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Customer Review

1,051 of 1,108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast, new processor runs cooler, beautiful screen, June 22, 2012
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This review is from: Apple MacBook Pro MD102LL/A 13.3-Inch Laptop (OLD VERSION) (Personal Computers)
Length:: 4:55 Mins

I had eagerly been awaiting the new Mid-2012 MacBook Pro upgrade primarily because of the move to the new Intel processor, "Ivy Bridge." The 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 dual-core processor just makes this MacBook Pro fly. And it runs much cooler than its predecessors. I had my laptop running while on my lap for a couple hours and the bottom case was barely warm. Fan noise was not noticeable whatsoever. To be honest, I don't even know if the fan was operating or not, it was that quiet.

The aluminum unibody case has remained pretty much unchanged for several years. In fact, my previous MacBook Pro, a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM has the identical case that this new laptop has... it is designated as Model No: A1278 if you look at the bottom of the laptop case.

What Apple threw into the mix, which made my decision of which new Apple laptop to purchase more difficult, was the addition of the Retina Display MacBook. Initially I was tormented with making the correct decision of which computer to purchase. After I weighed the differences and factored in the cost, it became clear to me that for my use, the 13" MacBook Pro was the way to go rather than an Air or Retina Display MacBook Pro. Here are my reasons...

-The Retina Display MacBook lacks an optical drive. For me, that was a critical feature as I am a Mobile DJ and still rip a lot of CD's to my computer. I did not want to have to carry around an external optical drive so having the internal optical drive on the new MacBook Pro was key.

-The Retina Display MacBook does not have an Ethernet port. Again, this won't affect all people, but for me it was an essential feature that I use all the time. I wasn't ready to give up my dedicated ethernet connectivity port.

-The Retina Display MacBook was priced out of my comfort zone. It's a phenomenal computer but I just could not justify the price.

-The Air doesn't offer the disk space that I need nor the right combination of ports.

Honestly, the display on the 13.3" MacBook Pro is gorgeous. I can see where a photographer might enjoy the Retina Display, but for me, the 1280x800 resolution of the screen on this laptop is perfect. The display is bright, very bright, sharp and has excellent viewing from side to side. I'm a little conflicted with the glossy screen, but I think I have grudgingly accepted it for the most part. In most situations I find it nicer than a glare-free screen. For some situations however, it is not the best because of the reflections on the screen of surrounding lights and such. You must remember that while reducing glare on a screen might make it easier to view in certain situations by reducing reflections of light and surroundings, by its nature the anti-glare will reduce sharpness of the screen image. By having the glossy screen you have an amazingly bright, clear and sharp image that is just beautiful to view.

I had also considered getting an early 2012 refurbished MacBook Pro. That was my second-best option. But for the small difference in price, I would not have gotten USB 3.0 ports and that was important to me, as well as getting Thunderbolt. Admittedly, there are not yet many peripherals that utilize Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 but that is certainly going to change quite rapidly. USB 3.0 is 10 times faster than USB 2.0 and offers throughput of up to 5Gbps. Thunderbolt is even faster and allows daisy-chaining of monitors and other devices. This new MacBook Pro also has an upgraded facetime camera. It is now 720p HD and that's pretty awesome.

Firewire 800 is still included on this MacBook Pro. Undoubtedly, Firewire is getting towards the end of its lifespan but many videographers are still using video cameras that use Firewire and I also have external hard drives using firewire, so this is still useful for me.

The newly added Tunderbolt port is also useable as a mini-display port and you can easily obtain adapters to enable you to hook up to DVI, VAG and HDMI. I do miss not having a dedicated HDMI port, but at least it is possible to get an adapter to fill that need.

The Lion and soon to be released Mountain Lion operating system has garnered a lot of comments both positive and negative. Personally I have not experienced any issues with Lion. The integration with iCloud is fantastic and allows me to keep my contacts, address book, bookmarks all in sync across all my devices (iMac, iPhone, iPod Touch and another MacBook Pro.)

The iLife suite of applicatons included with the computer are excellent. iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand are tightly integrated and work well. There is room for improvement, to be sure, but I use iPhoto and iMovie all the time and it is an amazingly capable duo.

If you're considering a MacBook Pro for the first time and are coming from the PC world, welcome. You will have a little adjusting to do but it's really easy and you will probably be impressed with how straightforward the operating system is. It just works. I can't even think of when I had a crash or freeze.

I've not yet reached the 7-hours mark for battery life, but still, I've been getting at least 5 hours plus so no complaints.

If you are considering the new MacBook Pro and you're already a Mac user then you will welcome the addition of a much faster processor, the addition of Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.

I am really liking my new MacBook Pro and with 8GB of RAM, and the new i7 Processor running at 2.9GHZ (turbo-boost to 3.6GHz) you will be very happy with the performance.

Regarding the 8GB RAM memory maximum for this MacBook Pro, it is interesting to note that Crucial sells a 16GB RAM kit for this particular model. Despite this, Apple does not acknowledge that the computer will accept 16GB of RAM. I called Apple Technical Support to ask about this and I was told that even though the computer may accept 16GB of RAM and seem to run without any problems with 16GB of RAM, the full amount of RAM may not actually be used by the MacBook Pro. It's kind of hard to say what the implications are of adding 16GB of RAM when Apple says the maximum is 8GB for this model. What will happen though is if you have any issues with the computer and Apple discovers that you've put 16GB of RAM in it, you could be denied service under the warranty. So I guess I'd be happy with 8GB of RAM until this issue gets more clarification, either by benchmark tests that show an improvement in performance or a firmware update or some acknowledgment from Apple approving the option of 16GB of RAM. I"d like to think that if Apple wanted to make as much money as possible that they would offer this computer with an 16GB option. Since they don't, there must be a technical reason why.

I've been using a protective case for my MacBook Pro and I recommend it. It's priced very fairly, comes in a variety of colors and has worked really well for me. It even lets the Apple Logo shine through the case. Here is a link to the Red color version of the case. RED iPearl mCover® Hard Shell Case for A1278 Aluminum Unibody MacBook Pro 13-inch (RED color)

UPDATE: July 1, 2012 - I've been reading reports online about the fact that the new Retina Display MacBook Pro has pushed the graphics handling capabilities of the computer to the max. This has resulted in some problems that are only just beginning to manifest themselves, such as sluggish screen draw in some situations, slow frame rates in other situations and image retention issues.

In other words, by pushing the limits, as Apple frequently does (and I'm not suggesting that that's a bad thing) early adopters are paying the price. So I'm feeling even better about choosing this particular model rather than spending significantly more for the Retina Display MacBook Pro and having to deal with the first generation issues.

UPDATE: July 5, 2012 - Note to PC users considering the switch to a Mac. Don't be intimidated to switch. Mac OSX is a fantastic operating system and not difficult to learn at all. But there are definitely some subtle differences between the PC and Mac user interface and experience. I would strongly suggest getting a good book such as Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Lion Edition. It's an excellent overview of what you'll need to know regarding the Mac experience and the Lion operating system. I use both Windows 7 and Mac OSX and own both a PC laptop and Mac laptop and desktop machines. I consider Macs to be my primary computer because of my familiarity with them and their ease of use. However, a helpful book will ease your transition and eliminate the guesswork.

UPDATE: August 24, 2012 - I've upgraded my OS to Mountain Lion, 10.8, and have been running it for about 2 weeks. I have not noticed any issues and the upgrade went very smoothly. Some of the new features are great. I particularly like the dictation feature that lets you speak while in any application that accepts text input and the MBP will automatically and accurately convert your speech to text. The new way that messages are handled is very similar to IOS and I like it. Some users are reporting less battery life but I have not noticed any degradation in battery life on my comptuer.
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Comments

Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 121 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 23, 2012 9:37:00 PM PDT
parad0x says:
Great review and thanks for the link to the case. You mentioned that the RAM can be upgraded from 8 GB to I'm guessing... 16 GB? I noticed Apple has no option on their site for this (like you said) so I was wondering if it really is possible to manually upgrade the RAM (assuming it's not soldered down).

Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 24, 2012 9:03:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 24, 2012 9:06:14 PM PDT
M. Erb says:
The RAM is not soldered down. As I show in my video, the RAM is in a typical RAM slot and according to several other reports I've read elsewhere, the RAM can be upgraded to 16GB via 2-8GB chips. Crucial has the 16GB memory kit for around 175.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2012 10:33:42 PM PDT
Brendon says:
Yup, what he says is true. The MacBook Pro accepts up to 16GB of RAM, although Apple doesn't offer it as an upgradeable option. I plan on buying some for my MacBook Pro in a few weeks from crucial.com

I've always purchased my RAM from there and it always lasts long, runs great, and the customer service/return policy is excellent in case something goes awry.

Posted on Jul 6, 2012 9:43:20 AM PDT
David Kavic says:
you wrote a great review, especially about the differences and new features in this macbook pro refresh vs early 2012, however the only thing I disagree with is your notion that Apple is pushing the limits with the retina display model. Apple tends to use mid-grade GPU's in their laptops. Considering the price, that model should have a GTX 670M in it, or even better a GTX 680M. I assure you that the more powerful GPU's would handle the aforementioned issues with ease. Also, nvidia needs to give users the capability to update their video drivers whenever new WHQL's or beta's are released. On a PC platform, that sort of issue can be fixed with a simple driver update. Unfortunately video driver updates are few and far between still on the mac platform.

Thanks for the thorough review on this machine, it saved me the hassle of having to read multiple reviews.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 6, 2012 10:29:37 AM PDT
M. Erb says:
@David I actually agree with your criticism. My choice of words was not very good. What I was trying to say was that Apple was taxing the limits of the GPU by utilizing such a high resolution display. The results of not having a more powerful GPU is causing the issues I mention. Consider also that if Apple had put in a more capable GPU that would have also raised the price more than it already is in order to maintain those nice fat margins that Apple loves so much. I just don't see the value in having a retina display in a laptop. It could certainly be argued that having a somewhat higher resolution than 1280x800 would be nice, but a 13" screen is not that large and aging eyes would not enjoy looking at a larger number of smaller things on the screen. I'm speaking of my eyes of course. LOL

Posted on Jul 6, 2012 6:18:07 PM PDT
vinhphuc says:
Great review. I'm considering to buy a new 13" MBP to replace my 8-year old G4 MBP. A question for you: would this RAM work for MBP as it is sold by "Kingston HyperX Plug n Play 8 GB Kit (2x4GB Modules) 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM Notebook/Netbook Memory 8 Dual Channel Kit (PC3 12800) 204-Pin KHX1600C9S3P1K2/8G"? Or in general, what should I consider as spec for any RAM I want to add to the new MBP, making it go from 4GB to 8 and +. Thanks in advance for your help.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 6, 2012 7:19:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 6, 2012 7:58:17 PM PDT
M. Erb says:
@vinhphuc I can't answer your question as to what specific RAM you would need to buy to go from 4GB to 8GB. Normally whatever Crucial, for example, recommends is what you would want. However from what I know, there is no support from Apple for increasing the RAM above 8GB to 16GB. The computer may continue to work, but since Apple has not yet said that 16GB is supported, I'd take a wait and see approach. It may be that adding 16GB will work but on the other hand it may install and allow the comptuer to run but the extra RAM may not be useable by the MacBook Pro. Until some third-party testing has taken place, I wouldn't risk that yet. IMHO.

FWIW, the Crucial part# that I see is, 16GB kit (8GBx2), 204-pin SODIMM, DDR3 PC3-12800 memory module - Part Number: CT3301501

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:17:42 AM PDT
vinhphuc says:
Thanks for your answer. So one can add RAM up to 16GB, correct? You just don't know if the laptop will make good use of all the available RAM.
Is it easy to install the RAM yourself? Is it a matter of unscrew the back plate, swap out the OEM RAM with the new one, and put back the back plate? I did it on my old MBP, but it was a long time ago, so just want to make sure the steps are still the same.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 8:25:08 AM PDT
M. Erb says:
@vinhphuc It's just as I show in my video review. Remove back cover, RAM slots are right there.

Posted on Jul 9, 2012 12:36:53 PM PDT
Thanks for this review and link to the book! My husband and I are going to finally make the switch to mac and we were looking into this model.
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M. Erb
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