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Apple MacBook Pro MB076LL/A 17-inch Laptop

Apple MacBook Pro MB076LL/A 17-inch Laptop (2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, Glossy Display, 2 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, DVD/CD SuperDrive)

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A very nice update to the MacBook Pro5
I had been wanting to switch to Mac for a little while now and was just waiting for the best timing for me. When Apple updated the MacBook Pros with a better processor, better graphics, more system ram and led-backlighting, shortly after the birth of our daughter (the selling point to my wife was that I would be better able to edit videos and whatnot of the kiddo), the timing was just right. I've been a longtime DOS/Windows user - and now I feel like some kind of refugee - fleeing PC for a Mac OS X world and I couldn't be happier - although it's not without its adjustments.

I originally wrote this review for the 15", 2.4 gHz, middle of the line MacBook Pro. However, Amazon has set this review to appear for all three models in the line, which can make it confusing. I've tried to edit it some to make it clear what the differences are between the models. Also, now that Amazon has actually added extensive product information for the MBP, I'll try to take out some of my initial information on specs that is now redundant.

There remain three models in the line and the price points for each of those models has remained the same from the previous generation.

- 15" models now have an LED backlit screen, 17" models do NOT (as of yet). Some folks think you have a better rendition of black in the screen - I'm not sure if it is better or not, but it is gorgeous. In the store, it appeared to me that the new screen (as viewed on the 15") was brighter than the older screen type (which is still on the 17"). The LED screen initially appeared washed out in the lighting of the Apple store, but I then realized that at full brightness, it can have that effect - turning down the brightness (who ever heard of that) - took away the washed out look.

- Apple says that using LED's (instead of flourescent tubes) uses less power, generates less heat, provides more range of brightness and more even lighting. This would appear to be true in practice as well as theory. Battery life is good and the lighting of the screen (as noted above) is quite bright and appears to be very even. As for heat, I really haven't checked the screen temps, but the computer itself does not run as hot as I thought it would (based on reviews of prior generations). It is warm, but not at all uncomfortable to have on my lap (with the caveat that I have not done a lot of processor intensive work as of yet). Oddly enough, Apple states above that the display is mercury-free, but the box label says that the screen contains mercury - it may well just be a label update glitch.

- These models are MATTE screen. If you want GLOSSY you'll need to order from Apple or pick one up at their store (I did). I have heard that the glossy is actually more readable outdoors than the matte, but I have yet to confirm this for myself. That said, I've had no viewability issues in widely varied lighting conditions of my office (which is pretty bright, with overhead lighting and lots of exterior light) and my house (which is largely the opposite).

- The system runs well (or so it seems) with 2 GB, but I am upgrading to 4 GB (the sticks are on their way - but not from Apple - way overpriced).

- the 17" and higher-end 15" get 256 MB of video ram, 128 MB in the lower-end 15" model - most folks are probably fine with 128 MB as it is the change in the graphics processor here that is truly the big news in performance. On the other hand, the extra video ram may give you the feeling of being a little bit more future-proofed and may be more helpful for hardcore gamers and people who are driving large external displays. I opted for the 256 MB.

- hard drive is a very nice 160GB, 5400 RPM Fujitsu drive in the 17" and higher-end 15". The lower-end MacBook Pro hard drive is a 120GB, 5400RPM Drive - this, oddly, is smaller than the 160 GB drive that is in the top line MacBook that is several hundred dollars less. I'll probably add an external Firewire 800 drive for the video work I want to do.

- processor speed gets a minor upgrade to 2.4 gHz (from 2.33, or to 2.2 from 2.16 for the lower-end 15" model - but this is the new Santa Rosa processor - with a faster bus speed of 800 mHz (although the memory speed remains at a max of 667 mHz).

For $500 less, the lower-end 15" model has 128 MB of video ram (instead of 256), a 2.2 gHz Santa Rosa processor (.2 slower) and a 120 GB hard drive. However, it still retains the other upgrades, including the 4 GB maximum system memory and the LED backlit screen and seems to be an excellent bargain as most of the differences appear reasonably nominal. That said, I chose to go with the higher end 15" version - I probably don't need it, but I plan to do a fair amount of video editing and perhaps some high resolution projection - warranting the slightly faster processor and more video ram) - and I'm also somewhat neurotic and unlikely to second guess having made the higher end choice. At least I can admit it.

A friend of mine asked why I didn't get the MacBook for a thousand dollars less. For me, the screen-size was not so much an issue, but I feel that twice the maximum ram, the separate graphics processing unit, the Firewire 800, the ExpressCard slot (if I wanted to add a CDMA or GSM-based wireless connection card) and the LED screen was well worth the difference.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the computer itself seems well-built and well-engineered - but it's all relative and it's not hard to be a better, more integrated product than most windows-based pc's. The MBP replaces an older Toshiba laptop for me - and there's really no point in even trying to make a comparison, it's a joke. The Mac O/S is a bit of a learning curve for me - but more like I am trying to unlearn "bad habits" from Windows - things now make sense in an operational and functional manner. Overall, it's an attention to detail that I really appreciate on both the hardware and the software side - little things like a backlit, auto-dimming keyboard or the magnetic power connector. I have to admit though, that after initially being impressed by the light-sensing, auto-dimming screen - I am annoyed by the fact that the sensor is apparently in the keyboard and, in a bright room, certain hand movements cause the screen brightness to change back and forth. I'll probably turn off the feature because of this.

Great product, only tiny flaws5
My previous (non-Windows) laptop was a trusty 12" G4 ("titanium"). I loved it, as it was (and still is) of an almost perfect size, and capable to do almost everything I needed to do on the road. But it *was* getting old, and when Apple came out with the slightly speedbumped MacBook Pro (a name I still don't like), I ordered it. I'm reviewing the 15", 2.4 GHz, 2 GB, 200 GB hard drive version.

The first thing that strikes you is how thin it is. My good old G4 was already slim, and the envy of almost every other passenger next to me. However, due to the increased screen size, the new MacBook Pro seems even slimmer (it actually *is* slightly slimmer than the G4 in case you wonder). What is really impressive is that the 12" G4 weights nearly the same as the much larger (and newer) 15" - that's progress! And the 12" G4 is a lot lighter than my Wintel laptop.

The next thing you notice is when you turn it on: the screen's brightness. I've purchased the matte screen, as I'm not really fond of glossy screens (reflections). Still, the (now LED backlit) screen is astonishingly bright, and bright enough to use outdoors on almost any occasion (except in direct sunlight on a sunny summer day). Contrast is good (even exceptional compared to my G4). The screen's resolution (1440x900) is great, and more than enough for most presentation, spreadsheet and word processing work. Since it's 16:9 aspect ratio, it is also great for most image processing (lots of space for your palettes). It is less well suited for coding, as it is not wide enough for two 'real' code windows side by side. Then again, the MacBook Pro comes with a graphics card that can drive an external (additional) 21" monitor without breaking a sweat, and that *is* enough for most coding needs. I should note that Apple chose to make the video connector DVI (luckily a standard connector this time, unlike in my G4, where it is a proprietary connector), and omits a standard 'VGA' style connector. This means that, if you plan on giving a presentation, you should always bring along the DVI to VGA adapter (that Apple thankfully includes in the box).

What I really enjoy about the MacBook Pro is it's selection interfaces. I have rather large amounts of data that I have to move in and out of it (from our production machines that do most of the heavy lifting), and having a FireWire 800 port is a godsend. Using Firewire networking, I can move gigabytes in minutes (limited, it seems, more by the laptop's hard drive than bandwidth). In addition to that, it sports a USB 2.0 (for connecting all those Wintel things, plus iPods), a FireWire 400 port (can be used with older Macs, and many HandyCams), and 802.11 ("Airport") connectivity (b/g/n). Since the 'n' part of the 802.11 is not yet officially ratified, there aren't many hotspots that support it (unless you are lucky enough to be close to a new Apple Basestation).

Sadly, it does not have a slot for memory cards (CF, SD, whatever), but since readers are really cheap today, that's not an issue. On the upside, it also comes with self-sensing Gigabit Ethernet, wich is something that is really important when you want to quickly connect the laptop to a wired high-speed network.

The MacBook Pro also comes with a front-loading trayless DVD (DL) writer. It's not really fast, but it integrates nicely into the laptop, and is decidedly much, much cooler than those flimsy contraptions that I see sliding out of so many other laptops (my Dell included). I know that there are faster writers, but then again, if I want to write large amounts of data, I usually transfer them to a big box that can write at four times the speed.

Temperature-wise the MacBook Pro shares the same problem as most recent laptops: it gets uncomfortably warm for something that is supposedly be used on your lap. I didn't get burned, but did not enjoy the sensation either. So, whenever possible, use a surface you can put it on instead of using it directly on your lap. Speaking of using it - the keyboard is very similar to the one built into my G4. It's OK, but nothing much to write home about (sorry, couldn't resist that pun). The keys are, however, backlit, which is a definite improvement (and looks really, really great). I still have mimxed feelings with regard to the trackpad. It supports the 'two-finger clicks' to simulate a two-button mouse and to implement scrolling, but I havn't much used it, opting for a small two-button mouse instead (purchased separately, and not from Apple).

There are some other things that come with the MacBook, most notably the built-in iSight (which can't be physically disabled short of voiding your warranty), and a tiny remote. I don't plan to use either. Looking for some freebies on the disk, I discovered that Apple, too, had succumbed to pre-installing demo versions of (thankfully few) applications: MS Office, Aperture and iWork (Keynote and Pages). Freebies are Comic Life, iLife (iMovie, iTunes, iDVD, iWeb, Garageband), and Omni Outliner.

It took me roughly 2 hours to completely configure the new laptop the way I wanted it (most of the time taken up by installing Parallels (with Windows XP taking 45 minutes), Final Cut Studio, XCode, Office, Aperture, Freeway, and iWork). I did not take advantage of the 'transfer from other Mac' feature (which I know to work well), because I wanted a freshly set up Mac. Still, compared to the time it took me to install and configure my last (Wintel) laptop, that is next to nothing. Network and Internet setup was a snap, and didn't require much more beyond adding it to our Firewall's 'good guy' list. I then took it on a road trip over the week-end.

I'm happy to say that it passed the trip-test easily. The 'mag-safe' power adapter is definitely more than just a gadget, but also definitely less than revolutionary. It came off twice during the week-end, but both times a normal power adapter would not have snapped. The second time it came off I only noticed because the screen dimmed immediately (to conserve power, as per energy settings).
I never worked with it off the normal power for longer than two hours, so I don't know how realistic Apple's figures are. The battery pack does come with one of those cool green LED charge meters, and after two hours they indicated about 50% charge left (as did the on-screen meter). Working with the MacBook Pro was always good, with all applications being very responsive (except, of course MS Office, as my version is not Universal. It was responsive enough for serious work, though). The wireless antenna seems slightly more sensitive than that from my old G4, but still can't hold a candle against reception in most PC laptops with low-cost (and sometimes drop-dead ugly) WiFi adapters. This may be caused by the metallic casing. BlueTooth reception, on the other hand, is good, and proved no problem with any of the bluetooth devices I tried (well -- I only have two: my phone, and my car).

All in all I'm very happy with my new laptop, prefer it immensely over my Windows-based laptop (which, now that I have an Intel-based Mac, I can safely store in the attic and return it for the regular company-sponsored upgrades), and only feel slightly guilty of purchasing over my old (but still working) G4. The screen size and brightness, the connectivity, and the incredible slickness of the form factor make this a great laptop. It's really a hot laptop. The only downside is that it is also literally a hot laptop, but not more than my Windows-based laptop from Dell. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a slick, high-end laptop.

beautiful and sexy, with brains5
Let me stress at the beginning that I am not a Mac fanatic. I work with PCs and find them much less annoying now than I did 10 and 20 years ago. I've owned an iMac for four years and find it nice but imperfect. Macs and PCs are converging when it comes to reliability and ease of use, but Apple products are much more elegantly designed than most other computer products, and the Mac OS is still cleaner and more stable than Microsoft's product. I doubt the price premium makes Macs worth it for everyone, and in some ways Apple computers are like luxury cars that aren't designed either for stellar performance or to make things easy for the home mechanic, but rather to make driving as easy and comfortable as possible for people who don't much care to change their own spark plugs. They aren't for everyone, but they're definitely for those of us who want things easy and want our toys to have some style.

I like my new MacBook very, very much. It's thin, light, clean, and oh, so simple to use. The screen is brilliant, the keyboard feels nice (and I love the back-lit keys). Without subscribing to a service or dealing with any settings, I turned it on and had immediate wireless access to the Internet. I plugged my camera into it and immediately downloaded pictures - no mess, no software to install. The included software that loads and edits pictures, music, and video is all nicely integrated and very easy to use, and also more than adequate for the casual user. I'm a little more than a casual user of photo software and will install Photoshop, but for most of my pictures I'll probably stick with iphoto. I popped in the disc for my four-year-old version of Office for the Mac and in a few minutes had smoothly functioning word-processing and spreadsheet software running the files I brought in from my office PC. Easy, easy, easy.

(This does lead me to note a negative that isn't minor: Apple computers used to come with a decent word processing and spreadsheet package, AppleWorks. That's no longer included. If you want to do word processing, you must buy some other software to do it. The absence of AppleWorks is unfortunate.)

I bought this computer for my wife (yes, I called it mine - she may have to pry it from my hands) and opted for the MacBook Pro over the regular MacBook. She plans to use it on her sabbatical this year, toting it around to various libraries and archives and writing a book. I tried out my brother's MacBook and liked it very much, but I think the MacBook's chicklet keyboard would be annoying and uncomfortable if I had to type long or quickly on it. If this computer weren't destined to be used for long keyboard sessions away from home, I'd have been happy with the MacBook. If it were destined to be used mostly at home, I'd have saved a few hundred dollars and just bought a plug-in keyboard. But for our purposes the better keyboard and brighter screen really matter, so I spent the extra money on the Pro. If you don't plan to do a lot of typing, or if you plan to use it mostly at home, I don't think the extra expenditure would really be worth it.

As another reviewer pointed out, this thing gets hot. Very hot. I've always found laptop computers to be a bit warm for laptops, but this one would be painful on unprotected flesh. The magnetic connection for the power cable is very nice. The battery life isn't bad, nor is it great - surfing the net and word processing, I've managed a bit over four hours. I haven't watched an entire DVD on it, but that seems to drain the battery more quickly. The kids have already videoconferenced with their grandparents, and the built-in camera is very nice for that.

Overall, this computer reminds me of my iPod - sleek, sexy, uncomplicated but sophisticated, fun to be with. How much extra expense that's worth to you will decide whether this is the computer for you.

About Apple MacBook Pro MB076LL/A 17-inch Laptop (2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, Glossy Display, 2 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, DVD/CD SuperDrive) detail

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #2101 in Personal Computers
  • Brand: Apple
  • Model: MB076LL/A

Features

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 2GB (two SO-DIMMs) of PC2-5300 667MHz DDR2 memory
  • 8x slot-loading SuperDrive DL (double layer)
  • 160GB Serial ATA hard drive



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