on September 20, 2015
This was a replacement for a previous Macbook Pro 13 that was my first Apple experience, and since then, I've never looked back. I've had this particular model for about 2 years now and it still runs like a champ. The battery only gets me 5 or 6 hours now, but that's on full brightness and I use it as a desktop replacement, plugged in most of the time which doesn't bode well for battery health over the years. Other than slight reduction on battery time, there have been zero issues whatsoever with this thing. My previous Macbook used a Samsung screen, and I noticed a yellowing and general degradation in quality after two years of constant heavy use. This model has an LG screen, which has exhibited none of those symptoms, or any symptoms, really, after two years, besides looking less sharp as I get used to the Retina iPad and iPhone screens.
I use my computers a lot, from web searching to music listening to video and music production to visual artwork, extensive word processing, pretty much everything other than gaming, which MacBooks are admittedly not the greatest at. On my old machine, I used to do a Bootcamp Windows partition, but over the years I've slowly moved everything (but gaming) over to Mac. I used to use a malware scanner, but don't anymore, because I never had malware or viruses. The only thing I use is Disconnect in Safari to limit cookies and ad tracking. I'm still running Mountain Lion and don't think I'll upgrade, because it seems to me to be the pinnacle point of Steve Jobs' Apple. Everything after that changes the design language and overall focus a bit and I'm happy where I'm at.
Previous to my last computer (my first Macbook and first Apple product which I used heavily for years), I had been solely a Windows guy, and had a big, heavy HP laptop. It was a beast, and great for a Windows machine, but again, I use my computers heavily and I fried it (meaning it literarily went out with a puff of smoke) after two years. It was a good machine, and probably would have lasted twice as long for a normal user, but I push the limits of my computers, meaning they're used a lot, and I expect a lot out of them. While I enjoyed HP, I was growing sick of the problems of Windows, and the little inconveniences: six month hard drive wipes to clear malware buildup, occasional viruses (meaning another factory reset of the hard drive), clunky trackpad (which I never knew was clunky until I tried the godsend on a Macbook), rattly cd tray, overheating, occasional freezes/lockups, complicated processes like backups, losing files, and Windows Media Player, the last straw that sent me finally looking at what Apple had to offer. And not to mention, as an artist who appreciates beauty, Windows is just plain ugly. I had previously thought Apple products were pretty, overpriced, under-performers, but since costs had come down and their Intel-based processors and specs had improved, an Apple laptop at the time was getting comparable in price to a decent Windows machine. (Now you can buy Windows laptops out of the bargain bin). It was all the bundled software (I was just getting into music production at the time, and Garageband excited me), iTunes, battery life, and the new (at the time) Bootcamp feature which allowed Mac users to run Windows programs that made me decide to give Mac a try. Also, the iPhone 4 had come out, and it was the first cell phone I thought it looked really cool, both beautiful and powerful. Apple seemed to be making waves at the time, and were for more than just a band of faithful followers. I also managed to get a deal ordering direct from Apple, who were offering a free iPod back then, which made the cost difference null from getting another HP, so I took the plunge away from Windows, and towards Apple for the first time.
For anyone who is a Windows user curiously skeptical about what all those Mac users are so hyped about, let me tell you, that first Macbook opened up a whole new world to me. It was the single best electronic product experience I ever had. This isn't marketing bs, it isn't blind fanboy worship. It was seriously the best consumer entertainment product experience, ever. I now dream of the day when all product experiences (cars, homes, water heaters) are as beautiful, yet insanely functional and durable, as my Macbook was compared to all of the competition. It's all the little things that work seamlessly together that makes for one truly great experience. From getting two to four fold battery performance, to better screen color accuracy, to the smooth and flawless unibody aluminum housing (which is durable - I've dropped my current Macbook, open and running, from waist height onto solid linoleum on the back of its screen without problem, and banged it around by accident with zero issue) - nothing creaks, groans, rattles, or in any way breaks the initial experience of one solid, consistent product. The trackpad is magical. Seriously. Try any other Windows brand trackpad for a week, then try this for a week, and you will never, ever want to go back. Going back to a Windows trackpad would be like going about your day without thumbs. It's that much of a difference. You can draw with this thing, it's so responsive. The software is top notch. No viruses, no malware, no wiping the hard drive to get that fresh from the factory speed again. That fresh from the factory speed is consistent from day one to year two. You NEVER have that experience on an internet-connected Windows machine. Time Machine works so wonderfully, especially when it comes time to upgrade machines, that you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. From the first Macbook to the second Macbook, I had all the information and settings transferred quickly and easily. It was amazing how seamlessly simple it was, zero headache changing machines, absolutely zero stress. Power the new one on, plug in the portable hard drive with the Time Machine backup, click a button, and you're right where you left off. Airplay is amazing if you have an Apple TV. Internet browsing on Safari is blazing fast and secure. iPhoto is the only photo software you'll need, and keeps the years organized easily. iTunes is (or was, up until the update coinciding with Apple Music) wonderful music software, and the AAC file format is far superior to MP3. Quicktime is useful for splicing movies together quickly or viewing files, but iMovie is so incredibly powerful, it's a wonder they don't charge for it. Garageband is good for starters, but Logic Pro X ($200) is where it's at.
Logic Pro X is the best piece of software you'll ever use (if you have a use for it). It is gorgeous, simple, insanely powerful. I've tried ProTools, Reason, Acid, Ableton, FL Studio, the list goes on. Mixcraft was really good in the ease of use department, and the best Windows software I had used. Logic Pro takes the ease of use of Mixcraft, makes it far more beautiful and fluid, and cranks the power up from hobbyist to professional. It's amazing that pro software can be so consumer-friendly. Buy a Mac for this reason alone, if you're into music. The sad thing was, I never tried it for years, and kept using Mixcraft because I found it more powerful than Garageband and thought Logic would be like ProTools - a nightmare. It's not. It's the best piece of software ever made, in my opinion, and I was already sold on Mac years before I used it. So, if you're into music production, you have no reason not to get off Windows right now. But even without Logic, the Mac experience is far better.
There is no single reason to switch to Mac. It's the sum total of a lot of really well thought out ideas and microscopically-refined execution. They're beautiful, they're secure, they're fast, they don't crash, their batteries last longer, the machines themselves last longer, and all the little features work so well together and seem so logical that after spending any extended time on Mac, the only thing you want to do is use more Apple products, and get farther away from the cheap but clunky Windows experience. Going back from Mac to Windows is like going from a Ferrari to a Ford Focus. The Mac experience is so much better if you're an artist, a web surfer, a music producer, a music listener, a photographer. It's not just beautiful, it's durable, it's powerful, it's smartly executed. For anything but gaming, Mac reigns supreme. Just buy a Macbook, and buy an Xbox, and you'll be set, if you're a gamer. Even intensive 4k video editing, Final Cut works better than comparable Windows software, although intensive video editing will test any laptop's guts. I do 60fps, 1080p, hour plus video editing and rendering on this thing, and while the rendering process of 60fps videos seems to take this machine to the limit, it still handles it great and hasn't blown up yet, and the actual handling of the footage during the editing process is a breeze. But then again, that's been the Apple experience for me thus far on the Macbook Pro - sure, it can only accomplish some processes so fast (like days to render 60fps 1080p 2 hour videos), but everything inside its limits it does without stutter, without stammer, without breaking a sweat. Sure, rendering complex video or audio files will take longer on this than on a dedicated, high power desktop machine, but every process up to the rendering point operates smooth and efficiently. No stuttering, torn cursor drags as the system bogs down, because the system doesn't bog down. It has its limits, and operates inside them smoothly, one hundred percent of the time. Once you start getting dozens of tracks stacked up in Logic with tons of effects crammed on it, the only thing that will lag is latency during recording, which any producer will know happens in any software on any machine, given enough effects and tracks in a song. But outside of actual recording, I've never had the system freeze up or lock up in use, even during complex production sessions. Crazy! In Windows, I'd have the cursor slowing down, the system chugging, chopping its way through even the simplest navigation. Apple doesn't do that. It has its limits, but it operates flawlessly inside of them.
The only problem is that Apple is changing. I don't know yet if it's ultimately for better or worse in the end, but right now, you're going to have to shop around to get a good deal on a production-worthy machine with a sufficient hard drive. The SSDs are too expensive to make the Retinas a good deal, and the new slim, one port Macbook is an abomination on everything but screen and sexiness factor. I sure hope Apple doesn't forget about making affordable, POWERFUL machines FOR ARTISTS. My 2.9Ghz 8gb RAM Macbook was purchased instead of the Retina model because I figured it would be the last truly production-worthy laptop for awhile. Someday, you'll be able to get 750 gb storage for cheap on a Retina Pro model, but it will be awhile. Until then, I'll be loving every minute on this. Sure, I wish it had a Retina screen, but I also work my machines, and demand space, power, and ports. This 13" MBP has what I need.
PS - Get the 13". The 15" feels weird on your palms, and feels bulky if you travel with it. The 13" truly is the perfect portable computer.
on February 23, 2014
If you're like me, you'll have spent ages comparing features and specs before splashing the cash on a new laptop. I certainly did, and I finally settled for a Mac.
Quick word of warning: I'm a recent (this model Mac) convert from Windows to a MacBook Pro, and was lucky enough to recently upgrade to a stunning 13 inch Retina. While I love Apple products, I'm not a Mac expert, and this review is for similar non-experts who are thinking about "converting". Because it's a review of the MBP range, you'll find the same review on other specs - skip to the end to see the specifics on this model.
Be aware, this is NOT the very latest hardware (it's been replaced by the "Mac Book Pro with Retina"). However, there's a strongly compelling reason to buy this model (aside from the fantastic price), but you'll need to read on to find out.
Firstly, the hardware - which is just stunning. It's nicely thin and relatively light, and the screen looks surprisingly big sitting here on my lap. In common with all Apple MacBooks it's beautifully carved out of a solid slab of brushed aluminium, with a huge track-pad and a beautifully made back-lit keyboard. Apple traditionally don't brag about their hardware specs (as it's all about the experience of the machine - not just about comparison of numbers, but....
In terms of hardware there are lots of options. The one I bought was:-
* * 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with 4Gb of Memory (pretty zippy)
* * 500GB hard drive (huge amounts of space for photos and videos)
* * 13.3-inch LED-backlit display 1280 by 800 pixels
* * Built-in FaceTime HD camera (for FaceTime or Skype calls)
* * 8x slot-loading SuperDrive DVD - The last Mac Book Pro model to include one
* * A Thunderbolt port for high-speed I/O and Mini DisplayPort to attach a monitor
* * SDXC card slot (for photos), a FireWire 800 port, two USB 3.0 ports
* * Gigabyte Ethernet connection and 802.11n Wi-Fi for wireless internet
* * Beautifully designed backlit keyboard with ambient light sensor
* * Preinstalled Mac OS X and iLife (free upgrade to Mavericks)
Apple hardware (when comparing by pure spec) is more expensive than the equivalent running Windows, but you really do get what you pay for, and they come with incredible attention to detail. This includes the cleverly designed "Mag Safe" magnetic power socket - so if a small child accidentally pulls on the power cable it disconnects from the laptop rather than dragging it crashing to the floor.
The only complaint I have is, all the connections are on the left hand side - including both USB ports, and it gets a bit cramped (I have two USB devices where the plug is too wide). I soon solved this by adding a set of external USB ports. Other than that - it's an wonderful laptop.
As a prior Windows laptop user, the multi-touch trackpad is a real revelation. You can scroll down web pages (two fingers up/down), or scroll through web history (two fingers left/right), and the "System Preferences" window where you can configure the options includes a handy video demonstrating the options available. It's hard to over-state the benefit of this. It's so wonderfully accurate, it makes your laptop a real pleasure to use (again compared to my Windows laptop).
As already stated, the keyboard is fantastic. Island style black keys - nicely spaced out, and back-lit. There's a set of dedicated keys along the top to control features including screen brightness, play, fast forward and stop, plus sound.
Of course this is one the the last machines to get a CD/DVD drive - but even still all software is available online through the Apple Mac Store, and another nice surprise - consistently cheaper than equivalent windows software, and without the annoying collection of boxes, software keys and disks to avoid losing.
Battery life is quoted at something silly - and I ran an entire day of general use (web browsing, videos, mails etc), in the end I got at least 6 hours before I started getting warnings - so you should be able to take this on a longish flight or a long train journey without any problems..
Sound quality is not bad, although not as good as I'd have hoped - but I plug in external speakers myself - or better still, stream music to my Hi Fi speakers via an Apple TV. It's worth noting - you can stream anything on screen (videos or Netflix) to an Apple TV - including high quality sound. A great bonus.
Although I don't often play games, I'm told the MBP is not a serious gaming machine, for for web use or video streaming it's more than capable. I can't really comment more than that.
In terms of software, these are well provided for straight out of the box including free copies of:-
* iPhoto - to import, edit and manage photos - including from the "cloud" (any photos taken on an iPhone or iPad)
* Garage Band - a drum machine on your laptop
* Movie Maker - to edit and publish home-made videos
* Calendar, Mail and text editor etc
* Reminders - to remind you
Since I bought mine (July 2012), Apple announced anyone buying a new machine will also get a free copy of Pages, Numbers and Keynote (their presentation program) - but I'm not 100% sure if this includes this model as it's no longer the latest available. Even if you don't these are only around £10-£15 each - not the £100-£150 we're used to paying for Word. Excel and PowerPoint.
During the past 18 months I've also noticed how the OS is becoming even more integrated with the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. For example, you can now write a Pages or Numbers or Keynote (Word, Excel or PowerPoint for the rest of us) on a Mac and then view and edit them on an iPad (and the software is also free on a new iPad). You can also set a reminder on your iPhone and see it pop up on your Mac, or take a photo on your iPhone and see it appear (no wires, in fact completely automatic) on your Mac in the iPhoto application. This may not be a compelling reason to buy THIS particular model, but it is a great advantage if you already have (or plan to buy) and iPhone or iPad.
But, (and this is ironic really), one the best reasons to buy this particular model of machine (and not the very latest Mac Book Pro with retina display), is you can upgrade it. It's a little known fact, that starting with the 2013 Macs, Apple decided to prevent ANY upgrades - including memory and disk. (The memory is literally soldered in place). If I understand it correctly, this is one the very last MBP models you can actually increase the memory or replace the hard disk. For example, I bought and installed a Samsung 840 EVO 250GB 2.5 inch Basic SATA Solid State Drive to upgrade the hard drive, and it now REALLY FLIES. Much faster than it was before, and it means I'll get a few more years out of it.
Whenever I can afford it, I'll also buy a memory upgrade from 4Gb to 8 or even 16Gb.
On balance - I'd have to say I love Apple Macs - and indeed all Apple hardware (iPhone, iPad included) so it's hard to give a purely objective view. But this is a beautifully designed, well built machine. Highly recommended
Hope you found this review useful - Many Thanks !