Top positive review
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Beautifully designed, incredibly light - best laptop available
on 26 December 2013
I took the huge leap from Windows to Mac and was daunted by the initial cost of a Mac. They are a lot more expensive that the windows equivalent.
Quick word of warning: I'm a recent (July 2012) convert from Windows to a MacBook Pro, and was lucky enough to recently upgrade to a stunning 13 inch Retina. While I love Apple products, I'm not a Mac expert, and this review is for similar non-experts who are thinking about "converting". Because it's a review of the MBP range, you'll find the same review on other specs - skip to the end to see the specifics on this model.
Firstly, the hardware - which is just stunning. It's incredibly thin and light, and the 13 inch model is a really good compromise between screen size and weight compared to the 15 inch. (Also I intend to attach an external monitor for much of the time).
Common with all Apple MacBooks it's beautifully carved out of a solid piece of brushed aluminium, with a huge track-pad and a beautifully made back-lit keyboard.
In terms of connectivity you get:-
* Mag Safe power plug.
* 2 x Thunderbolt ports - to attach to fast external disks etc
* 2 x USB 3 ports (one either side - nice touch)
* Headphones output for external speakers
* An SDXC photo card slot
* A full size HDMI port - so you connect an external monitor
Apple hardware is more expensive than the equivalent running Windows, but you do get what you pay for, and they come with incredible attention to detail. This includes the cleverly designed "Mag Safe" magnetic power socket - so if a small child accidentally pulls on the power cable it disconnects from the laptop rather than dragging it crashing to the floor.
These machines don't come with a wired network connection - it's assumed you'll connect using WIFI, but they are well future proofed - as they support the latest 80211ac standard - basically the same as before but faster. Be aware you may need to update your router to make use of this. My existing router is fast enough - but it's nice to have the future proof design.
As a prior Windows laptop user, the multi-touch trackpad is a wonderful revelation. You can scroll down web pages (two fingers up/down), or scroll through web history (two fingers left/right), and the "System Preferences" window where you can configure the options includes a handy video demonstrating the options available.
As already stated, they keyboard is fantastic. Island style black keys - nicely spaced out, and back-lit. There's a set of dedicated keys along the top to control features including screen brightness, play, fast forward and stop, plus sound.
Of course you don't get a CD/DVD drive - but all software is available online through the Apple Mac Store, and another nice surprise - consistently cheaper than equivalent windows software, and without the annoying collection of boxes, software keys and disks to avoid losing.
Battery life is quoted at something silly - and I ran an entire day of general use (web browsing, videos, mails etc), in the end I got at least 9-10 hours before I started getting warnings - so you should be able to take this on a long haul flight or a long train journey without any problems.
Where this really shines though is the screen. It's apparently 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, and looks just stunning. In fact it's so good, I think I'm going to need to replace my ageing external monitor for when I use it desk-bound. Videos are crisp and clear, but where is really shines is reading or writing text.
Sound quality is not bad, although not as good as I'd have hoped - but I plug in external speakers myself - or better still, stream music to my Hi Fi speakers via an Apple TV. It's worth noting - you can stream anything on screen (videos or Netflix) to an Apple TV - including high quality sound. A great bonus.
Although I don't often play games, I'm told the MBP is not a serious gaming machine, for for web use or video streaming it's more than capable. I can't really comment more than that.
In terms of software, these are well provided for straight out of the box including free copies of:-
* Pages - a fully featured word processor similar to MS Word
* Numbers - Excel spreadsheets for Apple
* Keynote - PowerPoint equivalent
* Calendar, Mail and Photo editor and organiser
* Movie Maker - to edit and publish home-made videos
* Reminders - to remind you
I love the fact the Macs now work well with the iPhone and iPad. That means (for example) you can set a reminder on your Mac and have it automatically appear on your iPhone. Likewise, enter contacts on one device, and they're available on all. Finally, you can even start a document on your Mac and then continue to edit on your iPad by saving stuff in "the cloud".
But a final word of warning - and not something Apple tend to shout about. I'm used to being able to upgrade hardware when it starts to slow down. Be aware you can't upgrade ANYTHING on these machines. Even the memory is soldered in place so buy the best you can. OK so you can always attach a large external disk, but it's a bit disappointing you can't upgrade the internal disk or memory.
That's particularly wise words on this model as it has 4Gb of memory (not really a problem unless you're planning to edit huge video files), and 128Gb solid state disk. The space will be more of a limit - as it means you'll probably end up having to connect an external USB or WIFI connected hard disk for photos or videos. Of course it does assume this will be your only computer. If you have a desk-bound machine as well, then no problem - otherwise be aware of the limitation. Personally I'd wouldn't really consider anything less than 4Gb memory and 256G SSD or hard drive - but it depends upon your budget.
On balance - I'd have to say I love Apple Macs - and indeed all Apple hardware (iPhone, iPad included) so it's hard to give a purely objective view. But this is a beautifully designed, well built machine - just buy the biggest, fastest you can afford - or accept you'll be selling it on eBay in two years time to replace it.
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