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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  • Visual - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    you have some borked page 18 after the "final thoughts" page showing up in the dropdown.
    in printarticle.aspx it shows up as a duplicate of page 17 for some reason

    as to the article itself - good job :)
    my guess as to why the vm is faster than the real thing is because the hdd emulation works somewhat like a ramdrive - its a file on the apple hdd but it probably gets cached up by osx or by the vmsoftware itself.
    Reply
  • plinden - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    quote:

    my guess as to why the vm is faster than the real thing is because the hdd emulation works somewhat like a ramdrive - its a file on the apple hdd but it probably gets cached up by osx or by the vmsoftware itself.


    That could be - I have maxed out at 2GB RAM in my iMac, and I get wired RAM is close to the max and a hefty number of Page Outs (up to 210,000 last time I looked. before it setayed below 5000 even after being on for a week) while running Parallels VM.
    Reply
  • ibisbowti - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I been using the 1.83 Core Duo for about a week now. I think it is one of the latest builds according to the serial number. No problems at all, other than it does get pretty warm. Heat issue seems better after latest firmware update. I think the aluminum is designed to be a big heat sink! I thought the Front Row software would be a little gimmicky, but it is pretty cool, especially when sitting the unit on a coffee table and watching the HD movie trailers, IPhoto pics, etc with others. It's an awesome machine so far. Reply
  • artifex - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Since you say you ran the same tests as in your earlier review, I'd like to see graphs comparing the results of the Intel iMac vs. the MBP. and add in ones for the Intel Mini, if you can. I suspect we'll see iMac > MBP > Mini, but it would be nice to be sure.

    Also, if you could slap Parallels on the Mini and tell us how much of a hit the virtualization takes because the hardware virtualization is disabled for that line, that would be really interesting.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • AppaYipYip - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    "Apple quality control at it's best"

    That comment bothers me. Overall, there are no other manufacturers that come even close to Apples quality, design, and workmanship. Yet, you find one key that sits slightly off and suddenly feel the need to make such a blanket statement. If it bothers you so much, take it back and Apple will repair it for you, in record time.
    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    The IBM thinkpads (before the Lenovo deal) were regarded as the best business laptops (or at least PC laptops) as quality and workmanship. Too bad they were designed with cramped keyboards (at least the models I saw) and no trackpad. Reply
  • Ryan Norton - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I'm a PC guy but I like Macs a lot and will probably buy a Macbook Pro, either now or when Merom ones come out. I figure Anand probably is too. Yet I work with Mac zealots who give me endless shit about the unequivocal superiority of Apple everything over PC (except for games, which they concede). So when someone like me finds a glaring flaw that seems like something that should have been spotted before it got to the end user, it's easy to take a cheap shot at Jobs =^) Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    If I had my dream review of this product, here's how I would have you test gaming performance:

    Test performance in Windows mode. Then compare it to other Core Duo notebooks. Then see if there is any game written natively for OS-X under Core Duo, and run the OS-X version and the Windows version to see the difference in OS on performance on the same machine.

    Other than no gaming info, terrific review.
    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    This could be thanks to slower drivers in BootCamp Windows XP, or slower hard drive access/speed. Everything else is a disadvantage for VM: one more level of indirection in disk access, less memory, running the OS X behind the VM.
    Could you do some disk speed comparation between VM and native XP?
    Reply
  • BigLan - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I think it's going to be hard drive speed throwing off the benchmarks. The BootCamp partition is going to be at the outer edge of the disk, with much slower speeds than the VM client virtual drive which is on the faster Apple partition.

    I'm not sure if it's possible to assign the entire HD to a windows partition using Bootcamp, but that's about the only way i can think of to level the playing field.
    Reply

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