MacBook Pro

As those who have been reading a while know, I ordered my new MacBook Pro about five minutes after they were announced, meaning I was one of the first few thousand orders. My order receipt said it would be shipped the 15th, the day they came out… and then Apple delayed all the orders while they upgraded the CPUs to the new 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo chips instead of the originally spec’d 1.83Ghz chips. The new ship date was listed as the 28th.

Then, it shipped on February 20th, with a scheduled arrival date the same as my original estimated arrival date (the 23rd). To make things even better, it ended up arriving a day early, on the 22nd! (Sometimes, it’s the little things that make us go “Woot!”)

It’s now the 24th, and I’ve had essentially two days to play with the machine, transfer files over (I don’t use the migration assistant… I like the opportunity of a new machine to re-organize my data and clear out clutter), and install my essential applications (namely: BBEdit, iWork, Photoshop CS2, and the Developer Tools).

The consensus? It’s awesome. First of all, it feels really good to be back to a 15 inch laptop: the 12″ was a little too small for me. The construction appears to be excellent, and it’s remarkably lightweight and thin for its capabilities — it even feels solid when picking it up (there is no flex happening, which is a relief). I’m really digging what they’ve done with the ambient light sensors to help maintain an even brightness across environments (so, I notice no real difference in contrast or color sitting here in front of the window, or last night, sitting in my darkened bedroom). Also, when the ambient light drops below a certain point, the keyboard lights up for easier low-light typing.

The built in microphone and iSight work rather well, though I haven’t yet used them externally (ie, I’ve tested it via Bonjour to my G5). I was amused and kind of pleased to see that they’ve incorporated the iSight capabilities into the initial setup process, allowing you to take a snapshot of yourself to use as your user icon. It’s a little thing, and probably didn’t take much to do, but it added to my experience nonetheless.

Before I move on from the hardware, let me just say that I have not had the high pitched whine others are apparently complaining about. I can hear a very light whine if I put my ear to the keyboard, but that’s about it. Overall, it’s the quietest laptop I’ve had to date (my first laptop was the “Lombard” G3 Bronze Keyboard, then the 1st Gen IceBook, then the 15″ Powerbook G4, then the 12″ Powerbook G4, and now the MacBook Pro). Also, I can’t really speak much about the battery life, as I haven’t had the occasion to let it run down from full yet.

Now, for OS impressions on the Intel board: overall, it’s good, but there were some disturbing hangs that had me a little concerned, including in the initial registration process (setting the clock of all things). That may have been because I wasn’t online during the initial setup process, but nonetheless, it was offputting. The second hangup was later that evening, when I was installing AdiumX. Adium has been compiled as a Universal binary, as has Growl (which it uses for notifications). Yet, when I first installed Growl and was configuring it, there was a period of about 2 minutes where the machine was simply not responsive. I’m not sure if it was Growl, or something else, but in either case, it hasn’t come back to date, even across boots, so I’m not worrying about it.

The other big negative has nothing to do with the MacBook or the Intel switch as far as I can tell: Keychain Access seems to be broken. Even browsing through various troubleshooting solutions, I simply COULD NOT get Keychain Access to add my previous Keychain, nor import it into a new one. I tested this out on my other machines, and it seems to be something borked in a recent OS update, as it happens on all my machines (all running 10.4.5). So instead of really getting to PLAY with my new machine, I spent most of the evening hand transferring my passwords from my old laptop to my new one. That said, I’m archiving my old keychain on the chance that things will get fixed later (I know there are a slew of website forum passwords that I simply didn’t bother transferring).

Overall, apps seem to be snappy, at least as fast as they were on the 12″, if not faster. This includes programs that have not yet been translated to Universal Binary format, like Photoshop, so I think I’ll be fairly satisfied with this transition. (It’s worth noting that Lightbox, Adobe’s currently-free beta software designed to compete with Aperture is already Universal. CS2 probably won’t ever get a Universal build, but CS3 is a certainty.) Wireless strength appears to be strong, but again, I haven’t really tested its range yet.

Now, perhaps it’s just me, but once Darwine or VirtualPC get running at game-capable speeds, or some solution for dual booting Windows and OS X is found, I fully see myself using this laptop for virtually all my needs. I’d highly recommend picking one up anyway, but once the Win-Mac capabilities present themselves, it will earn my complete and hearty endorsement.

For the technically curious, my specs:
MacBook Pro 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo
2GB PC2-5300 (667MHz) SODIMMs
120GB 5400rpm SATA drive
Mac OS X 10.4.5
ATI Radeon Mobility X1600 w/ 256MB of GDDR3 RAM