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MacBook Pro Reviewed 336

Posted by Zonk
from the where-is-our-review-copy dept.
phaedo00 writes "Ars Technica has an in-depth review of the MacBook Pro that compares performance with a Dell Inspiron running a hacked version of OS X 10.4.4: 'Yes, you read that right. We at the Orbiting HQ were able to have some benchmarks run on an acquaintance's Dell Inspiron 9100 with a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 HT chip running OS X 10.4.4, and decided that including the benchmarks from this machine would prove to be both interesting if not illustrative of what non-Apple x86 machines may be capable of if they could run Mac OS X (legally). Please keep in mind that the data from the Dell laptop is for illustrative purposes only and that no one at the Ars Orbiting HQ hacked a machine. As David Letterman says, this is not a competition. No wagering.'"
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MacBook Pro Reviewed

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  • NY Times Review (Score:5, Informative)

    by nervouscat (597962) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @10:57AM (#14834516)
    David Pogue has his review of the new Apple MacBook Pro in the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/technology/circu its/02pogue.html [nytimes.com]
  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @10:59AM (#14834532)
    Another side effect of Apple switching to Intel chippies will be the increased number of comparisons of common apps (both functional and specific packages) across OS's. Before, it was always a bit sketchy comparing Win/*nix apps against OSX apps due to hardware differences. Now that the hardware is starting to become more "common", direct comparisions will take on more meaning.

    Whether this is good or bad for Apple, we shall see.
    • Ah yes, but you see....

      us Macheads will undoubtably...regardless of the good or bad outcome, begin touting the usability or our most Superior OS. Now that the hardware is on an even footing we can really begin looking at the software differences, which of course is the real issue of note.

      We'll complain that Adobe is shorting us on performance if the Win version is faster that the X version on the same hardware specs.

      We'll crow about the OS performance if the X version is faster than the Win....

      We'll tell yo
    • Indeed,

      Depending on what use you have for your laptop, the G4, Macbook or Dell all have slight advantages over each other.

      Frankly, I'm quite surprised that it appears that the Dell was the best choice for the consumer who wants to encode quicktime.
      • Frankly, I'm quite surprised that it appears that the Dell was the best choice for the consumer who wants to encode quicktime.

        to be fair, quicktime encoding is a CPU intensive operation, and the dell laptop had over a Gig of processor power over the macbook. perhaps osx wasn't taking adsvantage of the HT on the dell, but even so, that's a formiddable lead and I'm quite surprised the macbook kept up so well.

        I bet the macbook is alot thinner too.

        dave
    • This test obviously doesn't. It looks to me like they just picked up a laptop they had laying around to try. Like someone said (further down the page) this feels more like a "look at my new toy!" than it does a real comparison. Its a decent review of the item in question I guess. But single core vs. dual core isn't exactly an even comparison, especially on software that was designed to take advantage of it. Someone drag up a windows machine with similar hardware and then I'll be interested.
    • Before, it was always a bit sketchy comparing Win/*nix apps against OSX apps due to hardware differences. Now that the hardware is starting to become more "common", direct comparisions will take on more meaning.

      Maybe the instruction set differences have been eliminated, but apps on different platforms will differ significantly in terms of how they employ the native API. I would expect an application originally written for one platform and ported to the other to suffer a penalty in performance, features,

    • Before, it was always a bit sketchy comparing Win/*nix apps against OSX apps due to hardware differences. Now that the hardware is starting to become more "common", direct comparisions will take on more meaning.

      What? If it takes 20 seconds to do something on one OS/computer combination, and 10 seconds to do the same thing on another OS/computer combination, what is so difficult to compare?

      I regularly do benchmarks across different OSes, hardware, and compilers. I've always assumed that the lowest numbers
  • Hee. (Score:5, Funny)

    by sammy baby (14909) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:01AM (#14834547) Journal
    From the second page of the article:
    Speaking of bedrooms, and not in the least bit tongue-in-cheek, I can see the built-in iSight as a new and even easier means for amateur, uh... adult photos... to be taken and sent around the Internet. I, for one, welcome our new Pr0nCam overlords. Okay, not really.

    *sniff* It's like the reviewer was my long lost sibling!.
    • Apple should bring out $49 pieces of stylish tape to cover the iSight for those that don't want the thing staring at them all the time.
      • Re:Hee. (Score:5, Funny)

        by Coming soon! (767296) <nye&speakeasy,net> on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:13AM (#14834654)
        iPatch, couldn't resist...
      • I am not sure if your noticed it or not. But in a lot of comericals they show a person who is using a Powerbook and they have a Duct-Tape Covering the Apple Logo. And what is worse a lot of the time their Product doesn't work for the Mac. or you go to the Web Site and it doesnt support Safari.
        • And what is worse a lot of the time their Product doesn't work for the Mac. or you go to the Web Site and it doesnt support Safari.

          Well, to be fair, allow me to let a thought slip out of my fingers, here. Why support Safari, or FireFox, or IE? Why don't we support HTM-fucking-L, decide on a REAL standarrd (accept NO proprietary bullshit in this standard) and we get rid of the browser wars altogether? I realize I'm sorely off-topic, but this man's comment just made this thought jump into my head. Hell, I
  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:02AM (#14834554) Journal
    Looks like they still have some bugs to work out, as the PowerBook G4 still outperforms the MacBook in some of the benchmarks [arstechnica.com].
    • As a side note, it would have been interesting to see how a PowerMac w/dual 2.5 GHz G5's stacks up in comparison.
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gnasher719 (869701) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @01:42PM (#14835977)
      ''Looks like they still have some bugs to work out, as the PowerBook G4 still outperforms the MacBook in some of the benchmarks.''

      Absolutely. The XBench guys have to work out some serious bugs in their so-called "benchmark".

      The Intel versions get lower marks in the user interface tests because XBench tries to redraw some buttons as fast as possible, and the Mac very reasonably flatly refuses to do it faster than the screen refresh rate.
  • If the battery life is 3.5 hrs on a powerbook, sorry, macbook pro, it should be quite a bit more for the iBook. (if the iBook only has a single core CPU.)
    I'm a big fan of ibooks, as they make awesome everyday-use machines.
  • I'm curious to know why the battery life benchmarks given in the review are so low. According to the reviewer, 3.5 hrs. seems to be the highest figure, while my guesstimate would have been a good hour more. I'm fairly sure that it's not Core Duo (Yonah) that's at fault here, because the new Napa platform is supposed to be more efficient than its predecessor. Nor could it be the USB bug because AFAIK, it's happening because of an MS driver bug (it doesn't allow the CPU to reach the deeper-sleep state because
    • It is a first-generation version of an Apple product, they always have limitations. Look at the battery life difference between 1G and 2G iPod minis, for example.
      Personally, I'm going to wait for the second generation Mactels, presumably released Q4 06 or Q1 07.
    • It was also real world testing, not even with "best power savings" mode enabled.
      • Meh ....

        I use my 12 inch G4 Powerbook every day, most of the day on battery power. I run a custom power setting which is more power efficient than the "Better battery life" option. I turn down the brightness, the sleep timer, and keep bluetooth off.

        Those settings are more than usable for everything except watching a movie (or I'd suppose Final Cut Pro ... but I don't have that). I pick up about an hour over the "Normal" or "Better Performance" options (which don't seem to differ significantly).

        ... an
    • According to the reviewer, 3.5 hrs. seems to be the highest figure,

      Indeed. 3.5 hours was the highest among 3 tests. That graph is especially misleading -- why show 3 values, highest, lowest, and average, when you only ran 3 tests?

      That said, while you might get an full hour turning everything off, I don't think I would expect the average to be that much higher. Yonah is relatively low power, but it's not magic. The biggest factor in battery life is still going to be the size of the battery, which on the
  • by Markvs (17298) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:12AM (#14834643) Journal
    1) That the Dell is non-natively beating up on the G4, and is nearly the same as the Mac?

    2) The Dell is hobbled with a 4200rpm hard drive. Imagine if they'd used the same speed, or even a 5400! :-)
    • by dr.badass (25287)
      The things I noticed were:

      1) The Dell weighs 9 pounds.
      2) The Dell is roughly the size of my apartment.
      3) The Dell is among the ugliest objects in the world.
      4) The Dell has an integrated subwoofer. Double-you-tee-eff.
      5) The Dell has a 50% higher capacity battery, from which it coaxes less than half the battery life.
      6) Comparing the Dell Inspiron 9100 to the MacBook Pro is one of the dumbest things I have ever seen attempted on the internet.
      7) ArsTechnica may have jumped the shark.
      • 1) Yeah, it's funny they didn't choose a Latitude, which is Dell's major laptop. The X1 is 2.5lbs; even the D610 (a business user standard) is 4.5lbs.
        2) Need a sublet? ;-)
        3) I disagree; there are many more hideous than this.
        4) We like our sound -- this was a desktop replacement.
        5) Amazing what a difference two years makes, eh?
        6) I agree... the Mac is still pretty far behind when a 2+ year old box is keeping up with it on it's OWN OS...
        7) Who hasn't?
        • by dr.badass (25287)
          [Re: Battery Life] Amazing what a difference two years makes, eh?

          Uh, no. Dell (and others) are still selling machines with massive and useless batteries. My point is that you can have one or the other. For anyone gushing over the performance of the Dell, it would help to temper that with it's dismal battery life. For the article to say that 3.5 hours of battery life for the MacBook Pro is disappointing, it seems like a glaring oversight.

          I agree... the Mac is still pretty far behind when a 2+ year old bo
  • after reading the article (and many others) now I am sure I am sticking with linux. after a few days of hasitation (I have tried macosx in vmware-player) and reading these hardware reviews I finally ordered a turion-based notebook.

    sorry apple - maybe for my mom, not for me. not this time.
  • good review... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ostiguy (63618) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:17AM (#14834675)
    Mine showed up Monday. Thoughts from a mac os x beginner:

    1. the screen does have some flicker on very dim settings as noted. The auto adjust for room brightness is also a bit too sensitive - an aspiring os x hacker might want to see if an app could be written to make it less real time - use a rolling x seconds average of brightness? It is a very nice screen all in all, though.
    2. the power brick's connector goes green when plugged in to the laptop, and then the light goes brown. This isn't very intuitive.
    3. The blinding white led near the lid latch oscillates in brightness when the machine is in sleep. Did I mention how blinding it is?

    Been trying to see if I can get it to vpn to a watchguard with free add ons - no such luck yet (anyone have a racoon conf for that?). Office 2004 took what seemed to be a long time to install, but installed without incident - I have only used remote desktop so far. This weekend I am going to play with the encrypted home directory stuff, and see what I can cook up to have my home directory sync with my active directory home dir.
    • "The blinding white led near the lid latch oscillates in brightness when the machine is in sleep"

      It's breathing deeply. You're lucky it doesn't snore.
    • Re:good review... (Score:3, Informative)

      by avalys (221114)
      2. the power brick's connector goes green when plugged in to the laptop, and then the light goes brown. This isn't very intuitive.

      The light is green when the battery is fully charged, and orange/brown when it is charging.

      It takes a few seconds to begin charging the battery, I guess.
    • the power brick's connector goes green when plugged in to the laptop, and then the light goes brown. This isn't very intuitive.

      It's funny that you should say this, because that function is nearly perfect otherwise. As noted, green when charged, amber when charging. I've had to use other laptops which do not have this feature, and it's missed.

      On the other hand, as the saying goes, it's the stone in your sandal which bugs you, and not the mountain you're climbing.

      I'm not an electrical engineer, so I dunno why
    • This weekend I am going to play with the encrypted home directory stuff

      Don't bother, it's a lot of trouble for very small reward. If you need data to be inaccesible to anyone breaking into your machine, try encrypted disk images. The chances of something bad happening and irretrievably hosing your home directory are mid to high.

      If you're after something that locks your screen and activates the screen saver, much like Windows-L does, go to Keychain Utility preferences and Show Status in Menu Bar. You'll ge

      • What about os x would make encrypted disk images less likely to have something bad happen? Are they like encrypted dmg's?

        I think the corruption risk is tolerable if I get syncing to my windows home dir. I am planning to get a vpn setup to my house, so hopefully even on the road I can sync my home directory up if needed.
    • I'll slightly correct what some of the posters have said about the power connector LED. It is green when the battery is NOT charging, amber when it is. This is different from saying that the LED is green when the battery is actually charged. The reason for the delay, as several posters have noted, is that it takes the power management circuits in the computer and battery to initiate charging. This is typical for nearly all Li-Ion batteries: there is a bit of time before charging current is applied, wher
    • I have a 15" Powerbook G4 with that same blinding light. What I've been doing is taking my metal tin of lip balm, Burt's Bees [burtsbees.com], and attaching it over the light magnetically. It works great! You're right though, that bastard's extremely bright, and I tend to charge my Powerbook on the table right next to my pillow when I sleep, so it's like a flashlight in my eyes.
  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:20AM (#14834702)
    I do not mean any offence to Jacqui Cheng, but with the (notable) exception of the Dell comparison, this review was shallow at best. When I surf Ars I typically expect the nitty-gritty Hannibal type review, and instead we more or less have a completely mundane blog entry about someone's new toy. The writing style is all wrong for that site.
    • Don't worry. It's just a conservation of positive attributes [arstechnica.com] (assuming that's a real image of her).
    • Meh. Seemed about par. I didn't notice the name, and just assumed it was one of the guys writing until I saw the PhotoBooth picture. Mighta been nice if they'd a run it over though.
    • this review was shallow at best.

      You mean shallow and pedantic [wikipedia.org]
    • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Thursday March 02, 2006 @01:02PM (#14835627)
      I do not mean any offence to Jacqui Cheng, but with the (notable) exception of the Dell comparison, this review was shallow at best. When I surf Ars I typically expect the nitty-gritty Hannibal type review

      You must be thinking back to the days when Ars actually reviewed stuff in depth - like the OS X reviews! Ahh, those were the days.

      Sadly they are gone. The point I noticed this was when Ars reviewed Aperture with a similarily lacking review, including getting some things quite wrong and refusing to correct them and then simply not reviewing entire major sections of the application, while also not looking at any technical aspects of the application in depth.

      Then I looked around a little more, wondering where my Ars had went. I found the most detailed review on the site at the time was a gaming mouse!

      So, let's all say goodby to Ars and try to figure out where all the detailed technical reviews went to. Perhaps considering the past body of work this review is not "typical" but I think if you looked over the past year this review would in fact be very typical indeed.
    • I thought it was a nice overview. There's merit in both the Hannibal-type dissection and this kind of "Joe Six-pack" review. I myself prefer real-world tests such as the battery and Photoshop tests in this review. I don't care about pipelines and watts and floating point instructions nor do 99% of consumers. They (we) just want a nice tool that is fast and worth the money.

      But hey, to each his own.
    • I do not mean any offence to Jacqui Cheng, but with the (notable) exception of the Dell comparison, this review was shallow at best. When I surf Ars I typically expect the nitty-gritty Hannibal type review, and instead we more or less have a completely mundane blog entry about someone's new toy. The writing style is all wrong for that site.

      The Hannibal-type reviews tend to harp on the wrong details and are meaningless as a result. If he reviewed cars, he'd focus on the internal details of the fuel injector
  • by macrom (537566) <macrom75@hotmail.com> on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:25AM (#14834733) Homepage
    I just got back from the Apple Compatibility Labs in Cupertino, and I was able to put my code on a MacBook Pro to do some build comparisons. On my current PowerBook G4, with a 7200 RPM drive, 1 GB RAM and a 1.67 G4, it takes about 20-25 minutes to do a full Release rebuild of my code (Universal Binary). It took around 5 on the MacBook Pro. Thank God my boss was with me to help test because that's the easiest convincing that I need a new laptop I ever done.

    Bottom line : if you're a developer and you have long compile times on your code (AND you have the need/desire to be mobile), you NEED one of these machines.
  • Slight Correction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by duplo1 (719988) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:27AM (#14834747)
    The reviewer states, "It is important to note, however, that there is a "Better Performance" option under the battery life menu which, undoubtedly, maximizes the battery life in every way that the computer can..."

    Actually "Better Performance" means the opposite, as it disables most if not all power saving options. "Better Energy Savings" will give the user longer battery life at the expense of performance. I find most applications almost unusable at that setting and tend to run under the "Normal" setting when I need to get work done. The better savings option is good for movies and checking email.
  • by newdamage (753043) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:27AM (#14834752) Homepage Journal
    I got my new 1.83 ghz MBP on Monday, and am upgrading from a 1ghz G4 iBook circa Apr '04.

    Okay, the increased performance is awesome. Really, things are just quicker all around.

    But the biggest improvement...

    The screen. Oh my. It's wonderful. It makes the 12" iBook screen look like it might be broken because of how much brighter the new MBP screens are. It's amazing. It actually may be nicer than my external 17" LCD screen. It makes working away from home positively enjoyable. Really, the screen alone makes the upgrade worthwhile.
  • I would have liked a little more context on the Dell running OS X vs. the MacBook Pro, like general impressions rather than straight up numbers, but this was a great review. MagSafe sounds like kind of a bummer, at least for now. For people who need one now, this sounds like a great machine, but it really convinced me, who has a perfectly working dual G5 and giant monitor at home, that my need for a portable isn't *that* pressing. I'm eagerly awaiting the next revision, which hopefully will fix the MagSaf
  • by iion_tichy (643234) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:32AM (#14834794)
    The main thing that interests me is the noise. How loud are the fans? I have already heard several bad things about the MacBook: display emits a humming, notebook emits a humming if cpu is idle (apparently known from earlier apple hardware, too), fans spinning very often. Is anybody able to comment on that?
    • It is much quieter than the PB G4, especially in day-to-day use. There is a buzz, but it isn't the screen. It is probably the fan. The PB fan sounded like white noise (I kept thinking the speakers were crap; they were, but the hiss was from the fan); this one seems to have a much higher pitch.
  • by soloes (415223)
    I hope Im not offending anybody, but that review was lacking in substance. Even the dell comparisons are not explained. just some graphs with no explanation of what the test methodology was.
  • by expro (597113) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:50AM (#14834968)

    As owner of a G4 PowerBook, AppleCare does not happily repair the many defects discovered during the warranty periods of their hardware.

    The list of defective parts is long, and there are some things broken by simple use that they refuse to fix under warranty.

    Every user experience is different, but it makes me sad I encouraged our research project to use a lot of Apple hardware from XServers to powerbooks and desktops.

    The result with generic hardware (which I have used often in the past) or Dell hardware would have cost less and hardly could have been worse from a support or defect perspective. How is switching to a new CPU going to affect the basic experience that Apple really sucks as a hardware producer and as a support company.

    • Although your repair experiences are no doubt aggravating, you are one person and thus represent too small a sample to form a general conclusion on the overall platform. For that, a large sample is needed. The data I have seen from Consumer Reports surveys of readers (a sample of 134,000 computers) reported in the December 2005 issue suggest the opposite conclusion:

      For both laptops and desktops, Apple scored highest in customer satisfaction with tech support by a considerable amount. For example, for lap
  • An article summary that summarized the article. Like, for instance, how did they compare?
  • Heat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dalroth (85450) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @11:59AM (#14835047) Homepage Journal
    How's the heat dissipation on these things? Everybody talks about performance, but nobody is talking about heat. Will it cook my legs and sterilize me or not?

    Bryan
    • It got hot sitting on a blanket on my bed, while it was not doing anything profound. I tried a temperature monitoring app I found, but it did not pick up any sensors on the macbook.
  • nd then asked if I'd like to transfer my data from another Mac.
     
    Ok, this bit has almost sold me. No wonder everybody loves the mac, what a beautifully designed machine. And what do we get from Microsoft to compare to this??
    • I have no major complaints about Windows Files and Settings Transfer Wizard.
      • I've never used either, so I can't comment. That said, my understanding is that the OS X version moves over applications as well as settings and files. Frankly I don't have too many settings, and copying my files by hand is no big deal. I've done that before. So in that vein both would be useless to me. But the ability to copy over all my applications would be a huge boon when moving to a new computer. Too bad Windows can't do that.

        I intend to try it when I upgrade my Mac.

        Now if Apple could just set thing

    • The User Transfer applications Is Very Nice [1]. It'll move whole user folders, applications that aren't on the destination Mac, system library items, folders loose on the hard drive, everything. It even manages to save icon positions on the desktop - a key factor for a lot of people. If PCs had a Target Disk mode, Apple would probably have a utility to snag data from an XP install as well.

      The one catch is it's kinda slow calculating sizes (and won't let you continue until it has done its math on every step
  • I received my MacBook Pro on Monday of this week. I transferred my data from a 12" PB using the Setup Assistant as well as the author of this review did. I found that application launch times and overall system performance were slower than the 12" PB I was replacing. A friend of mine bought an iMac Intel and had the same issue. I erased my drive last night restored the OS/bundled software and manually moved just my user data over to the MacBook Pro. Application launch times have drastically improved.
    • Perhaps the Migration Assistant hasn't been updated to 'know' about PPC vs Universal apps, and moved over PPC versions of your apps (possibly even replacing Universal versions on the new machine). Rosetta being used unnecessarily would seem to be a likely cause of the performance hit you describe, especially considering that when you just moved over your data the second time around, everything ran quicker.

      I've seen a few posts here and there on Mac sites where some people found that Rosetta was kicking in w
  • What the difference is between an Apple x86 system and a non-Apple x86 system, because to me, they are one in the same. So this review is not so much about the MacBook Pro, but just comparing two Intel based systems against each other, running OSX. Any performance improvement could be attributed to the P4 HT CPU rather then any differences between a Dell and Apple notebook. I don't see anything in the MacBook Pro that should improve performance over PC systems as its 98% PC anyways.

    Sorry, this might seem
  • so while it's an interesting comparison, I'm not sure it's terribly useful to me. Don't get me wrong, it's neat to think about comparing the raw performance about two different machines... but is there really someone out there trying to decide between a MacBook Pro and a P4HT laptop? Are they going to run a hacked OS X 10.4.4 on that P4 laptop ?!? No? So... who is the comparison good for?

    More importantly, I have to say I always prefer the most practical benchmarks I can get my hands on. In that regard, wh

  • by Kaldaien (676190) on Thursday March 02, 2006 @03:58PM (#14837220)
    I own a 4 year old Toshiba laptop with a 15" LCD that has a native resolution of 1600x1200. Newer laptops come with even larger displays and 16:9/16:10 displays are a fad right now. These displays, despite their significant advantage with horizontal screen realestate, have fewer lines of horizontal resolution. I have considered buying a new laptop a couple of times now, but I am always discouraged by the giant leap backward in resolution. I cannot justify paying $2,000+ for a laptop that runs at a lower resolution than the one I have now... when you get used to high DPI displays (1600x1200 @ 15" or 2048x1536 @ 21") it is actually painful/annoying to look at large, low resolution displays.
    • You can get the higher res displays. My HP nc8230 has 1920x1200 (WUXGA), and Dell sells some of those screens too. I love it -- especially the sharp ~150 pixels per inch.

      I've always been surprised that Apple, with its large graphic design market, never has offered the higher-res notebook screens. It keeps me from buying one. I can't live without the screen real-estate.

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