WHEN Apple announced that the Macbook Pro family would receive a new addition, little did anyone expect that the modest 13in Macbook would take its place alongside Apple’s premium class notebooks.
The upgraded 13in Macbook Pro takes on many characteristics of its bigger cousins — besides the added “Pro” moniker, the notebook has other notable enhancements including a fully backlit keyboard and Firewire support for video editing.
Straight out of the box, the new Macbook Pro sports the same recognisable aluminium unibody design that was introduced last year.
The Macbook Pro, like its predecessor, is a solidly-built notebook that weighs approximately 2kg. It is certainly more portable than its larger 15in and 17in cousins and its smaller screen makes it easy to slip it into a bag and carry around.
The multi-touch trackpad feels notably good with its myriad of useful touch gestures that make navigation a breeze. For example, just by sweeping three digits across the trackpad, you can navigate back and forth between webpages while making sweeping motions with four fingers upwards minimises all windows.
Even though the specs have been bumped up slightly with a faster processor, the notebook still holds 2GB RAM. The difference though is that it can be expanded up to 8GB if you want.
The glossy screen is also back and the resolution has not changed. It still feels surprisingly spacious to work on despite maintaining its 1,280 x 800-pixel resolution. Having said that, the glossy glass screen is overly reflective and is quite distracting when used outdoors or under bright lights.
As far as I could see and tell, the screen shows very deep contrasting colours and looks good all round. However, there is noticeable colour shifting when you look at it from side to side.
Along the sides you will find two USB ports, an Ethernet port and slot-in DVD drive. However, you’ll also notice a new SD card slot which replaces the old Express Card slot. It is a welcome, and not to mention, long overdue change considering SD cards are the most common format of storage for most media devices.
However we found that an SD card doesn’t fully sink into the slot. Instead it flushes out a little, so it is advisable to remove your memory card if you plan on storing the notebook or you’ll run the risk of damaging the card.
Still, having an SD card slot is certainly an added convenience that takes the hassle out of connecting an external card reader to view your media files.
NEW: On the side, you’ll find two new additional ports, a FireWire 800 and SD card slot.
One drawback to the changes made on the side ports is the merging of the headphone and microphone jack into one single port. Essentially this may render some microphone headsets useless as you can only use one or the other.
The addition of Firewire support, a feature sorely missed on last year’s unibody Macbook, will undoubtedly be a big plus point for people who need to transfer large amounts of video data to work on the Macbook Pro.
Another major physical change is the inclusion of a fully backlit LED keyboard, a feature that was once reserved for the high-end unibody Macbook. It is definitely a nice touch that makes it a lot easier to type when proper lighting isn’t available. Going on and on
The other big change in the new Macbook Pro is the switch from a removeable battery to a built-in type that doesn’t allow users to remove it. Understandably this has become a point of contention for some because it strips them of the choice of having an extra battery pack on standby for more power.
That being said, the new Macbook Pro’s built-in battery offers significantly better battery performance than the last version.
I’ve managed to get close to five hours of use, all while surfing the Web, listening to music, having the screen brightness up at 70% and editing a text document on a single charge. The added number of hours certainly helped when I needed to be away from my desk and at no time did I ever feel that I needed to immediately recharge in fear of losing my work.
Of course, the limits of the battery are pushed when you undertake more intensive tasks like video-editing and rendering, which usually knocks it down to roughly two hours of usage with a fully charged battery.
That’s a pretty big improvement considering the older Macbooks and Macbook Pros could only hold out for about two to three hours depending on the settings.
LIGHT UP:The 13in Macbook Pro’s back-lit keyboard makes typing in the dark easier.
Sizing up the Macbook Pro’s performance, it’s no surprise that it is a fairly good multi-tasking machine. We ran several programs at once such as Firefox, iMovie, iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture and Adium (an instant messaging client) to see how well it could take a little bit of stress.
As far as we could tell, the Macbook Pro handled everything we threw at it without even breaking a sweat. It didn’t show any signs of slowdown on other programs even as we exported a high definition video on iMovie.
It also runs very silently even when it is undertaking the heaviest of tasks — you won’t even hear the hard disk spin.
Using a notebook for hours on end usually can be uncomfortable due to the high heat output and Macbooks are no exception to this. I’ve been using an older generation Macbook Pro 15in and the bottom does get very hot after an hour of use.
Fortunately, the new Macbook Pro’s heat output is pretty low. I could easily surf for a few hours from my sofa without having to worry about it getting too hot to place on my lap.
The built-in speakers, which are hidden below the keyboard, have pretty decent volume and is pretty audible when turned up to the maximum.
Though the speakers lack any sort of bass to it, the sheer clarity more than makes up for its shortcomings. Still, the limited range does mean that getting a decent pair of speakers is still necessary for an optimum listening experience.
The 13in Macbook Pro is certainly a very solidly designed notebook that proves it has more than just looks. Small and portable, it makes for a great all around package for web surfing, video-editing and photo management.
The most notable overall improvement to the new Macbook Pro is its long-lasting battery life, which significantly increases its usability when you’re out travelling and saves you the trouble of having to charge every so often.
While minor, the inclusion of a backlit keyboard, SD card slot and Firewire are fine additions that make the overall experience more enjoyable.
The RM4,499 price tag is a little on the high side for a notebook but considering you are getting a full-featured Macbook Pro that’s both powerful as it is portable (not to mention classy), it is worth the price of admission.
Pros: Long battery life; backlit keyboard; great at multitasking.
Cons: Headphone and microphone ports are combined; glossy screen is too reflective for outdoor use.
Macbook Pro (Apple)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo (2.26GHz)
Memory: 2GB DDR3 RAM
Graphics: nVidia GeForce 9400M with 256MB RAM
Display: 13.3in LED back-lit
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11n, 10/100 Ethernet port, Bluetooth 2.1
Optical drive: 8x slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
I/O ports: Two USB ports, SD card, Firewire 800, slot Mini Display port (extension for VGA and DVI sold separately), headphone/microphone combo jack
Other features: Built-in iSight webcam, backlit keyboard
Operating system: Mac OSX Leopard
Dimensions: 32.5 x 22.7 x 2.41cm (w x d x h)