Replacing a MacBook with a MacBook Pro
On Saturday I pulled the trigger on my MacBook Pro purchase, going with the base model 15" MacBook Pro directly from my local Apple store. Here are the specs:
200GB 5,400 RPM hard drive
My youngest daughter is quite pleased because this frees up my little MacBook for her. I've been steadily working through getting things transferred and installed on the MacBook Pro and every hour or so my daughter pops in and asks if she can take the MacBook yet.
Soon, honey. Soon.
I'm actually a little reluctant to part with the MacBook now. It is after all a wonderful little machine and to a large degree I appreciate it a bit more with the new MacBook Pro getting all of my attention. I even set about comparing them side by side, taking a few pictures along the way.
From a size standpoint the 15" MacBook Pro is still a pretty small machine. Actually a tiny bit thinner than a MacBook it feels quite sleek and the aluminum case feels very solid and durable compared to the shiny plastic case on the MacBook. Though the MacBook Pro weighs in at 5.4 pounds compared to the MacBook's 5.0 pounds that nearly half pound difference feels like a lot more. Finally the width and depth are about an inch larger on each edge for the Pro.
The display on the MacBook Pro is excellent and for me the main reason for the upgrade. At 1440 x 900 I get 26% more screen real estate than on the MacBook, which is actually pretty substantial for such a nominal increase in the size of the machine. The display is a bit brighter on the MacBook Pro too.
Before doing too much I ended up swapping the after-market memory I had placed in the MacBook (4GB) with what was in the MacBook Pro (2GB). That swap was very simple; 3 tiny philips #0 screws on each machine and about 3 minutes of work and each machine was being powered back up without any issues.
My initial impression of the MacBook Pro was not too good though. After firing it up and letting it charge up I started the process of installing my applications on it. At first I tried the Migration Assistant but decided that I really didn't want everything transfered over from my MacBook to the new MB Pro. Since the MacBook was my first Mac I had a lot of "software experiments" on it and I figured I'd just be selective.
One of the first things I installed was iStat menu so that I could monitor the machine as I put it through it's paces. It was a good thing I did because the temperature gauge came in handy.
The MacBook is One Hot Computer
While busily copying files over to the MB Pro I noticed that the case was getting pretty warm, especially under my left palm. After a little while it became more than just warm and was flat out hot, with heated air blasting out of the left speaker grill like a mini-furnace.
I went online and did some research and found hundreds of complaints about the heat that is generated by a MB Pro. I read many cases of people going to Apple to complain about the heat generated by the machines and being told that it was within specification. My little MacBook would get warm when I pushed it hard for an extended period of time but that wasn't too often. In addition the heat was always routed out the rear edge of the case, right at the base of the display. The front area where I rested my palms was never an issue on the MacBook.
I also found more than one instance of Apple personnel telling people that the MacBook Pro is not considered a laptop computer; it's a notebook. What's the difference? A laptop can rest on your lap and be used, a notebook apparently requires a desk under it. Given the heat that the MB Pro was generating for me the only way this thing was going to get parked on my legs was if I was suffering from hypothermia.
Though I don't do it often, I do occasionally like to take my MacBook off the desk and plant it on my lap while watching TV with my wife. The heat that it generated was just not acceptable for the way I wanted to use the machine.
I ended up doing a little father's day shopping and found the Belkin Laptop Cooling Pad at my local Costco for $20. It not only allows you to comfortably rest the MacBook Pro on your legs without sautéing your skin it also has a little USB powered fan the pushes cool air up at the bottom of the machine, helping it stay considerably cooler according to iStat menu. At least now I had a decent solution to my little heating problem.
I used the Belkin cooling pad for several hours yesterday and it does work quite well. The only challenge is that a lot of the spontaneity of simply grabbing the machine off the desk is lost when I also have to reach for the cooling pad at the same time. For people that work for many hours with their notebook computer on their lap this is a great little device though.
Now that I've been running the machine for a little over 24 hours I've noticed that the heat has dissipated to a large degree. The machine still gets warm mind you, especially on the left side, but nowhere near the mini kiln that it felt like initially.
If the machine is running quietly for a while with minimum CPU usage I am seeing the core CPU temperature hover at about 51° Celsius. If I let it run at about 15% CPU utilization for a couple of minutes the CPU temperature pops up into the 63° Celsius range and the keyboard gets a little warm but not uncomfortably so. I'll be monitoring this very closely over the next couple of days.
Keyboard / Trackpad Differences
The two machines have the same basic keyboard layout, the only difference being that the MacBook Pro has two additional dedicated function keys for Dimming and Brightening the backlit keyboard (F5 & F6). Since I had been using F5 as my Spaces key I had to find another shortcut for that. The backlit keyboard function is pretty handy, illuminating the entire keyboard when the lighting conditions warrant it. I imagine this would be very handy while trying to use the machine at night on an aircraft, assuming you have the seat room to really use the machine effectively.
The other difference is that the keys themselves are more like a traditional laptop or desktop keyboard; both my MacBook and aluminum keyboard on my Mac Pro have the same "chicklet" style layout with smaller flat buttons that have a slight separation between each key. Since the physical arrangement is identical there is no real adjustment, though using the countered keys on the MacBook Pro is actually quite nice.
Finally the trackpad on the MacBook Pro has a few more options than my MacBook did. While the MacBook's trackpad supported two finger scrolling and right click emulation, the MacBook Pro adds pinch and expand, rotate, swipe and additional tapping support.
When I asked the Apple store folks whether I could replace the hard drive myself and still keep the warranty valid the answer was no. If I wanted to swap out the hard drive I would need to use an Apple authorized service center; the store in Tysons Corner, VA does not offer that service. They told me that if I did have the hard drive replaced properly then everything would be covered under warranty except the new hard drive.
I'm going to see how well the 200GB drive I have holds up for now. I've still got a lot of free space left right now and as long as I keep my video footage over on the Mac Pro and limit myself to a subset of my music and digital photo collections I should be perfectly fine.
When the 320GB / 7200RPM drives become available I'll see what it would cost to get an authorized dealer to install one. If it's not too bad then I may go that route. I'm also adopting a wait and see attitude on the heat issue. I'm not sure if this is just something you live with on MacBook Pros or if my machine has an issue that I'll need a Genius to take a look at.