Is Apple's MacBook Pro rotten to the core?

Is Apple's MacBook Pro rotten to the core?

Summary: When companies launch a brand new product it usually takes some time to weed out the niggling issues; but how many systems need to break before the situation is recognised as a disaster rather than an unfortunate blip in quality control?Less than a year after announcing its new Intel-based MacBook Pro, Apple has taken the market by storm.

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When companies launch a brand new product it usually takes some time to weed out the niggling issues; but how many systems need to break before the situation is recognised as a disaster rather than an unfortunate blip in quality control?

Less than a year after announcing its new Intel-based MacBook Pro, Apple has taken the market by storm.

Four of the CNET Australia editorial team have bought a new MacBook Pro since its release and every one of them has had to -- or will shortly -- spend some time in the Sydney AppleCentre.

Here are some details:

  • MacBook Pro delivered to Jeremy, senior editor and producer of CNET.com.au at the end of February 2006.

    Worked fine for a couple of months, then the battery started playing up. Even though the MacBook showed there was about 30 percent -- or about 45 minutes -- of life remaining, the system would shut down. This problem has been experienced by all four MacBook Pro owners.

    Around a month after the initial problems emerged, the MacBook's battery physically swelled up and the system began shutting down randomly. CNET.com.au did a photo story about this and demanded a recall.

    Along with the battery issues, the processor started emitting a whine, which Jeremy described as an "annoying ring tone that buzzes so only teenagers can hear it". At the time Apple said it was normal but just days after the MacBook returned from the repair shop, Apple decided it would also be a good idea to change the motherboard.

  • MacBook Pro ordered by Zennith, associate editor at CNET.com.au in February and delivered mid-March.

    Worked fine till last week when the battery indicator showed the system would take 746 (approximately) hours to charge the battery. Over the next two days the battery died completely and can no longer hold any charge.

    Since delivery, the MacBook's case has slowly warped over the superdrive bay and now the lid does not close properly.

    warped MacBook case
  • MacBook Pro ordered by Brendon, editor of Builder AU (builderau.com.au) during April and delivered later that month.

    The system has started exhibiting the same early battery symptoms as described in Jeremy's MacBook. With the system shutting down when batter indicator still thinks it has about 45 minutes life remaining.

    Another issue in this MacBook Pro relates to its AirPort system. When the AirPort is shut down from OS X, it remains connected to the wireless network.
  • MacBook Pro ordered and delivered to Ella, associate editor at CNET.com.au, in May.

    Was fine till this month when it started exhibiting the same incorrect battery indicator symptoms as Jeremy and Brendon's systems. The MacBook is due to go back to the Apple Service Centre in the near future.

So there we have it. Four MacBook Pro systems and all four requiring at least some attention from Apple.

But how have their MacBook experiences affected their views on Apple as a whole?

Jeremy, who bought the first of the four MacBooks and has had the most problems, remains a fan but is unlikely to be an early adopter next time: "I still love it ... but I'd think twice before getting a first revision product though".


Jeremy's bulging MacBook battery

Zennith said she remains faithful to the Mac, but only because her applications of choice are not available on Linux: "When there are open source alternatives on par with Photoshop and iTunes I will use a laptop running Linux".

Brendon, who is a longtime Powerbook user, said: "Luckily this is my work computer so I'm not totally cheesed off. But to buy my own new Mac? Yes I'd wait a while until Apple can sort out some of their bugs. It's definitely got some work to do to before being as stable as my G4."

Ella is the one most affected by her purchase. When asked if her MacBook experience has changed her attitude to Apple products she said: "It has definitely caused me to think harder about the choice -- rather than go Mac by default."

Are the CNET Australia editorial team's experiences of the MacBook representative or have we just been extremely unlucky?

The recent battery recall demonstrates that there are some issues but that is mainly for older notebooks such as the G4 Powerbook and G4 iBook.

So what is wrong with the Intel-based MacBook? At this stage it is difficult to say.

When any company suddenly ramps up its production from virtually nothing to a few million units, there are bound to be some quality issues. We don't think it is a coincidence that the first MacBook to be bought was the one with the most serious issues. This alone could be an indication that Apple is winning the battle.

There are many reasons people buy an Apple system. Some choose Macs for their security while others simply prefer OS X. Some people buy them for their looks and I am sure their market share has been boosted by BootCamp, which allows Mac users to have a dual-boot OS X and Windows system -- but you already know my views on that.

The MacBook Pro was launched about six months after I bought my G4 Powerbook and at the time I remember jealously eyeing the shiny new systems, wishing I had waited.

Now of course, I am very pleased I didn't.

Topics: Apple, Operating Systems

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

48 comments
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  • Quit whining

    Everything you mention has been addressed by Apple. The MacBooks and MacBook Pros are by far the best Apple machines ever launched. Considering its a major transition and the fact that Apple is replacing any issues for free speaks volumes. Had you bought a DELL for example, you might not even be here to write this editorial ;-)
    anonymous
  • Worrying but you need a slap

    Worrying, especially after the ongoing problems with the iPod's battery. But having said that, talk about a sensationalist headline...

    "Oh no! my Apple is rotten to the core! oh wait... there's just a problem with the battery indicator".

    If your macbooks are representative of a wider problem then Apple need to get this fixed but you deserve a slap for that headline, anything to get your Diggs and del.icio.us ratings up eh?
    anonymous
  • Apple/Intel quality not great yet.

    Seems like a common problem amongst Mac Intel hardware right now... my Macbook just switches itself off, it is in being repaired at the moment. I look after many different Mac's, including 65 PPC Mac mini's that have been wonderful and reliable but many of the intel iMac's and Macbooks I administer have had hardware issues.
    anonymous
  • Are you stupid

    You order one, its has problems, so you order a second, it has problems, low and behold you order two more. Really people, what are you doing, if these were deals you would have been up in arms. They are only PC's made to look fancy.
    anonymous
  • It's not just the Pro!

    I bought my first MacBook two months ago. I'm now on my THIRD machine, and even that's going back. The first two turned pink within five days, the third took a bit longer but is turning yellow, and now it refused to turn on unless I reset the PRAM. Every single time. I've been feeling sorry for the Apple reseller from whom I've already had three machines, and so this time I'm making this a highest-level complaint to Apple. I wouldn't tolerate this in exchange for GBP1000 from any other manufacturer, and I won't tolerate it from Apple.
    anonymous
  • Dell ain't the only one with battery recalls.......

    "Had you bought a DELL for example, you might not even be here to write this editorial ;-)"

    I assume you are referring to the Exploding batteries. Apple has also announced a recall on 1.8 million of it's batteries.

    Hypocrite.
    anonymous
  • MacBook Pro > PowerBook

    I used a 12" 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook for 1.5 years before buying a 15" 1.83 GHz MacBook Pro.

    There is no way to compare these machines, the G4 was always sluggish and meek. The MacBook Pro destroys it. No regrets at all. I do have a whine (which I haven't addressed yet) and my battery was replaced (under recall) but I didn't have the warping or battery life issues.

    MacBook Pro > PowerBook (except for the stupid name)
    anonymous
  • Do you know the difference between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro ?

    Please stop calling the Macbook Pro [MBP] the Macbook. They are as you know two completely different units

    Did any four of you see the headlines about Apple recalling the MBP batteries. I have already had mine replaced. Apple owned up to the battery retention problem weeks ago, please don't bring up issues that have already been spoken for.
    anonymous
  • I own a MacBook

    I'm really sorry for all the people out there that have had problems.
    I bought mine about four months ago and love it. It hasn't had a problem, at least not anything that one wouldn't expect from a machine that is the center of my workflow.

    I've changed the Ram, put a new HD in myself and done various other things that push it to the edge, never a complaint from the MacBook. I also have several friends that own MacBooks, same thing, not a problem.

    I depend on my Mac for business, and so far, have not been let down, so that said, is the MacBook rotten?
    anonymous
  • I love my Macbook Pro

    It's the best computer I've ever used, and I've used many. I ordered mine within a few weeks of the debut so I have an early one. Apple replaced the battery a few weeks ago although I never had any problems with it. Altogether it's been quite smooth. I do wish the Express/34 card would latch in more securely.
    anonymous
  • Macbook Pro random Shutdowns!!!!!!!

    my macbook pro along with MANY others randomly reboots... Randomly.. with batt or while pluged in
    check google
    anonymous
  • Mac Book Issues

    I purchased a Mac Book for my daughter who was going off to college becasue 'everyone is buying Macbooks for school Dad'. We purchased in Early July. By late July the hard drive failed and was replaced by the local service center. The day we got it back, the system no longer recognized its battery. The battery was then replaced by the same service center. Since then it has behaved itself, but two major components bad within a month of the purchase? I believe Apple has lost some of its sheen for quality.
    anonymous
  • Humour deprived...

    listen, if you feel like you have to make a personal attack, try to respond to the part of the post that's not actually a joke... it makes you look pretty lame.

    cheers
    anonymous
  • Apple

    They did not recall MacBook Pro batteries.
    anonymous
  • Sponsored by Dell

    It's ironic that I read this blog post and at the top of the web page was a big ad for Dell.
    anonymous
  • batteries - pwr supplies - performance

    Interesting to read the comments. I can only wonder why no one seems to appreciate the fact the overheating and issues with voltage supplied may (or may not) cause other irrational behavior in the device... maybe a more factual approach in the blog/article would be prudent.
    ralph.becker
  • batteries - pwr supplies - performance

    Interesting to read the comments. I can only wonder why no one seems to appreciate the fact the overheating and issues with voltage supplied may (or may not) cause other irrational behavior in the device... maybe a more factual approach in the blog/article would be prudent.
    ralph.becker
  • Just a PC

    Let's face it - a Mac is now just a PC. Nothing special about it except - yes - the price. So, if you feel you have some extra cash you want to offload, go and buy yourself a Mac.

    Ah yes, the OS X. What can you do when Apple won't officially support it on "real" PCs. Gotta offload that cash ;-)
    anonymous
  • Just a PC?

    The Mac OSX operating system is what essentially makes a make so different from just a PC!

    The next revision (Leopard) has features that only PC users can dream about. I don't think any IT professional can dispute the seemless integration of software with hardware that the Mac represents.

    The fact that Apple make the hardware and the software is the reason Mac OSX has been so stable compared to Windows XP.

    If Microsoft restricted their OS to a range of systems that only they made I would hazzard a guess they could also gain more stability...

    But, yes, Apple need to reign in their quality control. They do need to re-think their battery supply (which it seems they are doing...).
    dave17-ce306
  • Quality - not gone

    MACS have always been and always will be a great quality product. So they have an issue - and every body wants to dump on them - shame on you - Apple WILL sort it out.
    anonymous