When I first started using a PowerBook G4 over a year ago it quickly turned into the best experience I'd ever had with a notebook. My biggest issues with notebooks were always related to reduced productivity, mainly because of screen size and resolution constraints. Despite its name, Windows does an absolutely horrid job of managing lots of windows, something which looks to be on the road to getting fixed in Vista but back then there was no hope in sight. It also just so happens that when I'm getting a lot of work done and when I happen to be my most productive, I have a ton of windows open at once. The move to tabbed browsers alleviated some of the problem, but for the most part it still existed. And on a notebook, with a small lower-resolution screen and an uncomfortable to use pointing device productivity suffered.

My experience with OS X and the PowerBook G4 changed all of that; window management under OS X was significantly improved for reasons I've outlined before (Exposé, hiding vs. minimizing windows, the zoom to fit control, etc...) and it even addressed the issue of user input. With the large number of keyboard shortcuts that existed for virtually everything in OS X, I spent far less time using the trackpad and much more time actually getting work done.

But my PowerBook experience wasn't perfect; I opted for the 15" model because I did want to get work done and needed the large screen with its higher resolution. The problem was that the 15" PowerBook weighed at least a third more than any notebook I had used in the previous couple of years, and although initially I had no issues going to a larger, heavier notebook it eventually became a pain. I still wouldn't trade away the added productivity for something smaller and lighter, but you always want what you don't have.

On the CPU side, the PowerBook G4 was growing a little long in the tooth. While for the most part the performance of the notebook wouldn't bother me (and outfitting it with 2GB of memory definitely helped), there were definitely times when doing a lot of Photoshop work at an IDF or doing anything other than writing where I missed my desktop. The battery life of my PowerBook G4 also left me wanting more. It's tough to test notebooks with five hour battery lives and then write about them on a unit that can manage only half that.

Despite my complaints, I still wouldn't part with it. The PowerBook G4 was the best notebook I had ever owned, and even when the MacBook Pro was announced it wasn't a big enough leap (at least on paper) for me to justify the upgrade. Having just tested Intel's Core Duo processor and wanting it used in every battery-powered device I owned, I still resisted.

When it was finally announced that the first Intel based Macs had booted Windows XP, there was a lot of excitement from those who were on the fence about giving OS X a try. Had this all happened to me back in the summer of 2004 when I first gave Apple and OS X a try that probably would have been me showing my excitement as well. But for almost two years now I've been living a life happily as a dual user, so a hack that let me boot Windows on my Mac meant nothing to me.

Then Apple announced Boot Camp, effectively a very handy utility to partition, boot and run Windows XP alongside OS X on any Intel based Mac. Even more people wrote me, telling me that they were extremely excited that this had happened and that they wanted a review of the experience, much like I had done OS X in the past. You see, Apple is very careful about where and when they send review hardware, so any sort of MacBook Pro article was going to require me going out and buying a unit myself - thus an extensive cost benefit analysis had to be performed every step of the way.

But the straw that broke the cost benefit analysis model's back was the announcement of Parallels' Virtual Machine 2.1 beta. The beta would let you run Windows XP under OS X in a virtual machine with support for Intel's Virtualization Technology (VT). After that announcement I knew there was no avoiding it, an article had to be done; not only on the MacBook Pro but on Boot Camp and Parallels' solution.

What follows is that article.

The MacBook Pro: So very similar, yet so very different
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  • corequadro - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    I found it as a perfect help against the annoying whine. Just start and then stopp it, and you will – if you aren't using ichat – have a perfectly silent macbook till the next reboot.
    Of course, a fix from Apple would be more effective, but I can live with the widget fix.
    Reply
  • brich - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    I really think the MacBooks have legs to grow, especially once the intel transition is completed over the next year and universal support becomes more 'universal.' My 12" PowerBook G4 1.5 has served me very well, even with the limitations of XP Pro running in VPC 7 inside Tiger. I think that some of the PC-only enthusiasts who add a MacBook to their arsenal will discover that the integration of excellent hardware esthetic and design with an OS that is continually developing/improving (OSX) will make the Mac solution quite compelling.

    That said, if I were a user who was totally satisfied with Windows and was not interested in OSX, then I would not buy a Mac to run Windows...no reason to do it. The real differentiation is the new flexibility of the intel Macs with OSX as a viable alternative to XP now and Vista later. Ther ability to run XP on them is frosting on the cake, imho.
    Reply
  • ohnnyj - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    Dear Apple,

    I want a 12in Merom MacBook.
    Reply
  • Desslok - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Acorrding to Daily Tech the hardware bugs you talked about are fixed with the new revs of the MacBook Pro. The article also stated that Apple would allow you to trade your MacBook in if you were having these problems. Reply
  • JAS - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Tonight, I visited an Apple Store to see the MacBook Pro in person. What a gorgeous, well engineered laptop -- and impressively fast! The units on display did have rather warm undersides; but perhaps these are from the initial manufacturing run ("version A"). Reply
  • trooper11 - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Great job on the review, it was interesting to see how close things are coming on the software side to run a Windows environment on Macs and pointing out how similar Macs have gotten to every other laptop maker, at least in terms of parts and performance.

    The thing that gets me now is that the change over to Intel processors and ,in general, a more universal system, has made the Mac just another notebook vendor. So whst the Mac Book Pro has going for it is OS X and any of the Apple software, the machine itself is no better or worse then the many laptop manufacturers putting out Windows based pcs. In the past Macs had sort of mystique relating toa percieved uniqueness.

    If everyone realizes this, then Id like to see a review of a Mac Book from the perspective of any normal system evaluation. Comparing the experience with Apple with those of HP, Dell, Acer, or even Lenovo. If Im not a fan of the Mac OS, then I dont see any other reason to pick them over say Acer or Lenovo. I certainly wouldnt pay a price premium for the Apple name unless I saw some first hand reviews relating to price/performance and quality of service you can expect.
    Reply
  • anthlover - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Those who have a powerbook that runds under 1ghz will be well served by the new books NOW. Those that have 1.5 and 1.67 have not need to quickly switch unless there is some native apps including apps free ones they want to use.

    Those that have no book will do well with them.

    Waiting unless somthing new was coming out in a couple of weeks is silly. Computers and their prices change constantly, models are refreshed and replaced rapidly. One should always buy what they need and try to future proof too much.

    Of course those wanting to save might want to wait for the Ibooks err Mac Book.

    Glad to hear replacing the drive got **easier then on the earlier Alumibooks... Or at least the 12 inch one. I got through the keyboard replacement part of the disasemly I had done before and then read ahead to the upper case disassembly and realized that I need a brighter room, no cats trying to help, and a lot of care. Too much risk. With the books It sounds like when you want that 200gb 7200 rpm drive it will be easy to put in:)
    Reply
  • plinden - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    The choppiness can be made almost unnoticeable by reducing the "Hardware acceleration" - Display Properties/Settings/Advanced/Troubleshooting, and move the slider one notch to the left. Reply
  • nels0360 - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    The hardware issue mentioned have been or are being fixed.

    Apple has release silent revisions of the MacBook Pro. It is well documented on other sites such as Macrumors.com

    In fact, I believe Apple will give you a new revision if you complain about one of these problems.
    Reply
  • plinden - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I know they are different benchmarks, but over at http://www.macworld.com/2006/04/firstlooks/xpbench...">MacWorld, they found that the MacBook Pro was faster at running Windows than three Windows-only PCs.

    I'm not going to editorialize here, just bringing this to your attention.
    Reply

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