Monday, November 15, 2010

Apple Raves

About two months ago I ranted about some issues I had with my new Apple MacBook Pro. For the most part, after additional time with the machine, they are all pretty much still valid. I'm still not used to the keyboard layout; I keep reaching for keys that don't exist. The menus at the top of the screen still escape me.[1] As for finding other machines on the network, that could be a bigger issue than it is for me. Once things are mapped, the O/S seems to do a decent job of finding them. As long as the network topology is stable, it's not a huge issue. It's simply an occasional annoyance rather than a day-in/day-out frustration. And finally, the stability isn't as bad as it first appeared. Now that things are setup and working, I haven't had any crashes or freezes. I don't think it's good as Windows or Linux, but it's not as bad as it first seemed.

With that recap and update of what I don't like, this article is about what I do like. And there is plenty.

Battery life

The battery life on this thing is superb. I haven't actually timed it or have any hard data, but seat of the pants performance feels as good as any laptop I've had with much bigger and heavier batteries. If I was a real road warrior, the lack of being able to change batteries might be a problem, but in the last 10-plus years of using a laptop, I've really only needed a backup set of batteries a couple times. For my uses, if it lasts a day of off-and-on use, it's good. And this has done that and then several hours of continuous use in the evenings. Perhaps one of the reasons the battery lasts so long is because of the next item...

Sleep/hibernate

I've never had a laptop that is so consistent in it's ability to go to sleep and wake up when needed. This issue has been one of the biggest ongoing technical flaws in all the other laptops I've had in the past. They were either slow enough at it or crashed regularly enough that I didn't use this feature very much. The Mac does it so smoothly and seamlessly that I do it quite frequently. This might be part of the reason my battery life is better: I'll close the lid and put it to sleep in cases where in the past I'd leave it on. For example, those times when I know I won't need it for five minutes but don't want to shutdown. I guess these periods of inactivity were using more battery than I gave them credit for and they added up so the difference is note-worthy.

Networking

Wow, what can I say about the networking connectivity. It just works. Flawlessly. Everytime. It finds and connects to networks easily and intuitively. Once I've connected to a network, it remembers it and reconnects again without hassle. I can be connected to one network, sleep the machine, go somewhere else with an already known network and begin working again as if nothing has changed. I never knew how much of a hassle network connectivity was until I didn't have the noise anymore.

Delightful surprises

I just noticed this the other day and it's an example of the subtle attention to detail that is throughout much of the system: the Finder's date column adjusts the format based on the width of the column. If the column is narrow, it shows mm/dd/yy. Widen it a bit and it shows mm/dd/yy hh:mm. Some more space and it starts using abbreviations. It continues giving more detail like this until everything is spelled out completely.

Summary

So, all in all, it's a really nice machine. It's not so much nicer I'd never own anything else and, as I mentioned, there are some real annoying "features" about it. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it a good, solid 8. Fairly comparable to the other high-end Dell's I've had in the past.

1. Literally, they escape my notice; I simply don't see the menus up at the top of the main screen. I'll be working with a program wondering how to do something, looking around frustrated. And then, when I'm about to give up thinking the s/w is brain dead, I remember to look at the top. This is particularly pronounced when working with multiple monitors. The menu isn't even on the same screen as the application.
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