John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Macbook 13 review

I bought my first ever Mac! It’s a used Mac Book (not pro) 13″ I bought off a friend. Core 2 Duo @ 2.4 Ghz 4GB of RAM 80GB SSD (Intel X-25M) 1280×800 LCD display Superdrive 8x(DVD+R DL/DVD+RW/CD-RW) Webcam Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6) installed + DVD Apple mini-DVI to DVI Adapter and Mighty Mouse.

I’m a PC guy. Always have been. I’ve played with Hacintosh (loading OSX on a PC) as well as Safari so I’m not going into this completely cold. When I played with Hacintosh I was impressed but could not get some things working (sound and wireless). So it was problematic. The time I did spend taught me there was no good reason why I couldn’t live on a Mac. I have some interoperability I need to figure out such as network shares, and a network printer. Of course not having a reason to not be on a Mac is not a compelling reason to be on one either.

Hardware wise the unit is nothing amazing or earth shattering. The display is quite bright and crisp. Better than my current Dell or IBMs I’ve used of late. Weight is about average. The inside of a Mac these days is basically a PC so nothing revolutionary or different than a PC. It does include Bluetooth which is nice. My buddy through in a bluetooth wireless mouse so that is a plus. Weight and thickness are about on par with PCs. The battery does have a button that will display the charge on it which is nice. It does include a wireless ABGN card so that is good as well.

I have to admit it, I hate glide points. I’ve always preferred the IBM trackpoints. I’ve never been able to get use to them. Couple to this the fact that Apple insist on not having a second mouse button and I have to say I’ve found myself challenged. Apple have done some unique things. The glide point can sense not only one finger but mutli gestures. This includes the ability to scroll with a two finger drag and I discovered that two finger touch is the right mouse button. Now I am still getting use to it and am clumsy so far, but I have to say Apple have done a good job of the glidepoint! Impressive.

The unit I got is white and frankly coupled with the chicklet keyboard looks a little cheap. The keyboard does work well and the gap between the keys makes typing actually easier.

Electronics today are defined by their input and output. This unit has only two USB ports, so add a keyboard and mouse and you need a hub. Add to this that Apple did not include an SD card reader and you are even more likely to need a hub. I’m shocked that in todays day and age they do not have an SD card reader on the device. Who today does not have a digital camera? And who wants to go looking for the USB SD card reader you left somewhere. A disappointment for sure. This unit only has a proprietary Mac Video out plug. No HDMI, no SVGA, no DVI … Of course you can buy a proprietary cable from Apple. Yuk. On the audio side you can output in stereo or SPDIF. Pretty surprising for a company that built a reputation on superb multimedia. The unit does also have firewire port which is nice if your video camera supports it. All in all I am surprised at the limited ports and ones chosen on this laptop.

Initial setup is simple but again nothing earth shatteringly different than a PC.

Right off the bat I found Microsoft have free Mac versions of RDP client as well as MSN messenger so that was good. The RDP client is buggy and crashes regularly. There are Mac versions of Adobe products as well as Microsoft Office too, but oddly office does not include Access.

Safari is the browser on the Mac which I’ve played with before and like it. It works well and is quite fast. There is a version of Firefox as well as Chrome for the Mac if you like it. Safari is fast and supports tabbed browsing.

There are built in aps for Calendar, Email and Contacts. I was able to get them all to talk to Google natively which is excellent! And built into the OS and free!

Standby on this device is blazingly fast. I’ve never seen a PC wake up as fast as this Mac does. Before I have the display open it’s already awake and responsive. Connectivity back to the wireless takes a second or two but also not bad at all.

The Mac includes built in support for Windows shares making it easy to coexist. I thought this was going to be one of my challenges and it just worked. Impressive. My print and HP Laserjet 1020 is not supported but the Mac also makes using Windows shared printers as well. Apple have made great strides in interoperability.

Power consumption and heat on PC laptops have gotten totally out of hand. The machines draw a lot of power, generate a lot of heat, and have crappy battery life. This is what has become of PC laptops. The Mac strangely enough seems to have better battery life (5 hours or more), heat is way down and the charger is physically much smaller than on a PC. Charging from a completely dead battery does take a while thought. All in all I am impressed. Apple has done a good job of power management.

Just to be different Macs use a slot based DVD drive. I personally don’t like it. You get a cringing feeling when a disk goes in, and the sounds coming from it are unpleasant. And without an emergency eject or a button it just doesn’t feel good. And if it get jammed well your just screwed.

I tried a number of USB Flash drives as well as my Android phone’s mounted uSD card. All worked fine as long as it is formatted using FAT or FAT32. I tried an external hard drive that was formatted using NTFS and while it read it, the Mac out of the box could not write it. There are programs around to add this support but I am surprised they left this out of the OS.

All in all my time with the Mac has been excellent. I am impressed with what Apple has done. Speed is impressive. It would be a total slam dunk if it were not for the damn glide point. Who knows maybe I will get use to it.

So for now I’m hanging onto my Mac!


June 5, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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