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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  • Calin - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    To nitpick, it would be at the center of the hard drive, not at the outer edge :) (ok, based on sector numbers, which starts at the edge).
    Near the "end" of the hard drive, the transfer speed is reduced (there are fewer bytes on a full circle).
    Reply
  • jimmy43 - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Excellent Review. This may be my first laptop purchase, seems to have everything I could possibly want. Reply
  • monsoon - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Hello Anand,

    ...i'm waiting for Parallels to finalize their VT release and maybe Merom Macs too...

    I was wondering if the ONE CORE only VT tech is to be the final result of their virtualization software or just a middle-step.

    Seems to me it's rather poor a solution ( ok, it's the best out there for now ) to use a dual-core computer to run both OS on a single core

    =/

    Better would be smart distribution of tasks to the CPU depending on which OS is actually under load...

    ...any thoughts / info on that ?

    Thanks for your nice review !=)
    Reply
  • plinden - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Better would be smart distribution of tasks to the CPU depending on which OS is actually under load...


    Looking at CPU load while running Parallels VM, I see the load spread evenly over both processors (usually < 10% total CPU except at boot, when it reaches 150% CPU). It's just that the VM itself sees itself as running on a single processor.
    Reply
  • shuttleboi - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I've read that the ATI X1600 in the Mac can run games well, but only IF you overclock the GPU. I can't imagine the Mac getting any hotter than it already supposedly is, and the idea of overclocking an already hot laptop is not appealing. Reply
  • JoKeRr - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Overall I enjoyed it.

    Would have been nice to see a comparison of screen brightness, as apple claimed 67% brighter!

    And also, the slowness in windows, could it be related to chipset driver stuff?? And what's the gaming experience so far like?? Would it be similar to a desktop 6600 or 6600gt??

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • rolls - Friday, April 14, 2006 - link

    Very interesting numbers all round.

    35% improvement in iTunes when comparing a single core 1.5GHz 7447 with the old slow bus etc, and a new 33% faster dual core intel CPU. 50% improvement in H.264 encoding etc. These numbers suggest that had Apple stuck with Freescale and moved to e600 core based systems, performance figures could have been off the scale. If only...

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    On paper the X1600 Pro desktop cards actually look pretty decent. 12 pipelines at 500 MHz, with 800 MHz RAM. I would have thought they would at least give the 6600GT a run for the money, given how X1800 compares to 7800. Amazingly (to me), the X1600 gets completely stomped by the 6600GT. What's worse, the cards I have can't even overclock worth a darn on the memory side - 800 is stock, and they get unstable at even minor changes. (Could be an issue with the overclocking tool, though?)

    Anyway, for now I would say X1600 Mobility is going to be somewhere in the realm of 6600 (non-GT) performance, maybe slightly faster. That means gaming is definitely possible, but you will want low-to-medium detail levels for any recent titles. Just a guess, of course, and Anand will have to run benches to get any final confirmation. Really, though, this laptop isn't intended as anything more than a light gaming solution.
    Reply

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