Customer Reviews: Apple MacBook Pro MB133LL/A 15.4-inch Laptop (OLD VERSION)
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on March 12, 2008
In March 2008, I decided it was time to upgrade from a G4-based laptop to one of the new Intel models. I deliberated back and forth whether the lower priced MacBook would be sufficient or whether to pay the premium for the "Pro" model. Ultimately, I decided upon the MacBook Pro for these reasons.

Construction quality
The aluminum case of the MacBook Pro reminds me of a product made by the Swiss. The build quality is outstanding for a mass-produced device. It feels very substantial, and all the pieces fit together nearly seamlessly. The MacBook's case, however, is made from a high-grade plastic rather than metal. It's nice ... but I found the front edge of the MacBook's case a bit sharp on my wrists as I typed.

Compared with the MacBook, the MacBook Pro provides an additional USB port plus Firewire 800. The latter is desirable for people who work with video and external drives that have Firewire 800 connectors. The ExpressCard slot is useful for future expansion and services such as wireless broadband (EVDO).

Keyboard experiences are subjective; but I find the keyboard on the MacBook Pro the most comfortable of any laptop I've ever used. It feels solid and responsive. Plus, its backlighting is helpful when typing in dark environments.

Dedicated video
Unlike the MacBook that shares system memory for video (integrated graphics), the MacBook Pro has a dedicated video processor. This is beneficial for driving large external displays and running graphics-intensive applications.

Is the MacBook Pro worth the $700 price differential over a MacBook? That depends on whether you are a general home computer user (i.e., e-mail, web browsing, iTunes, word processing) or someone who uses their laptop for more advanced purposes. My user profile is more in the second category. Also, since I intend to keep this computer for three years, I figure that the premium breaks down to about $233 each year. This seems reasonable to me for something I use every day.

In view of the additional quality and benefits that the MacBook Pro offers, I think its higher price brings with it commensurate value. It's hard to imagine even finicky laptop users being disappointed with the MacBook Pro.

P.S. -- There are two 15-inch MacBook Pro models. I bought the 2.4 gHz "entry level" model. It is the better value. I do not feel the 2.5 gHz MacBook Pro is worth the extra $500.

Also, people who care to add system memory (beyond the stock 2 gigabytes supplied by Apple) ought to purchase it from a third-party vendor and install it themselves. It is a simple process.
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VINE VOICEon April 6, 2008
Short and Quick Review

This model is worth the 500 difference between the entry level. The screen is beautiful, the new LED Displays are great, better color depth, more color, the laptop doesn't get as hot as previous versions. Everything works, it is very fast, and this laptop replaced 2 high end workstations + 2 high end laptops (A dell with workstation class graphics card, and 17 inch macbook pro). I can edit 1080p high def video in real time with no slow down, edit my 12mp raw files in real time with no slow down. I can play the latest games like Call of Duty 4 maxed out on windows vista at native resolution with no slow down online.

With the beefy 250gb HD, ability to upgrade to 4gb of ram, the 512 graphics card, and 6mb cache, this machine is a complete replacement for me, and revolutionizes my life, work style, and workflow.

It is worth buying, and definitely better than the 2k version, by leaps, read my longer review for more.

Longer Fuller Review.

The new macbook pros are fantastic! I had a 17 inch core 2 duo before, it was nice, but it didn't do everything I wanted or needed. I was forced to keep my mac pro, and my custom built windows PC for running the applications I need, and the ability to play games (I do some freelance game design, as well as photography and animation work)

I grew tired of having so many workstations, but what can you do when you need the power? Apples new macbook pro has answered my needs. I have wanted a laptop with a 512mb graphics card for years, it has never happened until now.

Previous to this laptop, my laptops have been "toys" the only close workstation I had was a dell that cost close to 3k, and would break your back to carry it (but it had a 512 workstation class graphics card!)

With this laptop, I have sold my other machines, it is all I need, or want. If it meets my needs and expectations, it should be able to meet yours easily.

The reason you buy this model, is because of the graphics card, and the increase in l2 cache on the processor. The 2k model has less cache than last years santa rosa model (3mb compared to last years 4mb) this model and the 17 inch has 6mb, as well as the 512mb graphics card, dual core processor, and the ability to use 4gb of ram.

After getting the laptop, I use bootcamp to repartition the harddrive (did not need to reinstall OS X, was able to do this on the fly to install windows) I split it up to give me 165gb for OS X, and the rest for windows.

I need to use specialized software that requires windows, and these programs also require very high end workstations. The life of someone in 3d is not easy. This workstation takes care of all my needs. I'm running the 32 bit version of vista ultimate (the 64 bit is horrible, do not run it) I use windows to run the programs I need (mainly zbrush, unreal engine, and 3ds max) I can and do have maya, and can use it on this partition as well as os x thanks to the dongle, but I cannot use my creative suite software on windows, because of adobes licensees. (though oddly enough, I can run Lightroom on both platforms)

On my OS X side, I run maya, photoshop, after effects, and final cut studio (with shake 4.1, yes I need 2 compositing programs) I have no problems running these programs on this system. I can render out quickly, everything is snappy. With the 8600 geforce (opposed to ATI) maya is very responsive, and I get very few render errors. Dynamics are able to be rendered on this machine, and I can run simulations with ease. Render times are quite quick, and this system is very responsive.

I do photo editing, and this machine is fast as well (I upgraded to 4gb of ram myself for 95 dollars) my camera is a nikon d300, which is 12mp, I use lightroom and photoshop extensively, and at the same time with no problems at all.

I also run maya and photoshop cs3 together all the time (with itunes in the background).

With leopard, I find using this machine even better. I can use spaces, and have maya on one screen, then I can swtich to another screen with photoshop to paint textures, or reference something, and go to another screen for safari or itunes.

The touchpad is cool. Even in windows, I can right click by using both fingers on the touch pad, and clicking with the bar, very smart apple! it works in OS X as well (but you have to enable it)

I bought the apple keyboard (not the wireless, as I need a full size keyboard) and that keyboard is fantastic, the best I have ever owned. I love it. I also bought the logitech g9 mouse to use as my mouse (I cannot stand Mighty Mouse) this mouse is perfect, and similar price. With the wired keyboard you get use ports on the side, so you can attach the mouse to the keyboard with no problems. And it saves on clutter.

For those who enjoy playing video games (I do help make them) you will be happy to know you can play the latest games on PC here with great ease. I can play call of duty 4, at native res of 1440x900 (on vista) with little to no slowdown. Same for Unreal 3 (and all games that use this engine). I can play Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 maxed out all the way, at the native screen res, with no problems at all. I can play crysis, and bioschock (not maxed out, but pretty close).

I have not been so excited about a laptop in ages. I had the original powerbook and used it all over, but it was slow, it was something to use when on the road, and at school. When the first macbook pro came out, I was all over it, the software was buggy, it only allowed 2gb of ram, and it was not practical as my only system, nor was it applicable for heavy use by me. I got the 17 inch when the core 2 duo's came out, it was great, very snappy, and with the 256 card it was close to everything I need (but only 3gb of ram) I skipped the santa rose, as It did not really address anything. This model addresses everything. With 4gb of ram, 2 cores, 6mb of l2 cache, and a 512mb graphics card, there is nothing I cant do.

I edit HD video (1920x1080p) in final cut with no problems. I composite this video in shake with 3d made in maya with NO PROBLEMS. I play high end PC games maxed out with no problems! (Call of Duty 4 is a hard game to run, this runs it and I can play it maxed at native res, online, with no slowdown at all).

I work on my raw images from my nikon with no problems at all. This machine is just perfect. Everything works the way it should, and the way it needs to.

The only complaint I have is they did not include remotes in this revision. You can still access Front Row by using Command ESC and use that to view videos (which look very good on my HDTV).

I should also note, if you buy another keyboard (such as the apple external which I highly recommend (the wired, not wireless) You need to go into system preferences and turn off the optiion for F Keys, as this keyboad has an FN button, like the one on the laptop, and renders using your f keys impossible without pressing fn, turning on that option, makes your keyboard normal, and you can use fn to adjust the volume of your laptop.

Right now I have this laptop hooked up to my HDTV using the supplied DVI to VGA cable, and a line out form the laptop. I have sound on my tv (which I could pipe to a sound system if needed, or (what I do) have it piped to my wireless head phones). This laptop is where it is at.

Please, do not think the 500 dollars for this model over the other is not worth it, as it is very much worth it. The difference between this model, and the 2k model is night and day for me. It goes from a toy, I can use when on the plane, to my only computer! And that is HUGE if you are anything like me.

Now the difference between this and the 17 inch does matter. If you get the 17 inch, you will likly not be playing the latest games at native resolution, and I plan on using this hooked up to my TV, so I do not need 2 extra inches. If you will only be using the laptop, and have no plans on games, the 17 inch may be better for you. After reading many reviews, the 15 inch has better response times, and everything is slightly snappier than the 17 inch, which is why I went with the 15. There is not much a difference in size between the 2, the 17 is not much bigger than the 15, but for me, you could not get me to part with my 15 inch for anything.

This laptop is perfect, get it, and enjoy it. The design will likely change by the next revision (rumored in june / july) this could be the last time you can get such a beautiful laptop, that works perfectly, and is everything you can want.

5 out of 5, no problems at all.
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on April 19, 2008
As my second Apple purchase (first being an IPOD Touch 16GB) I am quite upset. This is my first Macbook and I am Impressed with several things. Performance, Build, Style, Sound, Touch pad responsiveness and Overall quality get perfect 10's in my book. However, the reason for the 2 star rating was the quality of the display.

Do a little researching on YELLOWING and you will know what I'm talking about. The first MBP I received from amazon had about 2 inches of yellow (stained) pixels at the bottom of the screen. I brought it to the apple store and the guy noticed it and offered a replacement, warning me that if I take the replacement I am risking getting a worse display. He opened a brand new box for me and the display had no yellowing but had BRIGHT SPOTS all over the place. This affected more of the middle of the screen so I went back a second time for my third replacement. This MBP has also disappointed me because it also has YELLOWING on about the bottom third of the screen.

Still, I am debating of going back to the Apple store to replace or just simply return this laptop and go with something else. Keep in mind I have owned this for 7 days total. This is a very valid issue and for a $2000 plus investment it is something to consider.

This is a known problem since the SR MBP's and I thought they would have fixed it in quality control but no. I will give Apple credit for great quality service, but they should really spend more money on quality control!

I have the Macbook Pro 15.4" 2.4GHz 200GB.

The displays affected were the 9C81, 9C81 and 9C83... two had yellowing, one had uneven bright/dark spots.
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on March 7, 2008
I am looking at this machine and thinking hard, but just can not find anything negative. OK may be it might be more convenient if it accept usual headset microphones in the inline plug or display can be opened a little bit further. You see after a week of heavy use, these are the only things I can think of.
It is cool, it is fast, and it is silent (I am very picky about fan noises). Multi-touch trackpad (amazing two finger scrolling), backlit keyboard, LED backlit gorgeous display (best blacks I've ever seen in any computer monitor), great audio output (with no hiss at all), mini iSight with superb image quality, all top quality. And of course the best operating system on the planet, you can't get anything better even if you are a billionaire (think about it).

PS: I have the 15.4 inch, 2.4 GHz CPU, 200 GB 7200 RPM HDD, 4 GB RAM model.
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on November 12, 2008
I wanted to buy the new unibody MacBook Pro.
Tried it at the Apple store and here are my findings and opinions,
and comparisons with the March 2008 model (MB134LL/A - the one I bought and am reviewing).

Display on unibody model is super glossy and very reflective - and has no option for matte finish.
Keyboard on unibody model did not feel as nice as the March 2008 model.
Unibody model is slightly larger - bezel width is more than the March 2008 Model.
Also, the March 2008 model is a lot cheaper (about $700),
and there is an additional $150 rebate from Amazon.
Meaningful specs difference:
2.5 GHz versus 2.53 GHz CPU in the new high end one,
2 Gigs of RAM versus 4 Gigs of faster RAM in the new high end (I upgraded to 4GB myself for $60),
8600M GT 512MB versus 9600M GT 512MB in the new high end (20-30% faster),
250GB 5400RPM versus 320GB 5400RPM in the new one (more on this below),
The new one also has dual graphics (use the lower power one for more battery),
but I'd always use the higher one, which would lead to less battery life
than the March model.

Like I said, I prefer matte finish (or a glossy that is not like a mirror).
The default colors were a little dull, so I went to System Preferences/Display/Color/Calibrate and
tweaked around and saved a new color profile. It is MUCH improved now - much better saturation
and has the contrast of glossy without the reflections.

In less than 5 minutes, I upgraded to 4 Gigs RAM - bought that for about $60 from Amazon.
I am keeping my two original 1 Gig sticks in case I need them in the future.
I have VMWare Fusion running Windows XP Professional for some of my
must-have Windows apps. I have given the VM 1 Gig of RAM and 40 Gigs of disk.
Performance of Mac apps and Windows apps is superb.
I am using a WD Passport 320GB USB drive for backups with Time Machine.

Last about 2.5-3 hours with almost constant usage. The best thing is when I close the lid,
it goes to sleep instantly, and wakes up instantly when I need it again, with no loss of
battery regardless of how long it sleeps. That is VERY DIFFERENT from my experience with
Windows laptops that lose battery even when sleeping. No idea why.

It came with a 5400RPM 250GB HD. I bought a WD 7200RPM 320GB with a big buffer from
Newegg - I plan to swap out the HD - that requires "minor surgery" so I am doing my research
before I do it this weekend. The new disk will be a lot faster, although the it comes with
seems to be pretty fast already. I am swapping as I like doing stuff like that.
UPDATE: I swapped the hard drive and did a full restore from Time Machine - it now is exactly
the same as my las back-up with all apps and settings, except with a bigger and faster hard drive.
This "surgery" is t for the faint of heart. :-) And is probably totally unnecessary for most folks.

Mac OS X:
So simple. After using Windows PCs and laptops for over 15 years, I am amazed how easy
and intuitive it was to use a new OS. I know Mac OS X is very powerful and I am just beginning
to learn the advanced features to play with. Being able to run Windows XP in a VM with such a small
load on the system is very nice. I use software apps that are either not available on the Mac yet,
or have much older versions on the Mac. This is not specifically about the MacBook Pro but the
fact that the MacBook Pro has enough juice to do this is what is worth noting.

Boot Times:
When I shutdown and restart, it comes up in 30 seconds or so. Much faster than my experience
with Windows laptops. Here's the best part - if I put the Windows VM to sleep in my Mac,
it comes back up in seconds! Much faster than Windows used to wake up on a Windows laptop!
So for a portable laptop, the MacBook Pro is quite powerful and fast.

I am glad I bought this model instead of the new Unibody model. This is by far the best portable computer
I have ever owned. I've always felt that the MacBook Pro carries a price premium over "equivalent" or
more feature rich Windows laptops, but now I know why. They are better.
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on April 25, 2008
There was no reason for me to switch to a Mac product. I've always have been intrigued, but XP was doing it for me day in and out. My current Dell Latitude was on its way out and I wanted something high quality. I couldn't find anything that comes close in build quality/finish to the Macbook Pro. Asus makes some nice notebooks but I didn't want Vista, with all of its assorted issues and XP doesn't seem like a sound choice given its looming end of life.

So now I have my Macbook Pro. As a software developer I was drawn to the idea of a UNIX shell as a first class citizen (sorry Cygwin). The toughest part is learning the keys. In XP I could move around an IDE effortlessly, with keys: home,end,ctrl-arrow etc.; not so on the Mac keyboard. This proved the most frustrating. The lack of the forward delete is also a disappointment but I hear there are keyboard mapping solutions.

I installed VMware Fusion and XP for initial comfort and to ease the transition off windows. BTW, Fusion is amazing. It feels like it's native, and it's definitely faster than XP on my current Dell. With Fusion, I can map drives, cut and paste and access servers between the two -- it's all very fluid. Full screen your Fusion in a different Expose window and you can quickly swap back and forth between Mac and XP.

Now the downside. In the first few days I experienced no less than 4 crashes, where it had to be power cycled. I haven't had any issues since, so I'm going to conveniently forget. Firefox crashes still, but no more than it did on windows, and maybe less.

So in conclusion, Mac was the right choice for me. High quality in and out and at a decent price. The interface is pure eye candy and orders of magnitude superior (usability-wise) than XP. While there will be some pain points in learning, it will hopefully be worth it. Get VMware Fusion and install Windows for when there is no Mac alternative.

*UPDATE* I have now had the macbook pro for 2 months. I'm really enjoying some of the UI features, such as expose and spaces more and more. The hotkeys are awesome (e.g. show desktop, lock/start screensaver).

There are however a few recurring problems that I have been experiencing. I'm going to detail the top two. The first issue is the screensaver hotkey stops working at times. This is a huge issue because it is also the mechanism for locking my computer, and I cannot leave my desk w/o locking it, so I must either close the lid (sleep) or restart, which fixes the issue.

Now for the second issue: often when I try and restart/shutdown, it does nothing, then a minute later tells me that Finder failed to quit and I should quit Finder then try again -- great suggestion Apple, given that you CAN'T QUIT FINDER!! So now I have to hold the power button down for 10 seconds to kill it or run "sudo shutdown -r now" from Terminal.

So in my latest conclusion, my mac is not living up to my expectations of reliability. I was led to believe, by many in the mac community/stupid commercials, that Mac was the panacea from XP. The Mac user interface is *unmatched* and that along with the UNIX foundation were and still are my original reasons for choosing Mac. My previous XP Pro notebook however was significantly more stable. The reliability issues are getting more and more annoying and I just hope Apple is able to resolve and restore my faith in their product. Lastly, I would change the star rating to three but it won't seem to let me.
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on May 11, 2008
I purchased this computer to upgrade an older MacBook Pro (MBP). It is indeed a very significant upgrade to my 1st Generation MBP. I won't get into nitty gritty tech specs, as most people I know buy Macs because they want to use their computer, not the other way around.

The screen is a lot crisper. My understanding is that it's an LED-based screen, which results in increased battery life. On the topic of battery life, out of the box I'm getting 4.5-5.0 hours worth of battery life--dramatically better than the 3 hours max I got out of my 1st gen MBP.

The processing power is dramatically increased, as well. I never had trouble running anything on the old MBP until I got Parallels--I had to upgrade the old machine to 2 GB of RAM to get performance to an acceptable level and even then it was sluggish. Not the case with the 2.4 Ghz MBP with 2 GB of RAM.

Boot up time is significantly increased with this machine and the wireless seems to have extended range versus the prior version. I attribute part of this to using an 802.11n base station, but I also notice that I pick up more WiFi access points near me, as well and some of them are Belkin 802.11g.

The one thing that I do find annoying is that Apple changed the assignments for the function keys. Having used Mac laptops for ~5 years, I found this to be very annoying. I was able to work around this by changing the key assignments back to what I know.

In all, a phenomenal upgrade in terms of what you get out of the box, raw processing power, boot time, and increased battery life. I recommend this laptop without hesitation.
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on April 30, 2008
Coming from PC, I never thought I'd dish out the extra bucks for a Mac. The new Macbook Pro is by far the best laptop I've ever used. I absolutely love the Leopard OS, build quality, and speed of this machine! Noise is a BIG issue for me as I planned to use it in bed and it is not silent as my iPhone of course but as far as laptops go I don't think there is anything quieter on the market now except perhaps the Macbook Air which I almost bought. The functionality of the OS and bleeding edge technology packed into this thing far exceed anything I thought was possible with a portable computing platform. I plan to dual boot Windows XP to be able to use all of my Windows software on this aluminum beauty. Absolutely loving it.
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on April 2, 2008
It took me several months and a lot of research and in-store inspection before I bought this thing, and I'm happy to report no regrets so far. Actually, I'm glad I waited until the latest version came out. The new LED screen, faster processor, larger hard drive, bigger graphics card and included Boot Camp are definite pluses over the older models.
I'm a graphics professional migrating from Windows and an old CRT, so the glossy screen doesn't present me with any new problems, and I find the rich colors and crisper text to be an advantage over the matt, but I admit this is a subjective call. The keyboard has a very easy and positive feel; lack of a numeric pad is no problem since I rarely used it when I had one. Serious design & bitmap work is done with an Intuos tablet anyway. The OS boots so much faster, and adapting to Leopard after Windows has not been difficult at all. Replacing the big monitor and brain-box with something this small had me wondering at first, but I now consider it to be a revelation. Once the display is on it seems more than adequate. And there's always the satisfaction of Apple's "slickness factor" - beautiful industrial design, and an operating system that just makes me want to say "cool".
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on April 13, 2008
Bought mine refurb ~6 months ago. I have had no problems whatsoever, and it has met or exceeded all demands I have placed at its feet. This a powerful and well designed laptop in every regard.

Operating System: #1 Reason to buy an Apple laptop. I run Windows and Linux on my desktop, but for a laptop there is no reason not to go with Apple. OSX is better in every aspect than Windows, and getting Linux to work well on most laptops is a pain in the @%$.

Screen - #1 Reason to get a MBP over a MB. Get the matte screen. It is simply the best laptop screen on the market. Hands down. I have received compliments on the actual screen from people sitting next to me. When you see a Dell or even a Lenovo next to the MBP, their screen just looks incredibly sad, dull and washed out while the the LED backlit matte MBP is very bright and crisp.

Size/Weight: Weighs the same as the normal MB, but slightly larger. Five pounds is actually quite light for a laptop of this caliber. I would prefer a 13" form factor but the MBP wins in other regards, and the larger screen is certainly welcome. If SIZE is a major issue, you might want to consider the MB, if WEIGHT is the main issue, consider the MBA. If you carry around a bunch of other heavy stuff or need to travel ultra-light, this may not be the laptop for you. However, if all you carry around is a laptop, a (paper) notebook, and some papers or a book, it's not an even an issue. I carry this laptop a few miles walking almost every day and I don't even notice it.

Quality: Top notch. Feels solid, unlike many PC manufacturers Apple uses top quality components for ram, motherboard, power supply, etc. If anything fails, Apple support has always been refreshingly helpful and accommodating.

Metal Case: If it wasn't for the white plastic case, I might have bought the regular Macbook. I think the metal case is more professional, but this may just be personal taste. Realistically, the plastic MB is probably more durable and alledgedly gets better WiFi reception.

Power: Used for extensive coding, video editing, photoshop, video playback, running Matlab simulations, etc. Hasn't failed me yet.

Battery: Decent battery life, nothing amazing.

In conclusion, if you need ultra-light, get a Macbook Air. For all-around use or students, I think the Macbook is the best bet. This is because I slightly prefer the Macbook keyboard, mag-latch, and form factor. But for the pro user that wants power, expandability, an amazing screen and a professional look, the Macbook Pro is the best laptop on the market.
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