13″ MacBook Pro

Upon hearing the 13″ MacBook Pro announcement my initial response was “SD CARD SLOT!”
It was also my second, third and forth response. Like many others who keep their nose to the ground and their eye on the horizon where the Apple Rumor Mill stands proud, its mighty sails ever turning and constantly … sorry, I drifted a bit there … what I mean to say is that I was expecting the unification of the Unibody MacBook with the Unibody MacBook Pro into a single brand. I wasn’t expecting Apple to finally see a tiny shimmer of light and give back Firewire, and I certainly wasn’t expecting an SD card slot.

The loss of the ExpressCard to bring these wonders to the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros seems to be a major annoyance to many users, but having never personally used any ExpressCard devices outside of a couple of review samples I’m not exactly morning its loss. ExpressCard slots only seem to provide a letterbox into my computer that does nothing but beckon my daughter to insert whatever might be handy (usually, and possibly fortunately, USB devices) into its mysterious depths.

I’ve obtained a couple of high capacity SD cards, including a high-speed 133x Lexar Professional SD card to test with the MacBook Pro SD slot. Copying over a gigabyte of data onto the high speed SD was appropriately fast, but attempting to install OSX directly onto a prepared 8GB SD card resulted in failure. This was due to the formatted capacity showing as about 7.5GB, the OSX installer reading it at about 6.1GB and an absolute barebones customized installation of OSX from the DVD clocking in at about 6.4GB. If you want to painlessly install OSX onto an SD card for use as a rescue disk when you’ve no choice but to dedicate a high-speed 16 or 32GB SD card entirely to this cause. I’ve been investigating entirely custom OSX Leopard installs using Pacifit but have not yet had any success.

If, like me, you’re still clinging onto a 2007-2008 MacBook Pro or you have anything pre-unibody you will be amazed at the difference in build quality. If you thought your old timey MacBook was well built and even if you had seen the newer models in store, nothing will prepare you for getting hold of a Unibody MacBook Pro and comparing it to an old-style one side-by-side. A “classic” MacBook Pro looks cheap and feels positively flimsy alongside the Unibody, the one-piece design of which does not only offer a better, seamless look but also makes the whole base of the laptop much more ridged. I’ve often picked up my older MacBook Pro with one hand, from one edge, which is something you should technically never do with a laptop. However, I’m reasonably certain that doing so with a unibody MacBook Pro will have no ill effect whatsoever.

The 2.53Ghz MacBook Pro is the perfect balance of size, performance and price, representing the closest thing we’ll ever get to a resurrection of the 12″ MacBook Pro. My only complaint is the screen resolution, but it’s so easy to hook up an external monitor (seasoned Mac users will know that OSX does a great job of remembering monitor configurations) that I find transitioning between dossing about on the sofa, and working at a desk an absolute synch. Students will net this beauty for under £1000, you lucky blighters.

The ability to upgrade to 8GB RAM will be something I’ll investigate as soon as prices come down to realistic levels. This amount of RAM may seem excessive to the average Windows user (who can’t get more than about 3gb to work without facing the horror of 64bit windows) but when you factor in real RAM reserved for a virtual machine running Ubuntu and one running Windows XP that could easily leave the stock 4GB remaining for OSX, and that’s without even factoring in a Vista and/or Windows 7 machine, or varying configurations of the above set up for website/software testing.

The gloss screen is a love it/hate it thing, but in a darkened bedroom at night, when I actually use the screen extensively for catching up with ‘tinernet and penning my articles for Gadgetoid the gloss effect is entirely mitigated. In a bright living room, turning up the backlight brightness again cancels out the effect. The only time I’ve had real troubles with the gloss screen yet has been in the office on battery power, with a dimmed screen, and in a car again on battery with a dimmed screen.

 

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