MacBook Pro - One year later

It has been about a year since I bought my first Apple Computer, a 13” MacBook Pro.  You can read my review here, and see my unboxing here.  What I want to do is revisit the MacBook Pro, and talk about my first year with it. First, the hardware.  I can say that even a year later the MBP is the best quality computer I have ever handled. It still feels solid, the hinge is still as good as it was when I first opened it, and nothing adverse has happened to the machine.  The build quality is seriously top notch, and I know that this computer will still be rocking like a tank long past it’s useful lifetime as an actual day to day computer.  The Battery life was advertised from Apple to be 7 hours.  When I first got the computer, under ideal circumstances I could get very close to that 7 hours, though around 6 was more realistic.  1 year later, and the battery is starting to degrade just a little bit, but nothing like other laptop batteries I have seen.  It does vary depending on use, but I am averaging around 5 hours of battery life, which is still very good, and battery life is rarely an issue for me.  A quick look at coconutbattery tells me I have discharged the battery about 175 times in the past year.

That being said, there are a couple of things I really wish the MBP had.  The screen resolution on my MBP is 1280x800, which is pretty low, even by 2009 standards.  Many 13” laptops come with 1366x768 displays now, which are capable of displaying 720p video full size.  Even the 2010 revision of the 13” MBP still only has a 1280x800 display.  This is one area where Apple really needs to step it up and catch up to it’s PC counterparts.  The other issue I have is with the limited USB ports on the computer. the 13” MBP only has 2 USB ports, and they are very close together.  For example, if I plug in my cruzer micro 16GB flash drive, it blocks the second USB port and I cannot use it.  the Cruzer Micro, despite it’s name, is not the smallest flash drive on the market, but it is definitely not large.  The casing is only about 1cm wider than the width of a USB port.  Apple really does need to space the USB ports out just a bit more.  I’d also really, really like a 3rd USB port.  9” netbooks have 3 USB ports, Apple really should put a 3rd USB port in.  There have been a few times where I really could have used it.

When it comes to the software side, I was really jumping into a new world. Sure, I’ve used OS X in the past, spent a couple semesters using Apple computers in school.  But beyond that, it was really my first foray into OS X.  I didn’t know much about the 3rd party software, and within a month of my computer purchase, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard was released.

Long story Short, Snow Leopard is miles better than Windows XP, but that shouldn't be surprising, since Snow Leopard was released in 2009 and Windows XP was released in 2001.  Snow Leopard is also better than Windows Vista, but not by as much as people might think.  I’ve talked a lot about Windows Vista here, and won’t really rehash that.  Is Snow Leopard better than Windows 7?  No, it’s not.  Is Windows 7 better than Snow Leopard? The answer to that is also a no.  After a year of using both operating systems on a daily basis, I can honestly say that for the most part, they are pretty much comparable.  Sure, there are some things that Snow Leopard does better than Windows 7, and some things that Windows 7 does better than Snow Leopard, but at the end of the day, they are very comparable experiences.  I very much enjoy using Snow Leopard, but if someone took my MacBook Pro away from me and told me I had to use a Windows 7 laptop instead, I could do that without missing a step.  One of the main reasons I purchased an Apple laptop when I did is because I wanted to become proficient in both Windows ans OS X.  I am still better with Windows, I probably always will be, but I can also now switch between operating system environments without missing anything, or feeling like I’m lost, which really means that my goal has been accomplished.

One thing that I really have noticed in my time using both Windows and OS X, is that for probably 70% of what I do on a day to day basis, the platform I use doesn’t really matter.  Most of what I do regularily lives on the web. I use the gmail web interface, google docs, Facebook, and many more web applications.  I use desktop applications all the time as well, but some of them are even cross platform.  For the apps that aren’t, there are always equivalents on both platforms, and I have learned how to use most of them.  One of the only things I do now that I make a point of doing windows only is working with photos and videos, but the main reason for that is because my desktop computer is much more powerful and has much more screen space than my MacBook Pro.

The only applications I can honestly say that I was disappointed with has been the iWork suite.  Not so say the software itself isn’t good, but the fact that I work with word and excel documents all the time, and while Pages and Numbers support opening them, it is very hard to quickly work with and save .doc, .docx, .xls, and .xlsx files.  that was what actually finally pushed me to use google docs nearly full time.  I’m looking forward to trying Office 2011 for Mac, as I really do enjoy using the traditional Office suite.

Beyond that there really isn’t a whole bunch to say.  I love my MacBook Pro dearly, and really do think it is a wonderful computer, despite it’s few shortcomings.  Perhaps the biggest thing I have learned in the past year of using both platforms is that at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what platform we use anymore.  Windows and OS X are each other’s peers, there is not one that is better than another, and so many people use the web so much now, that it truly doesn’t matter.  I know this is a tired argument, but I firmly believe that apple could hit a better market share if they simply lowered the price of their computers, but considering they just came out with their best quarter in the company’s history, I don’t see that happening.

Would I recommend an Apple Computer today?  Honestly, it’s not really a yes or a no answer.  If you are willing to spend more money for the computer, and don’t mind a couple weeks of a learning curve, by all means, go ahead.  But for most people, you don’t need to.  There will always be people who will buy only Apple Computers, and there is no problem with that.  If you really want to buy it, you will buy it.  If you don’t, I really don’t think anyone will miss a beat using Windows anymore.  Go with what you want, and what you are comfortable with.  You won’t be disappointed either way.

Some Sunday Thoughts

I don’t have enough to really talk about on any single topic today for a blog post, so I’m going to write about a bunch of things in a single post.

First, I can happily say that I'm writing this from my backyard.  It’s 30 degrees today in Edmonton, and barely a cloud on the sky.  It’s the first day of the year that truly feels like summer, and was long over due.  I enjoy the winter months.  I really do.  But even I have a limit.  We had a late start to our winter, but paid for it with a very cold winter, and a cold spring.  While I like winter, I acknowledge that Edmonton truly comes alive in the summer, and I’m glad to see it, as long as I can find a piece of shade.

Now, I want to talk a bit about Apple. On Monday they announced the iPhone 3G S. Now, the iPhone is a non-starter for me, because I will not go to Rogers.  The 32GB iPhone 3G S is a very compelling device. A good camera, video recording, battery battery life, and voice control make it a step up from the iPhone 3G.  However. if you’re an iPhone 3G owner, it is not worth the upgrade.  If you are a 3G owner, you will have to pay the full price for the 3G S, since you will not qualify for the subsidized price.  instead of $199/$299, you will have to pay $499/$599. Way too much. If you are not an iPhone owner, and want to move to Rogers for it, there is no reason not to.  The 3G S is worth it.  I, however, would not buy the 8GB 3G at the $99 price point.  Sure, an iPhone for $999 is nice, but for the type of device it is, 8GB of storage is simply not enough. throw 500 songs on, a couple movies, a couple TV shows, and some apps, and you’re already full.  Skip the 8GB iPhone and go for at least 16GB, 32 preferably.

Now, the MacBook Pro upgrade.  This took everyone off guard.  All I will say is that the 13” MacBook Pro is a very compelling device.  You will not find a better laptop for the price point. Overall, the price drops make a Mac somewhat more affordable, which is very welcome. If you’ve been thinking about buying a Macbook, there is no better time than right now, or the near future.  I know that if I needed a computer today, the 13” MacBook Pro would be the one I buy.

All this, and I haven’t even touched on Snow Leopard yet.  Some new things, nothing mind blowing, except the price.  $30 to upgrade from the previous version is a steal, and a direct shot at Microsoft.  Very interesting indeed.

Lastly, my city councilor, Tony Caterina, says that the proposed service cuts in the 2010 budget are something we can “live with.”  I was appalled by this statement.  As the city hacks and slashes services, I don’t know how they can live with it.  They want to close 2 hockey rinks, because 2 more are coming online this fall.  But what he doesn’t see is that the reason 2 more rinks are being built and brought online is because the rinks the city currently has are pretty much at capacity.  They were building new rinks so people could have more ice time, so more teams could play.  Hours are being cut at swimming pools starting in July.  Lifeguarding hours have been cut, quite literally putting peoples lives at risk.  I wonder if Mr. Caterina could live with those cuts if they were services he uses ever day.  He should talk to the people of his riding that do use these services, and see if they can live with it.  The reason there are all of these cuts, is that council wants to keep the 2010 tax raise as low as possible because it’s an election year.  Sure, they can spin it anyway they want, but fact is fact.  The city is willing to cut services to keep the “magic number” that everyone pays attention to low, which is a political move, and it’s going to hurt a lot of people.  It’s too bad.  both of my councilors have already lost my vote, we will see about Mayor Mandel.

Well, that ended up being a little longer than I thought it would, but at least I got to write this post outside. Now, back to my weekend.