harbar.net component based software & platform hygiene

Did the MacBook Pro thing

Print | posted on Saturday, March 22, 2008 3:13 PM

A month or so ago I joined what has become somewhat of a mini-trend amongst SharePoint types, and bought a MacBook Pro. It's not like us SharePoint heads are special (well, we are, but not because of this) and there were many others before us of course.

I had been considering a new laptop for quite a while and since the switch to proper hardware and the release of BootCamp, Apples are now a more than viable option for running Windows. The primary purpose of this machine is to run Vista (obviously), and the specs available are extremely competitive.

Now having said that, another powerful draw was MacOS. For those that don't know I started in this crazy game as a Mac boy. Not a turtle neck sweater fan boy, but a serious digital graphics type at a time when PCs simply were toy computers. Things have moved on since then of course, but being able to play around with MacOS was a key driver for the purchase.

So, I went for the 2.6Ghz, 17" with the 200Gb 7200rpm disk. I stuck to the matte screen after seeking advice and seeing it side by side with the glossy. I added another 2Gb RAM and have a stonkingly nice laptop as a result. I get a Vista Experience index of 5.1. I know I can get similar specs from other manufacturers, but not in such a nice machine. The MacBook Pro really is a very nice bit of kit.

I decided on the 17" because of the amount of remote working I am doing, and the smaller screens were beginning to really annoy me. Portability was not a main driver, but it's not that heavy.

Things I like:

  • Power adaptor, it's small, and has interchangeable connectors which use standard connectors. Very important for frequent travellers like muggins here. In addition the flight adaptor is simply a cable. The transformer is built inside the laptop, so no need for the separate transformer in the carry on.
  • FireWire at max speed. Great for VMs. Plus three USB ports is very handy.
  • It's quiet (even in Vista) - much quieter than other laptops I've used.
  • Keyboard - this is very nice for a typist. Much better than the VAIO, although the layout and missing keys is a bit freaky.
  • Screen - it's stunning. as is the sound.
  • Hardware Assisted Virtualization - this was never available on VAIOs as Sony decided it would be a great idea to cripple it.

Things I don't like:

  • Gets very hot - according to the web because they really slap on the thermal grease. in some ways this is a good thing as it encourages you not to use the thing on your lap - which is a terrible way to use a computer.
  • No fingerprint reader - amazing how used to this I had become.
  • No physical switch to turn off Bluetooth and WLAN to save power. WLAN can be turned off thru Mobility Centre, but not Bluetooth
  • The Apple SuperDrive shows up in Safely Remove Hardware which is a minor niggle.
  • No built in slots for SD/memory Stick etc.
  • My HSDPA card doesn't work in MacOS because the idiot service provider doesn't ship Mac software.

I bought the thing just before they came out with new ones with Multi-touch and a slightly newer processor, but I'm not bothered about those things really. Besides I had a timeframe I had to purchase in. I'm sure once they ship real new ones later in the year I'll be upset for a few days, but such is... I checked out the latest VAIO SZ7 and it's a kickin' machine, but overall I am loving the MacBook Pro, plus I get the chance to have a real play with MacOS when I'm not working.

Vista 64 Bit.
I'm running Vista 64 bit on the BootCamp partition. I did this using the recently released Mac Pro install disks (which include 64 bit BootCamp plus most of the drivers). This gives me access to all my RAM and has been very good so far.

A couple drivers were not dealt with by the BootCamp install:

  • Marvell LAN Card - this is done by Windows Update.
  • Nvidia Video Card - Nvidia don't provide downloads for mobile chipsets, but as it's Forceware a modded INF file sorted this out.

That's it! Everything works - even my HSDPA card works in 64 bit (after some fiddling around). I've only found so far one piece of software that doesn't have it - the MRI Sidebar gadget, which I can live without.

Another note on BootCamp, it's drivers and associated spyware is a lot more lightweight than other laptop vendors such as Sony. It's a clean build.

Overall, the MacBook Pro is a great laptop and I'm extremely happy with the purchase.