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Opinion: Owning a MacBook Pro for a year

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The end of October marks a while year of me owning my MacBook Pro – which I ordered not too long after Steve Jobs gave his keynote on the Mac – where he introduced iLife 11, OS X Lion, and some new MacBook Airs. I decided to order the 13 inch MacBook Pro (specs here) that was available at the time. I’ve changed a few things in that year though – I changed the standard hard drive that came with the laptop – doubling its storage capacity with a 500GB drive, and I upgraded from Snow Leopard to Lion.

So first of all – why did I make the jump from Windows? To put it simply, my PC running Vista was starting to irritate me – coming up with random problems almost every day for reasons that I couldn’t figure out. I wanted to change Operating Systems – and my experience with Linux (more specifically – Ubuntu) had always left me feeling frustrated because of hardware incompatibilities.

I wanted something I could surf the web with and do some light PC gaming with but with a minimum of headaches. Luckily being 19 at the time and still living with my parents left me with enough disposable income to justify spending the money on a MacBook Pro – and the fact that Valve had bought Steam to the Mac was comforting – knowing that I could play favourites like Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 on my Mac was comforting and besides, I do most of my gaming on my Xbox 360 anyway.

So what were my first impressions of my shiny new Mac? Mostly positive. Everything seemed to work together well – and I was a big fan of using gestures on the big trackpad. One thing that irks me about laptop trackpads is how cumbersome they can feel to use – but even to this day, I couldn’t possibly think of going back to using a regular old trackpad. I do wish that it was a bit wider though – as sometimes I find I run out of trackpad space when I’m trying to drag something to the other end of the screen.

The keyboard is equally comfortable to use – though suffers from a few Americanisms – but it’s something that I got used to in time – but in the future I would like to see a proper British keyboard layout, as it can be a bit jarring when you go back to a standard keyboard for a while.

I was a little irritated when new MacBook Pro’s got released with i-series processors in them (as opposed to my Core2Duo) – but the technology world is such that your hardware is never more than a few months away from being surpassed – but in hindsight I definitely wish I had the patience to wait until Apple released the newer models before parting with my money.

So on the hardware side I’m happy with what I’ve got – though the built-in webcam could benefit from being better, it serves its purpose well enough – it’s just a question of if “well enough” is justifiable when you’re spending £999 on a laptop.

My feelings on the software are a bit more mixed though – I certainly don’t hate OS X, but I don’t think that it’s the holy grail of operating systems as some people would have you believe. There are things about the user interface that make me wonder what Apple was thinking. First of all – there’s no maximise button. Well, that’s not entirely true – it’s complicated.

There’s a maximise button in the sense that it’ll make the window bigger – but it won’t fill the whole desktop as you’d expect it to – to show you an example, here’s Google Chrome “maximised”:

Instead if you want the window to occupy the whole screen you have to click and drag the edges so that it fits – or hit the “full screen” button if you’re using an application in Lion that supports it. Of course there’s a plethora of keyboard shortcuts that you can use – but whether or not you want to go through the trouble of remembering them all is another case all together.

Another source of bother is that over time it feels as though my Mac has become slower – especially as far as startup times are concerned – which is strange considering I upgraded from a 5400RPM drive to a 7200RPM one. Upgrading to OS X Lion doesn’t seem to have helped things out either, and deleting everything and starting on a completely clean install of Lion (as opposed to my initial upgrade) didn’t appear to be of much use.

Speaking of which – I’m not a fan of OS X Lion being discless. Waiting for Lion to download from Apples servers can take a considerable amount of time – and even then afterwards my system was exactly the same – as though nothing had happened at all. It felt like I had to wrestle with the system in order for it to wipe everything so I could start anew again. A most frustrating experience indeed, and I hope this isn’t something that catches on with Windows and other operating systems. Never underestimate the usefulness of physical media.

Of course OS X has its upsides – I’ve grown rather fond of the dock, and it’s nice not having to worry about malware as much as you do with Windows (but of course, you still have to keep an eye out). The App Store is a nice idea, though it seems to be full of the same useless tat that you find on your typical mobile app store. It sells games as well – but with most of these being available on Steam (and with support for multiple platforms) I’m not sure why you’d bother getting them on the app store – how many platforms do you really need Angry Birds on anyway?

Do I regret my Mac purchase? No – I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve got. But would I buy another one when the time comes? I’m not so sure. Considering I recently built myself a dedicated gaming rig all I really need is a device for browsing the web with – and really, I could just do my research on some laptops, find out which ones have the best hardware compatibility with Ubuntu and save myself £999 – in fact, I may well install Ubuntu on this Mac long before I consider new hardware all together, as I recently tried 10.11 on a USB Stick and things appear to have been greatly improved upon.

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Written by Pokeh

October 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Opinion, Tech

Tagged with ,

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