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ATPM 13.07
July 2007





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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Lee Bennett,

About This Particular Upgrade

On June 5, 2007, Apple released an updated version of their high-end laptop computer—the MacBook Pro. That same evening, I aimed my car toward the Apple Store Millenia.


My new MacBook Pro greets the world—or at least my living room.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a year or two.

I’d been using a 15″ 1GHz Titanium PowerBook G4 that I purchased approximately a week after they were released in November 2002. Unless Apple does something radically different with the successor to these “Santa Rosa” MacBook Pro laptops, this “TiBook” marked the last in my streak of buying the final incarnation of various Macintosh computers.

The first Mac I owned was a Performa 577, which was the end of the 5xx all-in-one series. Next, I owned a PowerBook 3400, which was the last laptop model before the G3 processors. My G3 “Pismo” followed and turned out to be the last G3 laptop model before the G4s. Finally, the “TiBook” came into my possession. Though perhaps a little bit of a stretch compared to the past machines, my “TiBook” was the last laptop model with the Titanium style casing. It gave way to the Aluminum PowerBooks, which sported a new, backlit keyboard and relocated the ports from the back of the machine to the sides.

By early 2006, I had already been clamoring for a new laptop. Even though the MacBook Pro had just been introduced, I decided to bide my time. I’ve never been one to spring for brand-new Apple hardware, and I preferred to sit back and see how these new Intel-based Macs were going to fare.

As you surely know, they fared very well, and I became increasingly jealous of anyone who had one. But even when the MacBook Pros were updated with the Core 2 Duo processor, I still waited. The reason was a simple truth of economics—I didn’t yet have the money to afford an upgrade and, unlike prior laptop purchases, I refused to buy my next one on a credit card.

Through the first half of 2007, I frequently reviewed my finances to find a way to pay for an upgrade and was steadfastly determined to find a means to do so by the time the next revision was released. By early summer, I had my plan. With no firm hints on when Apple would release the next revision, there was a strong sense to buy a 2.33 GHz MacBook Pro.

But then, Apple issued a press release that indicated they would be transitioning to LED-based displays. The rumor mills immediately cranked up with speculations of exactly how much battery life would be saved as well as speculations that the next MacBook Pro revision would very likely come out too soon to be using the new technology.

I chose to wait, and I haven’t decided yet if doing so was a good thing, a bad thing, or if it was of no real consequence. I waited because it wasn’t too long into the summer that, LED backlighting or not, a new laptop revision was coming and a couple of months would not be critical to me. So, it made sense to just hold out for a faster machine.

But, are the latest MacBook Pros all that much faster? While the CPU clock speeds are only marginally higher, the new “Santa Rosa” chips are supposed to be a better-performing design. Plus, the new 800 MHz frontside bus is also purported to make a big impact on performance.

Or, maybe the reward for my wait was not so much a faster machine, but rather a more energy-efficient machine. The new frontside bus is not only rated faster, but is labeled as “dynamically adjustable.” Truthfully, I’m not sure what that means, but reports would have me believe that it makes much better use of power. Apple claims this improvement, combined with the more energy-efficient LED backlighting, should translate to as much as an hour of additional battery life compared to the previous MacBook Pro models.

I’m waiting to see some real world data on the improvements. I’d welcome links from readers that give unbiased numbers. Can I really get up to six hours out of this battery? How much faster is the 2.2 GHz model compared to to both the 2.16 GHz and 2.33 GHz models that came before?

Speaking of the 2.2 GHz speed, that’s my segue to why I purchased it instead of the 2.4 GHz model. Even in the price range of these laptops, a $500 difference is pretty significant to my budget. Had I decided to not wait for these Santa Rosa machines, deciding whether to buy the lower or higher model would not have been any easier. In addition to the difference in processor speed, the better version of the pre–Santa Rosa laptops had double the RAM, and double the video RAM. All other specs were identical.

For the current MacBook Pro, Apple didn’t quite follow the same pattern with the specs. This time, both versions shipped with 2 GB of RAM while the better model has double the video RAM and comes with a 160 GB hard drive instead of a 120 GB drive.

Comparing those specs, I decided that for someone like me, coming from a 1 GHz PowerBook G4, the difference between a 2.2 and a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo would be practically imperceptible. The increase of hard drive size was hardly worthwhile. I can install a larger drive for much cheaper at a later time, and still have the original 120 GB drive for use in an enclosure.

Then, there’s the video RAM: 128 MB or 256 MB. Once again, I welcome reader opinion on my decision. Yet, I am fairly well-convinced that since I am not a gamer and don’t plan to do a whole lot of work with Motion (a little, yes, but not a lot), the 128 MB video card is quite adequate.

Thus, I only spent two grand instead of two and a half. Consider, also, that I dropped three grand on the “TiBook” back in 2002! So, spending $500 less for the 2.2 GHz model helped me feel better about also picking up accessories like a second power adapter, S-video/composite video adapter, USB modem, and the AppleCare warranty. Yes, I have found occasions where dialup is my only option on the road—even in this age of free WiFi in most hotels—and I am part of a monthly project where I need to output an S-video signal from my laptop to a television.

That brings us back to June 5, the day I confidently strode into the Apple Store, reached the sales counter in the back, and announced I was there to purchase a new MacBook Pro. Less than a half hour later, my new laptop was riding home, anxious to learn of the Mac-computing adventures it would be sharing with me.


She’s a good little traveler.


The maiden voyage to my office for the purpose of allowing my jealous coworker to drool—at a distance!

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Reader Comments (1)

Grover Watson · July 4, 2007 - 14:39 EST #1
Boy, I though I was the only one who agonized over Apple hardware purchases! My Last laptop was a 2003 867 15" Tibook, a present from my wife. At $2500, it was the most expensive gift ever given to me by anyone.
I told my wife I would have preferred a 12" Aluminum
Powerbook, but she insisted I needed this then 'top of the line' Laptop.
I dutifully used the Tibook for the next 4 years, taking it with me to Thailand to edit my digtal photos and sample the local wi-fi hot spots.
I knew the machine was getting long in the tooth
and I had to do something soon about it. I finally traded it in to Powermax for a 12" Powerbook that will eventually become my son's computer when I buy that coveted Black Macbook early next year.
As for that iPhone, I'm firmly on the sidelines until I don't have to give AT&T my SSN to activate the device. I trust Apple, but AT&T's rep is a little shaky these days.

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