My New Mac

At work in the computer lab on campus, I’ve been looking for new things to do.  My boss offered me the opportunity to work on programming the college’s app for the iPhone.  He loaned me an iOS 4 programming book and I started to read through it but found it was pretty difficult to follow along.  Previously, I went through most of an Android programming book and followed along by going through the exercises using Eclipse (the recommended software).  For iOS, I couldn’t follow along because the only way to do so was to use a Mac(intosh), which I don’t own.  There is one iMac but it’s being used by other workers. My boss said sometime in the future he wanted to get laptops for that purpose but as with all things, one can never tell when that would be.

So in my quest to get more tech experience, I decided to buy a Mac.  The reason is threefold.  First, it would give me Mac experience, which can be pretty different from a PC (Windows-based computer).  The last Mac I used for any length of time was a Mac LC (circa early 90s).  Second, it includes BSD which is a derivative of Unix so I could get more experience with that.  Lastly, it is the only way to make apps for iOS devices, such as the iPhone.  It doesn’t hurt that the Macs are cool-looking.

I settled on getting a Macbook Pro a while ago.  They’re pretty pricey (okay, they’re extremely pricey) but it seemed to make more sense.  My laptop, a 2-year old HP dv4i, is still perfectly good so I wasn’t sure but I really don’t have the space for a desktop unless I replace mine.  My desktop is three years old but is a bit more powerful than my laptop.  I can envision myself trending towards laptops in the future as they get more powerful.

I checked out when the last models were released (late 2011) and saw rumors that new models would come out in the near future.  Intel was set to release the Ivy Bridge processors to replace the Sandy Bridge ones so it made sense that the Macbook refresh would include them.  For these reasons, I decided to wait a while.  I have been following Mac rumors for the last month or so.  It’s interesting how Apple builds hype by selectively letting information slowly slip through.

The new models were announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, June 11, 2012 with immediate availability.  The biggest news was the introduction of the Macbook Pro with Retina display ($2199).  After reading many reviews, it seems older apps (non-Retina optimized apps) don’t look good on it.  In fact, I read they look bad on it.  Since that accounts for the vast majority of software, not to mention my Windows software that will probably never be optimized for it, I decided against that.  The cost of $2199 is a lot too though I could have brought it down to $1999 through the educational discount since I’m a student.

After reading for a few days, I went down to Somerset Mall and bought a 15″ non-retina Macbook Pro.  I got $100 off for the student discount and I also got a $100 app gift card as part of a early back to school promotion that Apple is running.  Unlike all my other computers, this includes no discs at all.  I have to figure out how to reinstall the OS as I want to buy an SSD drive to replace this 5400rpm HDD.  I haven’t found any bloatware yet which is something all my other computers had too.  Apple is also running a promotion where I will get a free copy of Mountain Lion, the next version of OS X, when it gets released sometime in July.

There’s a lot that I’m finding different with this Mac.  For one, there’s no page up/page down buttons.  I use them all the time.  I found there’s a workaround where you can press the function key and the appropriate arrow key.  That requires two hands though verses one finger.  The key marked delete is actually backspace but I found it can be a delete key by also pressing the function key.  The home and end keys are missing too but can had using the function trick.

The trackpad is pretty cool in that it does different things depending on how many fingers are used.  A right-click is used by tapping with two fingers since there is no right button.  There’s no obvious button at all but that’s because the whole trackpad is a button.  I found I was able to turn on tap-to-click in the settings which I prefer.

Dragging windows is different and I am still not used to the change.  On my old laptops, I double-click but hold on the second click and drag the window.  That doesn’t work on the Mac.  I have to enable the option where I can use three fingers to drag the window.  It’s not the end of the world but it’s not easy to get used to.

The battery life is rated at seven hours with wifi turned on.  That’s pretty impressive.  My dv4i might make four hours with wifi turned off.  The battery indicator on the Mac Book’s screen has an option to display the estimated time remaining which is pretty nice and much more useful than knowing just a percentage.

The non-retina screen is beautiful so I can only imagine the one with retina.  I think it’s the contrast that makes this screen much nicer than my HP’s.  It’s just gorgeous.

The updates are huge.  The computer came with Mac OS X 10.7.3 installed.  The update to 10.7.4 was over 1 GB.  Two apps needed updating as well, one was also over 1 GB and the other was just under 400 MB.  They took quite a while to download on my 3 Mbps-max internet connection.

I have two weeks to try everything out as that is the return period.  The phone support is 90 days but the salesman said I only get one phone call.  The hardware warranty is one year.  The resale value is excellent.  I looked on eBay a month ago and found I couldn’t get a really inexpensive one.  Windows laptops by comparison can be had for less than $500 brand new.  Because of the resale value, I read some people stay pretty current with the computers by selling their old ones.  It’s a good way to stay in warranty I guess.

HP Pavilion dv4i (March 2010, $888)

  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5-520M Dual Core processor (2.40GHz, 3MB L2 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.93GHz
  • 4GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm)
  • 500GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
  • 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4550 Graphics
  • 14.1″ diagonal WXGA High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1280 x 800)

HP Pavilion a6720y (March 2009, $678)

  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate)
  • AMD Phenom X4 9550 Quad-Core Processor
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 640 GB 7200 RPM hard drive
  • Nvidia GeForce 9100 graphics (upgraded to Sapphire Radeon HD5770)

Apple MacBook Pro mid-2012 model (June 2012, $1795)

  • Mac OS X Lion (10.7.3)
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB L3 cache
  • 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 memory
  • 500GB 5400rpm hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 512MB of GDDR5 memory
  • 15.4” LED glossy widescreen display (1440 x 900)