I am now the proud owner of a 13 inch MacBook Pro with retina display. The latest addition to my computer setup.
The laptop arrived at lunchtime today but I didn’t have a chance to unpack it until this evening. These are initial thoughts having had a couple of hours to try it out.
The first thing I notice is how quiet it is. This is my second ever laptop. My first one was a MacBook – the first generation white plastic model. It’s been in regular use since I bought it in 2006 – not a bad lifespan for what was marketed as an entry level laptop; the slot that’s inhabited these days by the MacBook Air. The batter went in it after about 5 years and although my wife has continued to use it regularly (with a replacement battery from Amazon) I’ve tried to use my iPad on the road for the last couple of years.
Good as an iPad is for surfing, it’s useless as a business tool – although that’s just my opinion. With specifically written business oriented apps it would work well (and I’ve written a few of those for my customers and they seem very happy with them) but I’m talking about design, programming and editing (of photos and video). A laptop is the only answer for that.
Anyway, I was talking about the noise – or rather the lack of it. My original MacBook had a 20GB spinning hard disk and the fan was noticeable too. This new machine uses PCIe based Flash storage and has no noticeable noise whatsoever. It’s as quiet as my iPad and all the better because of it.
Because it uses Flash storage, it’s also very fast. When opening applications it’s almost instant. Very pleasing. The processor is a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 and it uses some of the 8GB of RAM for the graphics (in this case 1GB). I carried out a quick experiment earlier – not a very scientific one, but a test nonetheless. I took a 30 minute .ts format video stream from my Freesat DVR and copied the same file to both my Mac Pro 1,1 (that’s the 2006 model – the first Intel version of the cheese grater Mac) and my new MacBook Pro. I then ran the video file through Handbrake to convert it to Apple TV 3 format. Both machines took almost exactly the same time. So, on the face of it, my late 2013 MacBook Pro has the some computing power as a 7 year old Mac Pro.
Makes you think.
Of course, there’s a good deal more to it than that My MacBook wasn’t running any other apps, whereas my Mac Pro was running quite a few (including Windows XP under Parallels Desktop 8 which uses 1 of the 4 cores on the machine). My MacBook Pro was in the process of doing a Time Machine backup over my network to my NAS. So, arguably, both machines could’ve performed a bit better. Perhaps I’ll do a closer comparison at some stage but suspect the timings won’t be much different between the two machines whatever I do.
There’s a good reason for this. Both my 2006 Mac Pro 1,1 and this 2013 MacBook Pro just use the CPU for processing and don’t offload anything to the graphics card. The former just isn’t OpenCL compatible and the latter has no separate graphics capability. It shows just how much things haven’t changed if you just look at raw CPU power and nothing else.
I’ll be really interested to see what a new Mac Pro can do with the same file (assuming Handbrake can do OpenCL).
But there’s more to it…
The MacBook Pro, however, feels a good deal snappier than my ancient Mac Pro. Mission Control is always really sluggish on my Mac Pro and it feels like it’s struggling to keep up with me at the best of times. The faster internals on the laptop along with the solid state storage are no doubt helping lots with this. It shows how things have moved on in the hardware stakes even if the figures from my simple test suggest otherwise.
The retina display is lovely, of course, and writing this blog post on my new laptop is much easier on the eyes than it would’ve been had I ever attempted to do it on my old laptop. Being used to retina on my iPad, however, means that it’s not the revelation that the high resolution display was when I first saw that. I may realise just how good it is when I get back to my 30″ Apple Cinema Display tomorrow.
Overall, first impressions are great. This is a fast, quiet, really well designed and fantastic looking laptop. It makes Windows and Chromebooks look like what they are – cheap imitations. No doubt I’ll have more to say about this hardware as I continue to set it up on my network and start to use it more.