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My first Mac.....Initial impressions



Shamelessly stolen from my blog, but I thought I'd share my thoughts on my first Mac experience.

As many of you know, I didn't have the smoothest start to this! But this is what I've thought from then....

You can read it here, or it is better laid out on my blog page: http://www.danfreemanphotography.com/2011/02/my-first-mac-initial-impressions/


KEYBOARD/TRACKPAD


I won’t talk much about the keyboard as it’s a pretty standard feature. Yes it’s easy to use (when you are sent on that works properly!), and the back lit keys are a nice touch when you’re working in low light. The main thing I’ll talk about is the trackpad.

Now I use two PC laptops for work, and I have to use an external mouse because I HATE using the small pads on them. I have to say though, the trackpad on the MBP is a joy to use, especially using it in software like Photoshop -- more on that in a moment. Because it is so big, you an easily move the cursor to all areas of the screen.

The other great feature with the trackpad is the gestures. Anyone with an iPhone or similar will know the gestures, like swipe or pinch to zoom. As I have an iPod it was nice to be able to use the same gestures on the Macbook. These gestures can be used in any software, even when in Safari web browser you can use to fingers to easily scroll up or down the page, or use a three finger swipe to go back and forward through visited pages. A really useful gesture is the four finger swipe (the trackpad can easily detect how many fingers are in contact with the pad), this is referred to as ‘Expose’ by Apple. This basically allows you to see all the windows you have open at one time in a preview, and then you can quickly switch to any window from within here. A nice feature if you have lots of windows open and you just want to flick between certain programs.

The pinch to zoom gestures are really handy in Photoshop. Simply use your thumb and forefinger to ‘pinch’ in or out to change the zoom. You can then use two fingers to move the image, just like using the hand tool.

It may sound really trivial, but small touches (no pun intended) like this just make using the Macbook really easy to use.



LCD



As I mentioned before, I opted to have the high resolution anti-glare screen. As I would be doing a lot of photography work this seemed like an obvious choice to make. As you would expect, the quality of the screen is extremely good. I have read concerns that having the high resolution screen can make the text too small and difficult to read, but I have had no problems with mine. The text is displayed very well, and is very sharp.

I had also read many comparisons between the glossy and anti-glare screens, with some saying the glossy screen provides a much ‘punchier’ and vivid display. As I don’t have both I can’t really make that comparison, I can only give my thoughts on what I have -- the anti-glare option.

I have had no complaints with the display at all. The image quality is superb, the whites are very white (even whiter than the monitor I use with my PC -- a Dell 2407HC) and the blacks are a nice dark colour too. I did recalibrate the display however, as when I compared images on the Mac and my PC screen (which has been calibrated correctly) the Mac has a ‘colder’ colour temperature, after a quick calibration it’s much better.

The display is is also very bright. If you’ve been using the display at 50% brightness in a low light room and quickly turn it up to full brightness, you have to squint as it’s that bright! I usually use 100% brightness when on mains power, but when using the battery I usually find that 50-60% brightness is more than enough -- only increasing to 100% when working on photos.



PERFORMANCE



To begin with I was going to purchase the i5 version, but I decided in the end to get the i7, as I intend to keep this for a while -- a faster processor should future proof it a bit more. I know that I would have sacrificed battery life somewhat, choosing the i7 over the i5 processor, but in the end I would rather sacrifice a bit of battery life for a bit more processing power.

As for the performance, this thing is quick! The main computer I can compare to is my desktop PC (Intel Core 2 6600, 4GB RAM, 8800GTX 512MB, Intel X-25 SSD). The Macbook feels just as fast, considering it’s a laptop, and multi-tasking is a breeze.

The following is just a very short video to show the speed of this Macbook Pro with the SSD installed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owsf5DV7D1o&feature=player_embedded

As you can see, programs open almost instantly, with resource hungry programs like Photoshop taking only a couple of seconds. I should point out that that was recorded after a restart, so no programs had already been opened prior to recording.

I also did a quick test of the hard drive speeds:





By no means did I intend to buy this Macbook just to play games, but I did install Half Life 2 to have a go and see what it was like. I was very impressed! At the native higher resolution, and with all the graphics settings on high, it runs extremely smoothly with no lag at all. Coupled with the fast SSD, loading times are a few seconds….if that.

Start-up times are also greatly reduced thanks to the SSD. Even with the upgraded 7200RPM HDD fitted, start-up times were around 50 seconds, with the SSD installed that comes down to around 17 seconds.

Another good test of the performance, gaming. I had downloaded Half Life 2 which is not only a cracking game, but it also has great graphics too. As soon as I loaded the game I went to change the graphics -- the game settings had already preset everything to the ‘optimum’ settings, which was high on everything. With these settings the game runs extremely smoothly -- and that is at the native higher 1680x1050 display resolution. Coupled with the SSD, levels loaded in seconds too. At no point did I encounter any moments where the game slowed down at all. It must be said that the MacBook did get quite warm when playing, and this is the only time where I’ve heard the fans come on -- as usually it’s very close to silent (the Mac way completely silent before I installed the back-up 500GB drive).

The i7 deals with resource hungry programs without a problem too. I have been working on a few RAW files from my Nikon D3 in Photoshop, whilst iTunes is playing in the background and having multiple tabs open in Safari too. Switching between each program is very snappy with no waiting. The only time I’ve seen it ‘struggle’ was when creating a video in iMovie. Rendering a 1.4GB 1080p video from my GoPro camera caused a slight slow down, but I could still open Safari but it just wasn’t quite as snappy as before.

I may in the near future upgrade to 8GB RAM. Purely because when I have been stitching multiple high res photos together in Photoshop, the RAM does get very full very quickly, another 4GB RAM will hopefully free it up a bit. But that’s not to say that with 4GB it’s slow at all!



BATTERY LIFE

Apple have made some bold claims about the battery life of the latest Macbook Pros, with estimates of around 8-9 hours!

When I had one of my replacement MacBooks, I did a few tests -- and gave the battery a bit of a hammering! The first was a simple web browsing test -- I downloaded an automator file, which refreshed two alternate web pages every 20 seconds.

For this test the display was set to 50%, bluetooth was off, keyboard illumination off and obviously Airport was on. The battery had been fully charged, then I restarted the system then unplugged the power cord. I used the free program ‘Caffeine’ to prevent the system from going to sleep and activating a screensaver.

Hour % Battery Left Indicated Time Left*
1 89 6.58
2 76 6.17
3 63 4.58
4 49 5.01
5 36 2.46
6 22 1.48
6.5 16 1.09


I have to say the battery lasted longer than I anticipated, and as this was running at work, I had to go home after it had been on for 6.5 hours! I put the MacBook to sleep then drove 30 minutes home, when I got home I carried on the test as before, only this time the keyboard illumination was on 50%. The MacBook carried on with the cycle for another 58 minutes until it finally died (or went into hibernation I should say). So that would have been an easy 7.5 hours.

* this was just the indicated time left according to the MacBook. This was a little tricky to read as it will go up and down depending on the current demand on the computer. I think it’s fair to say that overall it was pretty accurate, but if you’re doing many different things at once, this will be much harder for the computer to calculate.



The next test was video playback. I opened a 1.47GB .avi file in VLC player (full screen) and timed how long the video would play for. The system settings were the same as before, except the screen brightness was set to around 75% and the keyboard light was on full (I forgot to turn it off!).

The MacBook lasted just under 4.5 hours before going into hibernation. So that’s comfortably watching two movies -- and as a frequent flyer this is reassuring for me. You could get more life out of the battery if you turn the screen brightness down more -- although anything less than 50% does detract from the viewing experience.

I also did a gaming test. As I had already downloaded Half Life 2 I found out how long I could play that for on battery. With the screen brightness at 75% and game graphic settings on high, I managed just under 80 minutes. Again pretty impressive considering how draining that is on the battery.

I have noticed that installing the 500GB HDD did knock the battery life down a bit. As I had the Mac for a few weeks before I could install the second drive, I have noticed a small drop in life due to the additional drive spinning away. I have read that other people with the same set-up have made their HDD drive spin down when it’s not in use, but I haven’t figured that out yet. Any help would be appreciated!!



CONCLUSION

As this is my first ever Mac computer I can’t really compare it to previous models, but I can compare it to the laptops I have had and the ones I still use at work. Simply put, this is an amazing computer! There really isn’t much I can say negatively about it…..apart from the price perhaps, but then with Apple you pay a premium for the best.

Thanks to the SSD upgrade it is super snappy to use, and the 500GB HDD is great for storing movies and all my photos etc. OS X took a little while to figure out, even basic things like installing/un-installing programs, but you soon realise how simple everything is.

For the first time using a laptop, I haven’t resorted to using an external mouse, thanks to the brilliant TrackPad. Gestures when browsing, or in Photoshop are a really neat feature that should be in every touchpad.

There’s not much more I can say frankly -- I am completely won over by my first Mac, and although my home PC is still Windows based, my MacBook Pro may be getting a big brother sometime in the future!
 

mas

  MK7 GTD & Mini GP
Long read TBH.

Agree with it all though.

I plugged a mighty mouse in to mine the other day, and ended up just using the trackpad.

FML
 
  DCi 100
Surely if you wanted to use photoshop etc for any sort of professional work you'd want a mouse though?

Saying that I used to use photoshop all the time with laptop touch pad, but mouse is definately better. One reason to have one IMO. Will read the review later on when I have afew minutes!
 
  Clio 172
I got magic mouse for mine.

I use it for doing things in excel and word that using the track pad is tedious to use.
 

JamesBryan

ClioSport Club Member
  Titanium 182
I have the OCZ Vertex 2 SSD in my pc, it makes a huge difference. Can imagine what it's like in the MBP
 

jenic

ClioSport Club Member
  981 Cayman
You can replace the superdrive with an SSD, theres a kit to do it somewhere.

Think one of the admins just bought one, possibly Tom?
 

Brian

ClioSport Admin
  LY 220 Trophy
Interesting read and well timed as i've been tempted for a long time. Then Apple sends an email about the new MacBook Pro, to help me decide!
 

TheEvilGiraffe

South East - Essex
ClioSport Area Rep
Brian .. DO IT !!!!

Then bring it here and I'll show you how to get the most out of it, set up wise.

:approve:

If anyone was in any doubt over these beasts, I've just sold my 2008 13.3" MB for about 70% of what I paid for it back then, and it still works faultlessly and just as quickly !
 
Glad people find it useful, that was just my honest opinion from a typical 'switcher'.

I've still had no complaints with it....and I've just ordered the 8GB RAM kit, as I'm struggling a bit when editing 1080p videos and multiple RAW photos in photoshop.
 


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