MacBook or MacBook Pro?

After 1.4 million estimated miles and five years, our 12" iBook G3 500 has been dropped a few too many times and is ready for replacement. It still works, mind you - the lid is just cockeyed and the DVD door won’t close any more. We just have to be careful when opening the lid, and I’ve taped the DVD door closed with duct tape. Clear duct tape, of course, the better to match the clear white case of the iBook. You can take the boy out of the country, but you just can’t take the country out of the boy.

We do have a nice shiny iMac G5 for a desktop unit, which stores all the iTunes music and all the movies. What we are really looking for is another laptop to take the place of the iBook 500, which very satisfactorily handled the transition from OS 9.0 through every version of OS X. I’d like the new one to be running strong in another five years. We’ll primarily be using it for web browsing, along with some MS Office use, iTunes, etc., but I would like to play with running XP via the Parallels virtual machine.

The change to Intel seems like the perfect time to buy another long-lifer, but I’m torn between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. We don’t really need or want a huge display, so the 17" is out. I could be happy with either the 13" MacBook display or the 15" on the MacBook Pro. As far as I can tell, the major differences between the two, beyond the display size, are the dedicated video card, one additional expansion card, a metal case, and a nifty backlit keyboard. Assuming similar configurations (1 Gb of RAM, 80 Gb hard drive, 2 Ghz processor) the MacBook is $1449, and the MacBook Pro is $2099.

Does anyone have any suggestions on whether the dedicated video card is worth the extra money? Will it have a noticable impact on performance when running Parallels and XP? Is the MacBook still encased in polycarbonate, or is it metal painted white? Anything else I need to be thinking about?

I just won a 17" MacBook Pro. 2.16 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 120 GB HD. (More on that later.) I like it a lot, though I have to admit that I’ve only done the most rudimentary stuff using Parallels. Once I learned how to run the computer with the lid closed, I’ve used it as a desktop. I’ve retained my G4 Sawtooth as a desktop to run Office applications (they’re not universal right now).

To be honest I can’t really tell how fast it is. I’ve seen the Spinning Beach Ball of Death several times. It’s a nice computer aesthetically, but I’ve yet to really say “Wow! That was fast!” just yet. I’m all about real usage, not about the benchmark stuff. The built-in iSight camera is cool, though.

Having said all of this, I don’t know if any of this is helpful. Is there anything you want me to try to do that might help you make a decision?

Congratulations! You must have done something very good in a past life.

You mentioned that you’re keeping your G4 around to run Office until a universal build is available. Have you tried the current version of Office on your new MacBook Pro? If so, how much is running it through Rosetta hindering performance?

How much heat radiates through the bottom of the metal case when it’s sitting on your lap?

Are the backlit keys anywhere near as cool as they sound?

Do you have the high gloss display or the matte screen?

I’ve been trying to make this decision too, but I am also torn. One of the most important factors of a notebook is it’s size and weight. Here are some stats:

13.3" MacBook
Dimensions: 2.75 x 32.5 x 22.7 (cm)
Volume: 2,029 cm^3
Weight: 5.2 lbs
Screen: 39.76 in^2

15.4" MacBook Pro
Dimensions: 2.59 x 35.7 x 24.3 (cm)
Volume: 2,247 cm^3
Weight: 5.6 lbs
Screen: 53.29 in^2

Now you’ll notice the 15.4" MacBook Pro is a lean beast. Most other PCs manufacturers’ versions are considerably bigger than the Pro. It is a bit thinner than the 13.3" MacBook, which is why it’s volume is a only a mere 10.7% bigger. It’s weight is only 7.7% heavier.

For that 10.7% increase in size and 7.7% increase in weight, you’ll get a screen that actually has 34% more real estate. Screen manufacturers measure their size by the diagonal across the screen. This is not a good metric, because it really doesn’t capture how much more screen size you get. Yes, that mere 2 inches gets a you a screen a third bigger. It’s very, very significant. And now that widescreens are becoming more and more common, this diagonal metric is completely useless. A 15" widescreen is considerably smaller than a 15" fullscreen. IMHO, the widescreen format on anything less a 15" is a bad idea, because you lose way too much of that much needed vertical space. (One grain of salt: I’ve never used a 13" widscreen more than fiddling around at an apple store).

The Pro obviously has a more benefits other than screen size. On the other hand, a lot of the decision comes down to price, and i can’t help you there.

No kidding, huh Supe!

I just realized there was a “Test Drive Office 2004” installed on the HD. So I installed it today. I worked on a memo and it was normal. Nothing sexy though - literally, just typing notes. I use Endnote 9 and I hate the delay my laptop has when inserting a reference, so we’ll have to wait and see…

Okay. This I can answer. If your MBP is on your lap as you have it plugged in, you will be burned horribly. Seriously, it’s ridiculously hot. HOT. So hot, in fact, that I think folks who have complained to Apple have been told that the MBP is in fact a “portable” and not a “laptop.” Unplugged it gets warm, not too bad. A cushion dissapates the heat pretty well.

I have a PowerBook G4 15" which does the same trick, so I’ve seen it before. It is pretty cool though. More often than not I have it off, though. I don’t really use it in the dark much.

I think high gloss. It’s a gorgeous screen, and I have a real fear about screwing up the screen by cleaning it… so at some point I’ve got to figure out how to keep it clean.

While the MBP is lighter than my PB 15", it is HUGE. I have two laptop bags and it sticks out on top with both. I ordered a biolithic zip case from Australia on the recommendation of people online.

Update on the Spinning Beach Ball of Death: I installed 1 gig of generic memory and it seems to have solved the problem. Haven’t seen it since. I had ten tabs open in Safari, Parallels, Word, and iTunes running all at once and no sign of weirdness. Nice!

Taking the MBP on the road, I get stares of lust from other Mac users. But I don’t mind!

We have both machines side-by-side at the store, and they’re pretty close in performance for general computer use, websurfing/word processing/etc…, the MBP IS a little faster, but does seem to run warmer than the MB (the aluminum case acts as part of the heat-sink system), for raw power (gaming, desktop video, heavy photo editing, etc…) the dedicated vidram in the Pro will give you an added advantage

the MB we have on display is a white model with the glossy screen, and when viewed straight on, the glossy effect is nice, however, viewing from an angle does create a lot of distracting reflections…

as long as you clean the screen with a CLEAN microfiber cloth and plain water, there should be no scratching of the glossy coat…

the hard drive in the MB is end-user upgradeable, it’s in the battery bay, to the left side of the computer, hidden behind the ram slot plate, the HDD in the Pro is NOT user upgradeable

if you’re looking for raw power, go for the Pro, if you’re not going to be doing processor intensive tasks or anything requiring dedicated vidram, the MB is more than sufficient…

i even ran Unreal Tournament 2003 on the MB in Rosetta, and on standard graphics level, it was quite playable, it was even tolerable with all effects turned on, and remember, UT 2K3 was running in Rosetta at the time…

Apple has a comparison chart up so you can directly compare the models.

Personally, I think that it’s a no-brainer to go with the cheapest MacBook and upgrade the memory yourself. It’s what I did :). Going up to the Pro, you’re spending $800 minimum more for slight increases in processing power and hard drive space and for a video card. For $800, you can buy a whole other computer.

Or, better yet, for the same money, you can buy a MacBook now, and replace it with the new model every two years for the next 6 or 8 years, selling off the previous. Sure, you may lag behind the Pro model for 2 or even 4 years, but over time, you’ll have a much better computer for less money

Thanks for the chart, 'walrus. I’m looking forward to a new MacBook in the fall, and I’m bookmarkin’ that puppy.

I’d say wait a bit and get a decently-equipped Macbook Pro refurb. from the Apple store. That’s what I’m going to do. When you consider all the extras, the price difference between a good refurb. 'Pro and a comparably equipped black Macbook, it’s barely noticeable, yet you get so much more in the 'Pro. One thing I really don’t like about the MacBook is the anemic GPU. For 3D graphics, the thing barely outperforms a G4 iBook, despite having a much higher clocked dual-core CPU. That’s ridiculous. The MacBook can barely handle the most basic CoreImage capabilities of the O.S., yet it’s got a CPU that can go toe-to-toe with a G5 tower. What the hell is up with that, Apple? Lastly, glossy screen. I effing hate those glossy screens, and if you use your laptop anywhere near a bright lightsource, you’ll be pining for a matte screen in seconds. A number of my colleagues new Pee-See’s have the glossies, and man do they suck when you’ve got to use them in a room with overhead fluorescent lights, or, worse, a window during the day. They’re great for seeing who’s sneaking up behind you like a rear-view mirror, but I want nothing to do with them.

If you gotta have the smallest, and you gotta have something black like your Nano, fine, get the MacBook. Otherwise, just spend the extra $200-300, get a deal on a refurb. 'Pro and be very happy.

Thanks for all the great tips. I took Loopydude’s advice, and ordered a refurbished 2.0 Ghz MacBook Pro tonight for about the price of a similarly equiped MacBook. According to the order sheet, the 2.0 Ghz now has the 256 Mb video card, instead of the 128 Mb card, 1 Gb of RAM instead of 512 Mb, and a 100 Gb drive, rather than 80 Gb. Either the chart is a little outdated, or we’re getting a 2.16 chassis with a 2.0 CPU.

I called Apple’s 800 number, and got one of the best sales reps I can remember. She checked with the warehouse, and verified that the one I’m getting has the matte screen, rather than the glossy screen. My only regret’s that we didn’t order it yesterday, so we’ll probably have to wait until Monday for the Wells Fargo Wagon. Oh, well; that will give me all weekend to work on my Ronny Howard impresssion. On the other hand, maybe it’s the people I work with who will wish it would just get here already…

Pardon my butting in, but does anyone happen to know if the CPUs are upgradable in any of the MacBook models? It’s getting close to time for me to upgrade from my old G4 warhorse, and I’m thinking about a laptop…but I’d want something that I could frankenstein new components into to squeeze every minute into it’s operational life that I could. (I’m like the USAF, in some ways. High-tech is great, but I did already put a lot of money into my B-52s…)

Unlike the Mini and the iMac, which are socketed, the MacBooks and Pros have the CPU soldered in on the motherboard. It’s not impossible to upgrade them, but not something the vast majority of users should try. At all.

This is pure speculation, but there is one vendor, Daystar Tech. which does CPU upgrades on some G3 and G4 Powerbooks. You send your laptop to them, they swap out the CPU (and do other upgrades of software and hardware as necessary or requested), and ship it back to you. It’s within the realm of possibility that these folks will pull the same stunt with the Intel-sporting models in the future, but it’ll be costly.

Sorry, Loopy, but you’re wrong about the socketed processors on the Mini and iMac…

i’ve done more logic board replacements than i care to remember, and the processor IS soldered on the logic board on ALL Macs except the G5 tower, the G5 tower is the only model (well, i guess the Xserve counts as well…)okay, make that the G5 tower and the Xserve are the only two products in Apple’s lineup with replaceable processors…

You are of incorrect.

Omit the “of”. I had thought of another phrasing, and thought better of it.

Another link to an Intel iMac hacking here.

[Mr. Spock]Fascinating![/Spock]
Ignorance fought, thanks for the links :slight_smile: