Closing thoughts on my MacBook Pro Experience

Well, the MacBook Pro has been packaged back up into the cardboard and styrafoam cocoon that it came in from Apple and gone back to their PR department (I was lucky enough to have the MacBook for more than the 28 days that Apple has initially offered it to me for). What did I learn from the experience? What do I now think of Apple products and the Mac OS?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Well, the MacBook Pro has been packaged back up into the cardboard and styrafoam cocoon that it came in from Apple and gone back to their PR department (I was lucky enough to have the MacBook for more than the 28 days that Apple has initially offered it to me for). 

The initial sexiness wore off, but the stylishness remainedWhat did I learn from the experience?  What do I now think of Apple products and the Mac OS? 

Overall, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and a lot of this is down to Apple putting a lot of effort into making the experience a pleasant one as soon as you open the box.  I've bought a number of notebooks over the years and I can say with all honesty that the MacBook was the only notebook that was "presented" to me in a stylish way as soon as the lid of the box was up.  I wouldn't expect Dell or IBM or any manufacturer to put this kind of effort into their mainstream business notebooks, but they could take a leaf out of Apple's book when it comes to higher-end, higher cost systems.  When you spend over $2,000 on a notebook I think it's reasonable to expect to have it packaged better than a sack of potatoes.

Another lesson that notebook manufacturers could learn from Apple is to keep the instruction book small and the leaflets and other junk down to a minimum.  Most notebooks I've seen come shipped with far too much paperwork that needs to be trashed.  Keep it simple.

Also notebook manufacturers could learn from Apple that adding a little style isn't a bad thing.  Those small touches on the MacBook not only made it look good but also made it more usable (I loved the backlit keyboard and the built-in webcam).  Apple's gaining market share fast when it comes to notebooks, and once you've used a MacBook for a while, it's easy to see why.  They stand out.  Walk into a meeting with a MacBook or a MacBook Pro and people will know what it is.  Walk in with another brand and it's just a notebook.  From a hardware point of view the only thing that I found disappointing was the buttons on the trackpad.  The trackpad itself was excellent (the two finger tap acting as a right-click is inspired!) but the buttons felt cheap and out of place. 

The only problem I had with the MacBook Pro (and it was an annoying problem) was with getting a WiFi connection.  It wouldn't seem to connect to any router that wasn't set to mixed 802.11b and g.  I solved this problem myself minutes before calling Apple's executive tech support.

Now, away from the hardware and onto the software.  I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about using the Mac OS initially.  I've spent years on Windows and the way things are done in Windows and the idea of having to think differently didn't appeal to me.  However, I didn't really find transitioning to the Mac OS all that difficult.  After learning a few keyboard shortcuts and how to navigate the finder (oh, and how to install apps), the Mac OS wasn't all that difficult to use.  Like anything new or different you need to be in "learning mode" for a little while to get the best out of it, but after a few days I could effortlessly switch between using Mac and using Windows.

The MacBook wasn't just something that I played with in my spare time while I had it either, I got a lot done on it.  Granted, when a lot of what you do is writing then you can do that on anything that has a keyboard, screen and a text editor, but given the fact that I'd switched platforms, I was amazed by how much I got done.  Also, there's a certain stylishness to working on a MacBook - going back to my regular notebook made me feel like I was scratching out messages in the dirt with a stick.  Yes, it's hard to get away from the style aspect of using a Mac.  The initial sexiness wore off, but the stylishness remained.

I was also impressed by the array of software that's installed on the MacBook, in particular iLife.  OK, when you look at the price of the MacBook it's clear that you pay for this software, but the difference between the MacBook and other notebooks is that the MacBook isn't a PC, it's a product.  The bundled software is nice and makes the MacBook instantly usable, although I wasn't all that impressed with the Office for Mac trial - seemed like a waste of space to me.  Even though I find OpenOffice to be kludgy compared to Office, I would have rather seen OO, warts and all, installed than a trial of Microsoft Office.

So, now that the MacBook is back at Apple, will I be buying a MacBook?  The answer is ... maybe.  Partly, the MacBook would have to go onto a list of other tech gear that I want to buy.  It's not just a matter of the cash either, well it is but it's also time involved in setting up and integrating it into the PC Doc HQ.  As a stand along system the MacBook was a brilliant bit of kit, but as part of a bigger Windows-based ecosystem, it is very much a loner.  I could put Windows on it but that defeats the point of owning a Mac in the first place.  The one thing that I think will eventually push me into buying a Mac is that I'll miss just being able to pick it up and get on with some writing, free from distractions of RSS and such.  I didn't set any of this stuff up on the Mac and I found that to be a huge plus point because I became more productive instead of less.  I'm unlikely to go for the 17-inch MacBook because I found this a little too big and a little too heavy for my tastes, I'd more likely go for a smaller MacBook Pro.

If you want o read my past MacBook Experience posts, then check out the Windows to Mac Chronicles.

Go on, try your best to convince me to move the MacBook up (or down) the purchase list!

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