I’m typing this in a swelteringly hot terminal in Valencia Spain waiting for my plane to arrive and hopping that the thunder and lighting in the distance stays in the distance long enough for us to get outta here! Anyhow, I’ve had my 17″ MacBookPro for a week and a half now so I think I have enough experience with it at this stage to go a head and give it a review! BTW, the machine I got has the standard 1GB of RAM, the glossy 17″ monitor and I opted for the smaller but faster 100GB hard disk.

Was Big and Glossy a Good Idea?

Firstly, I have to confess that when I was ordering the Mac I really was in two minds about two things, firstly, was it really a good idea to get such a BIG laptop and would I be stupid to get the glossy screen, would there not be terrible problems with glare? Well, having played with a 15″ MBP with the Matt screen the day after mine arrived I’m now certain I made the right choice. I use an Apple Cinema display at work so I’m used to having a LOT of resolution to play with and lots of windows at the front at the same time. My MBP has the same resolution as I have at work, yes, things are a little smaller but the screen is also closer so it works out great. As for the glare, it’s not a problem except in extreme situations like sitting out in the Sun and the sheer clarity of the display and quality of the colour in all other situations much more than makes up for that one shortcoming. Basically, for my computer use it’s a good trade off.

ASSIDE: I’m now at god knows how many thousand feet over Spain somewhere in economy class and the laptop JUST fits! I’m also watching lightning out of the windows which is a little disconcerting and probably explains the nasty turbulence we’re getting!

Just One Mouse Button?

The second thing I’ll comment on is the mouse. It has just one button and despite being a Mac user for a few years now I’ve always used multi-button mice on my Macs so the lack of a second button freaked me out a bit. However, a quick scan through the mouse preferences sorted things out for me. I now have the keypad set to accept tapping as a left click and tapping with two fingers as a right click so the one button there is is now an unused extra! It doesn’t take long at all to get used to two finger clicking for right click so I’m happy.

The Keyboard

The next thing I’ll talk about is the keyboard. At first it looks very odd. Compared to the width of the screen the keyboard is tiny and my initial reaction was “why not give me a bigger keyboard rather than having large speakers each side of the regular keyboard” but having typed on it for over a week now I’m happy it’s the size it is. The keys are a good size, well laid out and very comfortable to type on. Then you come to my favourite bit, the automatic back-lighting when ever the ambient light drops below a certain threshold. This feature is great for typing on planes or trains at night and also for working in bed after my better half has gone to sleep.

Universal Fun

Apart from this being my first Mac laptop this is also my first MacTel so this is the first time I’ve had reason to care about universal apps and all that stuff. I have all my software loaded now and there are only two things that have caused me problems, the first is Open Office and the second is YourSQL (see my article on MySQL on the Mac). I prefer to use the native Mac version of Open Office (NeoOfficeJ) rather than the version that runs using X11 but I simply don’t have that option ATM on the MacTel (unless I pay money to join an ‘early access program’). My only OO option is a beta version of the X11 version (on which the spell checker does not work). As for YourSQL, it just gives a nonsensical error and fails to start, hence I’ve been reduced to the free version of DBVis for messing with my MySQL databases which is far from ideal.

The Bad News

As with all products the MacBookPro is not perfect, there are a few minor annoyances. The most notable one is that the touch-pad does not work at all well if you have slightly moist fingers and when in Spain in June that happens a lot! If you are doing something mouse-intensive in a sweaty environment you have to keep drying your fingers on your cloths to get the mouse to behave. The only other minor problem is that the cool shiny silver body of the laptop tarnishes and scratches too easily. I’ve only had it a week and a bit and it’s only been used on planes, in airports and at home so far and already there is one big scratch and one big blemish on the front cover. It’s not the end of the world by any means but it does take away from the style which generally goes with Apple hardware.


Finally I’ll end with just some general comments on the MacBookPro. Out of 10 I’d happily give it an 8 or a 9. The battery life is great, the thing just rockets along and it feels very solid and robust. Another nice thing is that it is very quiet, you need to be in a near silent room to hear the fan or the hard disk. It also doesn’t get anywhere NEAR as hot underneath as my old Pentium 4M Fujitsu-Siemens LifeBook which actually hurt you if you were fool enough to have it on your lap while wearing shorts or thin trousers! When it comes to be bottom line I’d have to say that (including Apple Care) it was 3,350 Euro well spent!