May 12, 2006

My MacBook Pro Experience

I recently purchased a 15" MacBook Pro, which is an Intel-based Mac. While I thought the computer was cool the moment I saw it introduced (yeah, Steve Jobs has a way of doing that), I -- like many others -- have held back from making such a purchase mainly because the software we use most -- Adobe Creative Suite -- runs under Rosetta and not native. That means the software isn't optimized to run on such machines, and performance is lacking.

Well, a few weeks ago, my most favorite computer ever, my trusty 12" G4 PowerBook, started showing signs of age. It was also getting REALLY slow because lately, I've been asking more and more of my computer. While I used to dance between the different Creative Suite apps, I find that as a consultant and an author in addition to the design work I do, at any given moment, I have an incredible number of apps open -- including Illustrator (of course), InDesign, Photoshop, Bridge, Word, Excel, Entourage, Transmit, Firefox, iChat, Flash, Acrobat, iCal, iTunes, and all of the Dashboard stuff. Give or take a few apps. So my 12" was slow as ever and I was experiencing the kind of crashes and odd behaviors that indicated a hard crash in the near future. I mainly love the 12" because I do so much traveling. At home, I plug it into a 20" display and on the road, I am usually presenting on a projector or the like.

But here my 12" was over 2 years old and it was time to think about a new computer. I certainly couldn't see myself buying one of the older G4 PB's because I know that when CS3 does come out, I'm going to want to be on an Intel-based Mac. But at the same time, I had heard about all of the performance issues with running CS2 on the new Macs. Well, after thinking about it a few days, and after my 12" got progressively worse on its deathbed, I decided what the hell -- I'd get a MacBook Pro.

Since I understand that many others are in a similar situation to me, I thought I'd post my experiences here with my new computer, now that I've had the chance to spend a few weeks using it. So here goes...

First, the machine is absolutely stunning. The 15" is a widescreen, and next to my 12", it does feel huge. At the same time, as much as I told myself at the time that 12" was fine -- the 15" screen is simply stunning and I can't see myself ever going back to 12". I love all the room. And the screen is very bright and clear. The MacBook Pro is thinner and it somehow feels more solid in the hand. As I mentioned, at first it had seemed to big (I can't even fathom the 17"), but I have quickly gotten used to it. It still fits into the bag that I had purchased for my 12" -- so I don't need a new bag (although there's less room for other things).

The light-up keyboard is wonderful as I often end up working in dark areas (airplanes, etc.). The magnetic power cord is ingenius. Forget how it protects your computer if someone steps on your cord (especially when you're really reaching for an outlet at an Airport lounge, etc), but you can plug it in with no effort -- you don't even have to look -- your hand just places the connector in the vicinity and it snaps into place. I was somewhat disappointed though that the power brick is bigger than the old PB's and so again, that makes for less room in my bag. The machine does run hot, but to be honest, it isn't any hotter than my 12" used to get -- and that got pretty hot too).

It has USB ports on both sides (yay!) and the new touch pad is cool because it allows for two-finger scrolling. If you hold one finger down and then drag with a second finger, it has the same effect as using a scroll wheel. Nice. All the new iLife apps are great, although I never have enough time to use them (even though I have photos and home movies up the wazoo, backed up, waiting patiently for me to get to them). I was really blown away with Front Row -- sure, I had seen it before. But I find myself using it all the time. It might be the remote control, but more likely, it's how seamless and smooth it works. The experience is unlike any other.

OK, let's get down to the important stuff -- system performance and stability. First of all, I loaded the book up with 2GB of RAM (the machine came with 1GB and I bought a 1GB chip separately which saved me $100). With native apps, the machine flies. Safari is nearly instantaneous. Microsoft Office (I mostly use Entourage and Word with a touch of Excel here and there) are just fine and don't seem any slower on my machine than was used to seeing on my older 12" PB. Other apps that I use often enough, like Transmit (like, the best app EVER), Firefox, etc function just fine -- I have noticed no difference.

OK, Adobe Creative Suite. I've installed CS2 only (my older machine had CS1 also installed), and I was already aware that I would not be able to use Adobe Version Cue. This is fine since I rarely use it for my own work and in the past, have really used it only to be able to talk about it in training and in my books. It's cool, but still not ready for primetime, and therefore, I had no issues with it not being available on my machine.

Illustrator CS2 - For the most part, the program runs fine, at about the same speed I remember on my 12" machine. Not slower, that's for sure. However, I have noticed that every so often, Illustrator will simply quit for no apparent reason. This happens when it's running in the background, even if there are no Illustrator files open. The program just randomly quits. While using it however, I have only unexpectedly quit once.

Photoshop CS2 - I have not experienced any crashing with Photoshop, but I HAVE noticed that it runs a tad slower than I remembered on my 12" -- but only when working with exceptionally large files. Normal files chug along quite nicely, with no apparent delay at all.

InDesign CS2 - This app experienced the weirdest things. InDesign will sometimes quit on me (although with ID, you never lose data anyway as it rebuilds your file the next time your relaunch the app), and I have noticed slower performance overall. The most odd thing though is that all of my decimal amounts suddently have like a million numbers in them. For example, if I type in 1.5", the value shows up in the field as 1.500500505505505505505" -- and this happens in any field in either a dialog box or a palette.

Acrobat 7 Pro -- I have noticed nothing different about using the app. It's just as slow as it was on my 12"... I just wish Adobe would make Acrobat as fast on the Mac as it is on my PC.

Finally, I haven't installed BootCamp -- but I'm thinking about it (even if just to run Acrobat faster, and to access the Windows-only features of that program).

Overall, I'm extremely happy with my purchase and happily recommend it to others.


L. Thomas Martin said...

You wrote: "InDesign CS2 - ... most odd thing though is that all of my decimal amounts suddently have like a million numbers in them."

There is supposed to be a technote on this at: but, at the moment, the link is broken.


Philippe JACQUES said...

I've also been pleased to hear from few of my customers that NCS MagiSign, my plug-in' to drive sign cutting plotters directly from Adobe Illustrator, appears to run as smooth in production on this kind of MacIntel than on older G4 or G5 Mac !

It confirms that Adobe Illustrator CS 2 over Rosetta is a realistic combo, despite you don't gain about speed.

Newmango said...

Are you seeing this?

Teri Pettit said...

Like Mordy, I don't notice my 15" MacBook Pro running any hotter than my 17" PowerBook G4 does. Maybe it gets hot a little sooner, but it doesn't seem to reach a higher temperature.

I always found that my 17" PowerBook could get uncomfortably hot on the bottom too when used continuously especially when doing disk heavy operations.

The MacBook Pro doesn't seem to like waking up from sleep. Three or four times I've opened it up and had the screen go all scrambled, requiring a hard shut down and reboot. I've heard there's a firmware update that I should install, but haven't done so yet.

Mrs Moo said...

I am having the same problem with InDesign CS2 and too many decila points - its driving me nuts!

Anonymous said...

I am having the scrambled video on wake problem too. I started having the problem after Apple swapped out my logic board in a repair. The current board apple item # is 661-4044. This board also suffers from the high-pitched whine for me.

Anonymous said...

Illustrator CS2 - None of the keyboard commands work. Anyone know how I can fix this? They work fine in Photoshop and InDesign.

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