the new Macbook Pro was going to be an amazing machine before it even came out. It does have two potentially major weaknesses, and while they pale in comparison to the upshots, I feel compelled to list them here in case any are deal breakers for those of you considering buying one. First up: the infamous glossy screen. A lot of people have lamented the death of the matte screen option which was available on the previous incarnation of the MBP. But to tell you the truth, it really doesn’t bother me like I thought it would (and kind of gives me a nostalgic feeling for my old CRTs). The glossy screen was originally a deal breaker for me, I was planning to wait until they released a matte version (which is supposedly in the works) as my previous HP gloss screens were absolutely terrible. But after comparing the new MBP with an old matte MBP, I definitely prefer the new screen. Given, it is an LED so the brightness and contrast are better than the old LCDs to begin with, so perhaps a matte version of the new LED would win out in the end. But honestly, this has turned out to be a non-issue for me; I have yet to encounter a lighting situation in which I had a big problem with glare. I took a shot of the MBP doing it’s best mirror impression (below). Keep in mind that the screen was turned off for this picture and I was running some very bright photo flood lights, so it really amplifies the effect a bit more than a normal usage scenario. That shiny screen is a fingerprint / scratch magnet though, I can’t imagine it still looking very pretty in a year or so.
Next up is Apple’s new Mini Display Port format. It’s a very, very small port that handles all of the video output duties on the new Macbook. I’m all for innovation and moving forward, but this seems like too much too soon. It also seems like Apple is just trying force it’s customers to adopt it’s own, proprietary format. My issue with the Mini Display Port isn’t that I had to buy $100 in adapters just to make it work with my existing equipment (although that wasn’t exactly a plus), my problem is that, for the time being at least, there is no TV out for the Macbook Pro. The old full-sized DVI ports had four analog pins that allowed for an S-Video or Composite adapter to be used. Even the mini-DVI ports, which would have fit fine in this new form factor, supported analog output. You might say that S-Video and Composite are old formats and worthy of deprecation in this day and age, but a lot of video professionals still rely on these formats for live performance. For most VJs, DVI or VGA just isn’t an option as a lot of venues don’t supply them on stage and most video mixers still run off S-Video/Composite only. I know this isn’t an issue that will effect the masses (clearly who Apple are shooting for), but the word “Pro” does appear at the end of this laptop’s name and I’d expect it to have all the “pro” features included. And even if you aren’t a pro, it’s always nice to be able to hook up to an older (sans-HDMI/DVI) TV in a pinch. I was really caught off guard by this issue since at the time of purchase I was told that TV out was possible and the nice salesman even sold me a TV-out adapter (which of course didn’t work considering It’s only compatible with the old MBP. Something I didn’t learn until I got home). There is hope though, I read somewhere that the new Nvidia chip does support analog out, it’s just a matter of Apple taking advantage of this ability and offering an adapter. But since they don’t currently offer such an option, I’ll have to go plunk down another $100 for a TV scan-converter which will further degrade the already poor S-Video/Composite signal I’m trying to output. (See Peter Kirn’s Create Digital Motion article for more info on alternatives to TV-out on the Macbook.) And if all that’s not enough, those who invested in Apple’s flagship 30″ Cinema display have to purchase yet another $100 adapter just to make Mini Display Port work with their monitor. So to sum up, that’s a potential $300 extra just to get your shiny new Macbook to play nice with all your existing gear/formats. (And that’s not counting a Firewire 400 adapter.)
Obviously, neither of these relatively minor issues were enough to turn me off to this otherwise incredible machine. But I guess when I see something so near perfection and the only things holding it back are such simple fixes, I tend to fixate on those problems. The bottom line is that this is a huge leap forward in mobile computing and would serve any creative well. $2000 gets the base model and $2500 will get you the beefed up version (4GB ram / larger HD / 512MB vram). The student discount will knock off around $200.
So what say you? Anyone else scored one yet? Any thoughts / issues? Sound off in the comments.