75 days with a MacBook Pro

75 days with a MacBook Pro

Summary: I've been the proud owner of a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display system for 75 days now. Here are my impressions of living with the system as a primary work system for that duration, along with insights into how I got the machine ready for work.


It's been 75 days since I took delivery of my 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. In that time I have transformed the notebook from a shiny slab of aluminum and glass into a serious workhorse capable of pulling its weight, and carrying out the multitude of tasks that I've thrown at it over the weeks.

(Image: Apple)

As most of you are probably aware, my background is in PCs, and that means that I've spent the majority of my time in front of one version or another — or sometimes even multiple versions — of Windows. That's not to say that I haven't dabbled with Linux and even OS X during that time, because I have, but my primary go-to operating system has, up until now, been one that was born at Microsoft HQ.

In late 2012 I decided that it was time for anew notebook. My aging Dell XPS 13 had been given a bit of a reprieve thanks to my iPad taking over some of its duties, but once screws started falling out of the bottom of it and the screen hinge began to get a bit creaky, I decided it was time to put it out to pasture.

Despite my extensive background with PCs, the decision to go with Apple's OS X platform was actually quite an easy one. The rising importance of OS X meant that having a Mac platform available for testing was a no brainer, and thanks to Boot Camp and apps such as VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop, Macs are more than capable of running the Windows platform.

Two birds, one system. Best of both.

After some deliberations, in the end I went for the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. I stuck with the standard 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD configuration. But, I did bump the processor up from the stock speed of 2.5GHz and opted instead to go for the 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, thinking that the extra 100MHz was worth the additional cash, and that it would come in handy for virtualizing Windows and running Photoshop.

Once I took delivery of the system — I'll spare you the unboxing experience — the first thing I needed was protection for my new MacBook Pro. As beautiful as the system is, it seems a little fragile, and given how much it had cost, I wasn't feeling like taking any chances.

I decided to take a two-pronged approach, opting for a G-Form Extreme sleeve for day to day use, and an SKB 3I waterproof case for times when the going would get a bit tougher. Both are excellent products and neither have let me down.

Then there was the issue of software.

To get my MacBook Pro ready for work I needed a lot of software, but the Apple App Store made getting hold of and installing the bulk of it a snap. Some applications — such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite 6, and Parallels Desktop — aren't available from the App Store, and so these had to be downloaded and installed manually, a task that the App Store quickly gets you out of the habit of doing. (Yes, the convenience of being able to one-click buy and install software has made me lazy!)

Within a couple of hours I'd installed a fair bit of software on my MacBook Pro. Rather than list all of it, I'll just offer up some of the highlights:

  • Evernote

  • Microsoft Office

  • Snagit

  • Google Chrome

  • VideoLAN VLC

  • Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4

  • SplashID Safe

My MacBook Pro handles this and other software — including games such as Left 4 Dead 2 — brilliantly. It is also perfectly capable of running Adobe's CS6 suite, and the experience is smooth and the workflow effortless. It gives me a desktop experience while away from my desk.

I also threw on antivirus, in the form of ClamXav, which so far seems to do a good job of protecting my system from malware, especially considering the $0 price tag.

I also bought a handful of accessories for my MacBook Pro, in the form of a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter and a USB SuperDrive — because the Retina display MacBook Pros don't come kitted out with either.

Also, in order to get an extra USB port for charging my iPad or iPhone — or anything else that'll charge up from a USB port — I fitted a TwelveSouth PlugBug to the charger. It's not a totally elegant solution because I still wanted to attach the cord to the charger. This configuration is possible, but it's not shown in any of the product photos because it doesn't look particularly beautiful, but it works just fine.

I also added an Apple Magic Mouse to the equation, which I only ever seen to use when I'm playing games.

I've talked a lot about the hardware and software, but how well does it all come together?

In a word, my experience with the MacBook Pro has been amazing. I had the system ready to do serious work within a few hours — quite impressive when you consider that I was having to buy and install a lot of new software — and since then the system has become my main system. There are a number of reasons why this has happened:

  • It integrates with my iOS workflow so well, giving me access to iMessage and so other iCloud services

  • The screen is just wonderful. It's hard to go back from a high-pixel density display to an ordinary panel

  • The entire package is just so easy to use. There is an element of reduced drag to using OS X that Microsoft has yet to attain with Windows

  • It's highly portable, which means I can work on the hoof

  • Battery life is excellent, which means I can get more done away from my desk

  • The notebook is compact and lightweight, so I actually don't mind taking it with me places

Downsides — yes, there are a few:

  • Price. Yeah, about that...

  • Having to buy a separate optical drive and Ethernet port is a slight annoyance

  • Switching between OS X and Windows is still quite a cognitive burden, but it does get better

  • I'm an avid photographer, and use the system for post-processing, so the 256GB SSD is already feeling a little cramped

  • There's an initially steep software purchase and learning curve. I could have lessened this if I had loaded software onto the Windows install in Parallels Desktop, but I chose to have a more pure Mac experience

  • Learning my way around the operating system have been pretty easy, but there has been an occasion when I've turned to Google for the solution to problems

That said, the positives far outweigh the negatives, and overall I'm happy with the choice I've made.

Will this make me turn my back on the PC? Now way! As much as I love the simplicity of the Mac, I can't buy or build for myself the sort of desktop that I need. Also, when it comes to things like gaming and handling multiple virtual machines, Windows still trumps OS X.

For now, at any rate...

Topic: Apple

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  • it seems a little fragile?

    No more so then any other laptop, short of purpose built industrial models.
    William Farrel
    • Flagged?

      Will I am not sure why you were flagged for your comment? Makes no sense to me.
      • The usual troll(s) just take any post

        from the same people who disagree with them and flag them.

        Truth and honesty have no place in their world.
        William Farrel
        • That and some many wlll pathetically

          just flag any post that doesn't all out follow their fanboy or hater position on the topic.
      • How pathetic

        The self called "PC doctor" is an Apple cheerleader.

        What a travesti!
        • Self called "PC doctor"?

          I hope that wasn't aimed at me. I've never called myself a "PC doctor". I just have a preference based on my needs.

          I don't shop or support based on what others want me to.
          William Farrel
        • Talk about pathetic

          Your calling him an Apple cheerleader simply because his 100% accurate statement wasn't anti Apple? There is good and bad with every OS and every manufacturer, if you can't see that you need to grow up.
  • But.......but........but..........

    Don't you wish it had a touch screen so it could catch up with Windows 8??? :)
    • Re But......but.......but........

      You mean so that you can immerse yourself in the quagmire that is Windows 8 quicker!!

      I am a Windows 8 user and I know what I would prefer to use touch screen or not.
    • the mac touchpad is unparalleled

      I have hated navigating the trackpad on every windows notebook I've purchased, but the multi-touch integration of apple's glass trackpads is better than a touch screen for me. simple set it to use a couple fingers to drag around, one to click, etc. 3 to swipe the launcher or desktop, etc. Having to touch the screen on a laptop, risking smudging, pressing the screen down, etc. feels crude in comparison to a smoothly integrated trackpad, for me at least.
      A touch screen is for those that have no other good option, and is to save room on portables. I just wish i could directly hook up the glass trackpad to my ipad. I'd way prefer swiping around with it than tapping the screen.
      • I agree

        This is statement that I completely agree with and the plus side is you don't smudge up your screen tapping it.
      • Prejudice is heavy on both sides, here.

        While I will grant I prefer the touchpad to the mouse, there are definite advantages to having a true touchscreen capability that eliminates the need to hunt for your pointer and drag it over to the desired click-point. Currently, the best solution is to have both available--one to keep your hand close to the keyboard for data processing (Word processor, spreadsheet, etc) and the other for instant access to desktop icons and yes, even gaming.
        • There's always that moment,

          When after a few hours on the ipad you embarrassingly tap something on your MacBook screen... You know, not that I've ever done that!

          The trackpad on iMacs and MacBooks is simply unbelievable nowadays. Hands down. However I find the Magic Mouse to be an utter pain. It works best with most of the gestures turned off for me... Ie a mouse, which kind of defeated the point! Fortunately the guy in the store was good about returning it nearly a month after I got my air.
          • I have a client that does that on her Win 7 All-in-one PC

            Interestingly, it WORKS! She loves it!
      • yah apple touch pad is great, but why use touch pad when you can touch

        screen using win 8? smudge screens? oh common apple zealots. if your talking about IPAD smudge screens are not issue. if your talking win8 touch screens, you will whine why in the hell would i touch my laptop screen. oh ok, laptop is diffrent from tablet, common, dont you think that its better to have an extra feature of any device, or you just cant accept the reality that Microsoft is leading it now
        Odel Babor
        • It's not the "Apple Zealots" that complain about smudged screens

          It's the Windows Zealots saying it will never be popular--totally ignoring the fact that people are already doing it on their Windows PCs.
  • In addition...

    All rings true with me, though not a gamer so will never go back. A couple of things I love about my Mac since making the change:

    - I'm guessing you've had to restart your Mac a couple of times at most? (It's rarely less than 40 days between restarts for me)
    - No more waiting fr Windows to start. Open lid, close lid..instant. Love it.
    • Sounds like Windows to me...

      Restart in 40 days? Check, apart from the odd critical update, I don't restart my Windows 8 laptop, the same goes for my iMac.
      Open lid, instant on? Check, my Atom based Windows 8 tablet does that as well...
      • not any windows machine I've used

        I'm giving my option, not debating which is best.

        My Macbook is nearly 3 years old and this is what I loved about it when I switched. Windows may have changed but was painfully slow (and still is on my Win 7 work laptop).
        • Windows has always had that ability.

          It sucks that you had it the whole time and didn't know it.