One week with a MacBook Pro 17″

It has been one week since I picked up my new MacBook Pro 17″ to replace my aging first-generation 15″ model.

My initial concern was that the size and weight would be unwieldy after 4 years of lugging around a 15″ MacBook Pro and a prior to that a Titanium PowerBook G4. The actual problem was that my trusty Samsonite Trunk & Co. backpack could not accommodate it and that I’d have to hope Santa would deliver something a little bigger. Being properly kitted up might reveal if the dimensions and weight are uncomfortable so expect an update once I’ve travelled with the beast.

<img src=”//images.damieng.com/blog/mbp17.png” alt=”MacBook Pro 17” image courtesy of Apple Inc.” style=”float:right” />The screen is fantastic, a little brighter, and provides me with a desktop-like experience in terms of real estate thanks to the combination of the increased size and the high-definition 1920×1200 option. I had examined the glossy finish in-store and found having my face and the rest of the store glaring back at me far too distracting for real work (it might be nice for watching DVD’s in the dark I guess) and so went with the matte finish. Surprisingly it is a little more reflective than the older MBP but not overly so and it does make removing unwelcome fingerprints easier.

One problem I had with m 15″ was that heavy use of Visual Studio within Parallels wasn’t always cutting it on performance. Compilation was faster than the cheap HP/Compaq desktop I’d been using but still wasn’t snappy enough to keep my attention tightly focused ;-)

I went with top options – a 2.6GHz processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and a 7200RPM 200GB drive – to ensure maximum performance. Mac OS X and native Vista did not disappoint and felt like a speedy desktop despite Vista being 32-bit and limited to 3GB of RAM until Apple ship a 64-bit ready Boot Camp drivers and tools.

My .NET development typically takes place inside a virtual machine – previously Parallels but now evaluating VMware Fusion with its enticing dual-core and 64-bit guest OS support. Both Parallels and Fusion had similar almost-native performance in the disk and processor department on my 15″ according to Vista’s performance index and I’ve yet to rerun those (stay tuned). Whichever gets Aero/DirectX 9Ex shader support first will be my home for a while.

Battery life was a big surprise offering over 3 hours and I certainly feel less conscious of where the next power feed is coming from although that is partly due to the poor battery on my old machine being rather tired and worn.

One big disappointment is the keyboard. Firstly it is the same size as the 15″ model which leaves the extra space to the speaker grille. Whilst the speakers do sound far superior – good enough to actually listen to music on – I couldn’t help but feel a wider enter key, a second ctrl and a little f-key spacing could have gone a long way. What is more concerning is that many keys do not register if hit off-centre even by a slight amount :(

There are still some things to try:

  • Games under native Vista taking advantage of the Nvidia 8600M GT chip
  • Time Machining my MyBook Pro external drive over FireWire 800 (800 Mb/s) instead of USB2 (400 Mb/s)
  • Burning DVD performance
  • Removing DVD drive (UJ-85J FBZ8) region protection (RPC) to play my DVD collection

[)amien

4 responses

  1. Gravatar for steve

    Somebody has way too much disposable income. ;) I must admit having come from 3 years with a 1900x1200 screen (my old Vaio), my MBP felt a little cramped at first, but I certainly don’t miss the weight. Travelling with it is a joy.

    steve December 19th, 2007
  2. Gravatar for George

    I’m curious to know if you remove the dvd drive’s RPC. I know on my old powerbook I could flash the firmware but I haven’t had my 15 inch Macbook Pro long enough for it to come up.

    George – December 19th, 2007
  3. Gravatar for Tim Park

    [) I’ve got a 17” MacBook Pro since the beginning of the year and I was unaware that u could remove the RPC from the DVD drive.

    Tim Park – December 19th, 2007
  4. Gravatar for Rob Quarters

    I have the same system, I bought after market RAM to max it out (I just didn’t want to pay Apple the price they ask for their memory) and went with a smaller hard drive for weight reduction and got myself an external USB system (Drobo, great storage system btw). I love the 17” over my old 15” system, it’s like working on a desktop.

    Rob Quarters – December 21st, 2007

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