MBPro 13-in: Arrives after long odyssey, much joy

Posted on by Mike Evans

Author: Michael Evans

My incredibly well-travelled new MacBook Pro 13-in model has now arrived in sunny London after its odyssey around the world. The victim of The Great Dust, it travelled from Shanghai to Cologne, back to Shanghai, then to Korea, Poland, Germany and, finally, visited no fewer than two airports in the UK. I collected it yesterday morning and soon had it up and running.

I am reminded, yet again, how easy Apple make it to install a new Mac--especially if you are transferring from an old Mac. The experts will tell you it’s a good policy to do a clean install, re-download all your applications and start from scratch. That way you avoid transferring any problems that might have built up over time on the old computer. But Apple’s Migration Assistant is just so darned convenient. Plug in a Firewire 800 cable and follow the instructions. All your data, all your applications (complete with registrations) and, crucially, all your settings, come over in a surprisingly short time (in my case 90 GB took 46 minutes). All your wireless network codes are there, your desktop is just as you left it, your widgets are in place. In fact, you could easily forget you are using a new machine.

There is just one caveat. If your old machine is really old--say over three years--it could be wise to consider a clean install of applications and settings and simply transfer your data. It’s an informed choice, but in my case, with an 18-month-old donor, I believe automatic migration offers negligible risk.

Windows switchers

Windows switchers have it a little harder, but it is nonetheless straightforward. See this Apple information paper on Windows switching. You might also want to visit Detto Technologies’ Move2Mac page for a painless solution. It is certainly a lot easier to switch from Windows than it was five years ago when I got my first Mac.

My new 13-in MBP is replacing a late 2008 15-in laptop (the original unibody with the removable battery). Nominally, with its 2.86GHz processor and dual graphics processors, the 15-incher is still a faster beast, despite its age. But I was willing to sacrifice ultimate extra CPU performance for the smaller footprint, lower weight and greater convenience provided by the little Pro.

So far, though, my impression is that the 2.66GHz newcomer is actually faster in the real world than the 15-in. I put this down to the choice of the 256GB SSD drive and 8GB of RAM. Adding more memory is the single best thing you can do to improve speed, particularly if you habitually load lots of applications. Having been impressed by the 64GB SSD drive in my old MacBook Air, I was more than eager to try the faster, bigger version in the new computer. SSDs offer quicker disk access, therefore quicker start. Access speeds are generally higher than those afforded by even fast HDDs such as the 7,200 rpm devices offered by Apple at extra cost.

Apple don’t say much about this and it is difficult to find out just who manufactures the “Apple SSD” in the latest models. I decided to go with the Apple drive because the price isn’t all that different from that of after-market units and you have the added peace of mind when it comes to warranty issues. Some people, I am sure, will take the standard, basic HDD and swap it out for an aftermarket SSD. This is easily done and is a good choice if the price differential warrants it.

Subjectively, therefore, I believe this little MB Pro is a fast and efficient all-rounder. It’s certainly the pick of the MacBook line if you do a lot of travelling, as I do. Battery life is a clincher. With the screen brightness turned down to 3 bars I am seeing 7hr 30m on the battery after a full charge. This is short of the 10-hour claimed by Apple, but is still impressive. The old 15-in model was struggling to show 3 hours after a full charge and in similar circumstances. As I use the computer more and the system learns my usage over several full-to-empties, I expect the battery indicator to learn to show slightly better range.

The old 15-in is now relegated to desktop duties alongside a 24-in cinema display. Medium term, I intend to replace it with an iMac but there is no big hurry. But my trusty Air, a first generation model, is due for its pension. It has been a great computer if you can accept the paucity of ports and the persistent overheating problem that is a feature of the first-generation Air. Later models, I know, have been improved.

Whither the MacBook Air?

Nonetheless, I wonder where the Air fits in now we have the iPad to keep us occupied. My new MacBook Pro is without compromise or qualification, yet it has exactly the same footprint as the Air. True, it is thicker, but nor overly so, and weights 5.6 lb compared with the Air’s 3 lb. The Air, though, was always aimed at the Geek-who-has-everything market and offers poorer value for money than the Pro. I suspect said Geek will now have an iPad alongside everything, so the position of the Air is perilous.

The Air was not upgraded in the recent reshuffle of models, although it was overdue for attention. Whether this means there is a major update in the offing, or whether it spells the death knell, I don’t know.

In the meantime, I am very happy with my Spring 2010 MacBook Pro and I will report further when I’ve put it through its paces.

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