Fruitful Editing

Leaving Linux for a MacBook Pro

- 2009.04.03

Last time, I wrote about my experience with buying a cheap PC laptop as opposed to a Mac - and how disappointing it was (see Good-bye PowerBook, Hello Linux on a Laptop). I have since sold that HP to someone who could appreciate it more than I could and lost a minimal amount of money from the sale.

In an incredible stroke of luck, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while at a party. As a fellow Mac user and technology aficionado, we started chatting, and I recounted my woeful tale of buying the PC and the frustrations I had with Linux. I also mentioned how I was searching for a cheap Mac notebook and told him what I could spend.

To my disbelief, he offered to sell me his three-year-old first generation MacBook Pro. I offered a price of $550, and it was agreed upon right then. Within a week I would be not only the proud owner of my first Intel-based Mac, but also the most powerful Mac I'd ever owned up to this point.

First Impressions

This is the first Macintel machine I've owned, and so far I've been very impressed. Since most of the applications I use are freeware and have been compiled for Intel-based Macs, I haven't had any issues with apps misbehaving under Rosetta.

Since I paid the same amount for both the HP laptop and the MacBook Pro, I thought it might be interesting to compare them and see how I feel now that I've returned to a Mac notebook.

Screen Size

Resolution isn't a huge deal for me; I'm actually impressed each time I get a new notebook with the brightness, because it's always better than before. The MacBook's top resolution is 1440 x 900, whereas the HP had a top of 1280 x 900. To be honest, I couldn't notice a huge difference.

The thing I hated most about the HP screen was the glossy surface. Only in a dark room could I see what was on the screen clearly; anywhere else, there was always reflections.

The MacBook Pro has a matte screen, which I strongly prefer to anything glossy. While it's not outstanding, it's a perfectly bright screen after three years. I'd like to see Apple offer an option for matte screens, at least on all of its MacBook Pro models.

Keyboard

The HP wins here, hands down (no pun intended). It's keyboard has great soft keys with good action, and the spacing was just about perfect. I missed the "Apple" command key at first, and I never fully adjusted to using the Control key in place of it.

The MacBook Pro's keyboard just doesn't feel as nice. The keys don't have the same tactile feel as my old 12" PowerBook, they are much softer. It's not a terrible typing experience, but there is certainly nothing special about it.

Video Output

Again, I hate to say it, but the HP wins here. I have full DVI out on the Pro, but the HP had HDMI output, which connects to almost every flat screen TV out there. I have an adapter, but it doesn't carry sound out as well (since the DVI interface only carries the video signal).

Design

Obviously, the aluminum skin and slick design of the Pro beats the HP plastic any day.

The HP had a unique design that I thought I loved at first, but my opinion changed as the days went on. The lid and wrist wrest area was a interesting bronze color pattern, and around the keyboard was a metallic mesh, also a bronze color. It certainly had a masculine look to it.

The HP was also a bit lighter, since the screen size was 14.1" as opposed to the Pro's 15.4" screen.

Final Thoughts

I actually miss the HP notebook a bit. I've realized many of my frustrations weren't with the hardware, which was actually pretty decent, but with my choice of operating system. If Linux had "just worked," I might have been perfectly happy with the HP.

In the future I am going to consider all my computing needs before making a purchase instead of trying to save a few dollars (or a few hundred dollars). Value is not always measured by prices and specifications, but by productivity, quality, and general satisfaction. LEM

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Brian Gray is a journalist from North Carolina who enjoys writing, the beach, and tinkering with Macs.

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