Three years on the Mac, plus more thoughts on the new 17" MacBook Pro
A few weeks ago, I bought one of the new 17" MacBook Pros to replace my almost-three-year-old 15" model, the first of the Intel Macs. Hard to believe it has been three years! I'll get to the thoughts on the 17" momentarily.
Given my former life as a broadcast guy, I had "my" first Mac working a video gig in the mid-90's. I went Mac because I scored a Media100 system in my job, which was a little cheaper than the Avid systems at the time. Believe it or not, back in those days, people were mostly cutting video on tape. Tape! Imagine! It was pretty exciting to get a non-linear editing system. Back in those days we had OS 8, which wasn't all that different than what I had seen in college on an old LC or something. I liked it, but it wasn't compelling enough to buy my own.
Shortly after the G4 iBooks came out in 2004, my former wife got one, with OS X, and I really liked it. For non-development work, it really did everything that people regularly do with computers, and it seemed to be without hassle. It just worked. She still has that machine, and it's still the one she uses for couch surfing.
In 2006, Apple released the first Intel-based Mac, the 15" MacBook Pro. I remember it being talked about extensively on the This Week in Tech podcast as I was driving up to Michigan to visit a friend. It wasn't clear how Windows would run on it at first, but there was a lot of enthusiasm about making it work, because a lot of people like the OS, but need Windows for one thing or another. Obviously as a .NET developer, we need Visual Studio. The Boot Camp beta came out, and there was a lot of reason to believe that virtualization would be there any minute. I was sold.
So yeah, it would cost more, but I was OK paying for it because I like OS X, and the hardware itself had all of these intangibles that satisfied my gadget lust. It felt good in the hands. It woke up instantly when you opened it. The long and short of it is that in three years of having the machine, I never had to reinstall the OS or mess with drivers or any of the things that always annoyed me about Windows. And the UI always made more sense, to the extent that the OS was nearly invisible. I realize this is partly because Apple controls the hardware and software, but so what? I've never had any computer that went three years without any software problems. I've handed it off to my about-to-be wife, and she loves it.
I did encounter some hardware issues though. They recalled a battery early on, and after about 400 charge cycles, I had to replace the one I had as it slipped under two hours per charge (the new one does about three hours). There were heat issues early on too because of the massive amounts of thermal paste used on CPU.
I also bought the first Mac Pro for my desktop, and even after two years, I don't know that all of those cores have ever been fully utilized. I love the no-tools drive bays on that thing.
The urge for the 17" was motivated by two factors. The first was that the older 15" maxed out at 2 gigs of RAM. It's nice to throw lots of memory at Parallels when you have more than one instance of Visual Studio open, so I wanted more. The second was that the 1920x1200 screen at 17" is a developers dream. That, and the newer LED screens are absolutely stunning. Oh, and the battery life was a solid motivator too.
Has it lived up to my expectations? Yes, in every way. My first couple of battery cycles didn't hit the promised eight hours, but since then, it has easily hit that. With Parallels running, it's more like 6.5 to 7, but still, that's basically a day's work on a single charge. While at Mix last week, I never had to charge mid-day (granted, I actually closed it and paid attention during many of the sessions). The screen is actually too bright at full, and the glossy has not been an issue ever, I suspect because it's so bright.
The only quirk that I've found is that the new track pad requires some minor behavioral changes. Because the whole thing is a button, you have to make sure that you pick up your "click" finger while dragging around so you don't inadvertently double click. It took a week to get used to that. What makes up for it is the four-finger gestures to activate Expose.
Yeah, I know, it's not a cheap computer. But spec for spec, it's cheaper than a Dell. And it runs OS X, which is where I spend most of my time beyond Visual Studio. I'm really pleased with it so far.