Apple's released another great MacBook Pro.
The MagsSafe 2 is an improvement in that it provides a more elegant vertical cable orientation rather than the original MagSafe connection that stuck out horizontally (like traditional cables). Note, however, that any existing MagSafe accessories you have will not work with the MagSafe 2 connection. Apple does provide a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter
Unlike the 13" MacBook Pro or new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, this model does include an Ethernet port.
The new Thunderbolt port replaces the previous Mini Displayport from the previous generation. It provides much more flexibility for connectivity. There's an increasing number of Thunderbolt accessories such as external disk drives and displays, though you do pay a price for the improved performance. The same port is compatible with existing MiniDisplay accessories and cables, which lets you connect a display via HDMI, DVI, or VGA with various adapters. If you have devices that use a regular DisplayPort, adapters from Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort are also available.
The Firewire 800 port provides support for existing FireWire 800 digital video devices or external hard drives.
The 2 USB ports have been upgraded to support the much faster USB 3.0 devices while retaining support for existing USB 2.0 devices. USB 3.0 hard drives like the Western Digital My Passport 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive
are great for TimeMachine backups. TimeMachine now supports FileVault encryption, and TimeMachine provides the option to Encrypt Backup Disk when you connect a compatible disk the first time.
The SDXD card slot supports SD cards up to 64GB cards. It's ideal for transferring photos from your digital camera. You can also use an SD card as a startup disk such as a custom "rescue disk" that also has applications like the essential Alsoft DiskWarrior 4.0
or Drive Genius 3
. NOTE: If you use FileVault 2 to encrypt your entire hard drive, you'll have to decrypt it before using any 3rd party utilities run from an external drive.
The Audio In port works with standard 3.5" mics, while the adjacent Headphone / Audio Out port does 3 things. It supports standard analog audio out using a 3.5" cable, digital output using a mini-optical to Toslink cable. It also supports the iPhone headphone with Mic and remote (and compatible headphones) that allow you to have audio in and out in one port. It's ideal for FaceTime chats and VoIP applications.
The FaceTime camera in the top bezel supports full 720p HD.
While the battery life is rated at 7 hours, my time averages about 5 hours, but it recharges very quickly.
I'm a fan of Extended Warranties like the well-known AppleCare, which allows you to take your computer to your nearest Apple store and let the Geniuses take care of the rest. I opted for the SquareTrade 3-Year Computer Accidental Protection Warranty ($1500-2000)
which also support "accidents" like drops and spills that are NOT covered by AppleCare. Unlike AppleCare, though, it's a mail-in service with a 5-day guaranty.
All of that's great, but to really soup it up, I upgraded the RAM to 16 GB with something like the Corsair Vengeance Laptop Memory Kit 16 GB (2x8 GB) DDR3 1600MHz CL10 PC3 12800 (CMSX16GX3M2A1600C10)
. That's a quick upgrade that even a novice can do in under 30 minutes. You'll need a small phillips screw driver and a nylon pry tool. If you're going to do any upgrades such as RAM or hard drive, I recommend the NewerTech 11 Piece Computer ToolKit
. It contains all the various screw drivers (phillips and torx) needed for Apple devices and 2 nylon pry tools.
Another upgrade that's a little more difficult is upgrading the hard drive to either a larger drive like the Western Digital 1 TB Scorpio Blue SATA II 5400 RPM 8 MB Cache 2.5-Inch Bulk/OEM Notebook Hard Drive - WD10JPVT
or an SSD flash drive like the Crucial 256 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s CT256M4SSD2
Both of those upgrades shouldn't void the warranty according to the FTC's Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, though the upgraded components would be covered by its manufacturer's warranty and not Apple.
I use a lot of virtual machines and photo and video editing software, so I went all-out, though, and used the OWC Data Doubler Optical drive to SATA Hard Drive/SSD Converter
to replace the SuperDrive with the stock hard drive, installed 16 GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. NOTE: These modifications are NOT covered by AppleCare, and I wouldn't recommend going that far unless you're comfortable with more advanced computer issues.
That said, this laptop is screaming and wicked-fast. I easily see it lasting me 4+ years.