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New Apple Macbook Pro

All the advice I offer in Mac Performance Guide applies to the new Apple MacBook Pro lineup, which is a yawner except for a few useful developments. Laptops still suck in a lot of ways: where is the quad-core with 16GB and dual drives that would make it a true desktop replacement?

The addition of an SD card slot means you can plug in your SD card from your point and shit camera or low-end DSLRs. Or you can stick a piece of tape over it if you own a Nikon D3x, D3 or various Canon CompactFlash-based cameras. Crap—Apple got it 20% right.

One word of warning: only the 17" model retains the ExpressCard/34 slot, your only viable option for high performance I/O via eSATA. The 15" model drops the ExpressCard/34 slot in favor of the SD card slot, a really crappy tradeoff. In short, if your MBP is to replace a desktop, the 17" model is your only option, unless disk speed and capacity doesn’t matter to you (Firewire 800 is 25% slower than a single fast hard drive).

The most significant news is that a 13" MacBook Pro with Firewire 800 is a much improved Apple option for those on the go who want light weight and compact dimensions. At home though, the 13" will feel terribly cramped, so you’ll need a real display using the asinine Mini Display port, which means an Apple display or the problematic Apple DVI adapter (video noise). Thus, the whole proposition gets expensive quickly. The 15" model is the sweet spot there.

The ability to use 8GB memory ($1100 = WTF?) is another plus (in Apple’s bank account?). Get that memory at OWC and save some money if you need 8GB. And yes, it really does matter if you’re using the MBP as a Photoshop workstation.

But unless you use your laptop intensively, get a Mac Pro and a basic model for the occasional travel. Or put all the money you save by not getting a laptop into a Nikon D3 or D3x with dual card slots (backup), and lighten your load when traveling.

Faster graphics are a marketing mirage unless you’re a gamer, but the longer battery life is a plus—unless you’re off the grid— and thus screwed since you can’t insert another battery. I’ve already been close to that absurdity with my 17" MacBook Pro. Still, most people will like the idea. I certainly enjoy it on my weekly flights to and from Paris. Uh huh.

The one option you definitely should pay for is the 500GB 7200 rpm hard drive. See Why You Need More Space Than you Need. Of course, a 256GB solid state drive should be even better, but not inexpensive—wait till a bit later this year for SSDs of that size to drop in price.

Don’t get caught up in hype: the MacBook Pro at any speed still is grossly inferior to a Mac Pro when you want hard disk reliability or performance and/or automated backup without a mess of cables too slow for even one drive. Or if you use any CPU-intensive tools. And 8GB is a minimum for serious work, but the maximum in a MBP.

OK, I still like my MacBook Pro, but to configure a high-end MacBook Pro costs as much as a far more capable Mac Pro, so get a MBP only if you must have portability, don’t waste your money otherwise.

Did I mention “green”? Apple devotes a whole sermon on the topic.

The new religion... does anyone really give a crap if their $3500 laptop is slightly more recyclable? How much jet fuel is burned to get one here from China, Apple? (Or worse yet, bunker fuel, damaging the health of untold hapless people near ports of entry). If you really want to be green, kill yourself, or at least become a vegan. Or power the damn thing with a pedal-generator or solar and take Bean-o, to reduce your methane output.


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