Mulling the MacBook


Update: a few people wrote in saying that their MacBooks suffered from the same overheating problems as the MacBook Pros, and that they alleviated the problem by removing the massive amounts of thermal paste that were applied at the factory and re-applying more sensible amounts. Decreases in temperature seem to be more or less the same - from 85-87C to the mid-60s - and there are apparently quite a few photos of the process going around, complete with random accusations of bad QA in Apple manufacturing.

Me, I'll wait until I get one - and pray in earnest for this to be fixed in a few months.

The human mind is a strange contraption, full of little twists and turns.

Here I was last week, perfectly content with the fact that my iBook G3/800 isn't able to play Flash video properly (which means I queue up YouTube links people send me until I get back to my G5), and all of a sudden I find myself annoyed at the little thing's shuddering attempts at displaying the latest thing in funny cat antics, and thinking of it as "slow and pokey".

Which, by the way, it isn't - I can read, write, write code and do all sorts of shenanigans on the brave little laptop just fine, and sometimes I find myself with a dozen or so applications open and still being able to use Exposé to switch between them in a flash - try doing that on a three-and-a-half-year-old PC.

Feeling The Pull

But knowing that the MacBooks are out distorts your worldview in subtle ways - you have visions of having a snappier machine able to do everything you think you might conceivably need to do, which in my case usually involves lots of RAM and VMware (which I still hope will eventually come out for the Mac, since it makes no sense to create a whole new set of virtual machines when the ones I have in cold storage are just fine).

In reality, of course, I need no such thing - I have plenty of computing power available, and I'm not missing Linux or Windows for my current hobbies. Neither am I in thrall of any gadget-purchasing compulsion, for my needs have become pretty spartan during the past few years - and I actually enjoy having less gadgetry around, although I can't ever seem to get rid of it all.

But I had always planned on getting a new laptop for myself this year, and I've saved up enough for it. In fact, in a few months I'll be able to afford a MacBook Pro.

Reality Check

And although I'm not really considering the Pro at this point, everyone's experience with it is a good thing to keep in mind - during the next few months I'll be scouring the net looking for in-depth and unbiased user reviews to make sure that the MacBook does not suffer from any of the ailments its silvery brother unleashed upon its unsuspecting purchasers.

After all, I want a dependable, long-running, silent (and, above all cool) replacement for my iBook, and I'm not quite sure about the MacBook yet, for there are already some reports of trouble with it. There are:

...not to mention that the (for, the moment, authoritative) Ars Technica review explicitly notes that the thing reaches 82C, which is plainly unacceptable no matter how much work you're trying to get done on the machine.

I use my iBook as a laptop, which means I drift from couch to couch with it on my lap, only occasionally setting it on a table when I take a break or need to hook up a peripheral of some sort. And it is cool enough to do so even in Portuguese summers (which easily reach 40C temperatures).

A laptop that gets even mildly warm is unbearable in these conditions, let me tell you...

Glossy Hell

Furthermore, I usually sit in naturally lit white rooms, with beams of sunlight literally washing the walls (this ought to give you an idea - I have amazing indirect lighting in the mornings and direct sunlight from past noon until sunset). The light plays havoc with the TV, of course, and I'm certain the glossy screen is going to be an issue.

As it happens, I ended up visiting two computer shops this weekend (both retailers with a wide selection of wares), and sure enough, there was hardly a PC laptop in sight without a glossy screen.

Both shops had different kinds of lighting (FNAC had a more muted, mostly indirect lighting, and the other had harsh fluorescent lighting), but it was equally hard to read the advertisements on the machines' screensavers - you had to move around and avoid the glare spots.

It was much harder to do so on a few Acer models on the second shop, and I have recently had the opportunity to lay a blank sheet of paper atop the keyboard of one such machine - with strong side lighting, the white reflection was enough of an irritation for me to wonder what white MacBook users will have to endure...

On Idiots, and Wishful Thinking

Like John Siracusa, I find the glossy display to be an idiotic - no, asinine choice - in fact, I went a bit further in that regard, and dubbed it the number one design mistake on the MacBook.

And, given what I've seen so far and the kind of lighting I usually work in, I shudder to imagine what it will be like to try using a display like that in my living room - or in my office, or just about anywhere where it isn't either night time or pretty bleak weather.

So I'll be waiting to see if it's dropped from the MacBook range in some way, or if it will be enough of an annoyance to take a harder look at the MacBook Pro - which will eventually have its own set of flaws sorted out, although I don't expect them to go to Merom processors this year, even if it would likely improve (massively) its current battery life.

Hopefully, Apple will come to their senses and make the glossy screen an option for both MacBook and MacBook Pros - it won't be very helpful to me given the hassle involved in getting BTO configurations here in Portugal, but it will at least give me an option.

In the meantime, feel free to send any impressions my way - if you can't use your MacBook in a sunlit room or find it unbearable to cradle on your lap, I most certainly want to hear from you.


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Mac