Monday, June 11, 2012

New 15'' Macbook Pros Early 2012 Oh My!

I had a bit of time today and I've been following the WWDC 2012 fairly closely, so I've read about some of the rumors and about what people expect to see. I'm personally not that big of an iOS fan, nor am I that interested in the next iteration of Mac OS X. On a side note, I personally think that by iOS-ifying the operating system, the user experience has been severely compromised. I am still using Snow Leopard 10.6.8 at the moment (I actually reinstalled the operating system about a month ago). But that is another topic, what I would like to compare is my current system, the macbook pro 15'' (early 2011), to the system that just came out, the macbook pro 15'' (early 2012) model. My macbook pro isn't really "oudated" per se, there has been one revision in between, and even for that revision it was just a slight bump from my configuration (so the base model is actually the mid range model from the early 2011 line). To clarify I will be doing a comparison of base models for both years.

I hope to go through all of the specifications of the two machines and then give some of my thoughts and opinions regarding them. Some components I agree are a pure upgrade, and there are no detriments to the overall system. But I do have some queries as to the design decisions apple has made regarding the new model, which I will discuss in detail.

Macbook Pro 15'' (Early 2011) Technical Specifications; taken from as well as the system profiler

Processor: Intel Core i7 Quad Core
Processor Speed: 2.0 Ghz
RAM: 4 GB (DDR3) 1333 Mhz
Video Card(s): AMD Radeon 6490M (VRAM: 256 MB)
Intel Integrated HD Graphics 3000
Display: 15.4'' Glossy LED-backlit TFT display
Display Resolution: 1440x900
Camera: Facetime HD

Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth: 2.1+ EDR
Hard Drive: 500 GB 5400RPM SATA (at least mine was)
Superdrive (Y/N): Yes
Battery Capacity: 77.5W
Dimensions: 2.4 cm (height) x 36.4 cm (width
Weight: 2.54 Kg
Sound: Stereo speakers and microphone

-2 USB 2.0
-Gigabit Ethernet
-Firewire 800
-Thunderbolt port (minidisplay port)
-Headphone jack
-Audio in
-SD card slot
-Laptop locking port

Macbook Pro 15'' (Early 2012) Technical Specifications; taken from Apple
Processor: Intel Core i7 Quad Core
Processor Speed: 2.3 Ghz
RAM: 8 GB (DDR3L) 1600 Mhz
Video Card(s): Nvidia Geforce GT 650M (VRAM: 1 GB)
Intel Integrated HD Graphics 4000
Display: 15.4'' Glossy LED-backlit TFT IPS Display
Display Resolution: 2880 x 1800
Camera: Facetime HD

Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth: 4.0+ EDR
Hard Drive: 256 GB SSD
Superdrive (Y/N): No
Battery Capacity: 95W
Dimensions: 1.8 cm (height) x 35.89 cm cm (width
Weight: 2.02 Kg
Sound: Stereo speakers and dual microphones

-Magsafe 2.0
-2 USB 3.0
-2 Thunderbolt port
-Headphone jack (compatible with apple mic/headphone set)
-SDXC port

Processor, RAM, Hard Drive, Video Card
In terms of these three components, the new macbook pro is leaps and bounds over the previous model. It supports the latest processor, increased memory (4 GB to 8 GB), and finally sports a solid state drive. My first macbook pro (before it got replaced) had 2 GB of RAM and for everyday use I consistently maxed out. As for 4 GB, I run BOINC, so I let it use up to 2 GB of memory, which leaves me at near maximum (right now I have 3.87 GB used out of 4 GB). I recently read multiple articles saying that the new macbook pro really isn't user replaceable. That does disappoint me, because components do break down (especially hard drives). Even though the new model comes with a pretty large SSD, it just feels wrong not be able to replace it for whatever reason.

And lastly for hard drive I have a 500 GB hard drive, where I've partitioned 100 GB for windows leaving there rest for mac, and I still have 210 GB available. So in the end I've used roughly 190 GB of hard drive space. Personally I love archiving files, I also keep a 82 GB iPhoto library along with application files, and couple gigabytes of music files for iTunes. If I had 256 GB for total hard drive space I would still partition 100 GB for windows, and move off my iPhoto library to an external drive. All in all, there is no debate it is an upgrade in all three categories. One last note the video card upgrade is a no-brainer,


The "retina" display on the iphone and ipad has gotten a lot of attention, with many hoping it would move on to the mac ecosystem and it has. I fully agree that having a retinal display on the phone makes a huge difference, but after handling the second and third generation iPads I feel that the difference is not as distinct in my opinion. In my mind this is a very good upgrade, but I hope to determine after actually using the new model at an apple store. But, as with other apple devices, I'm sure the addition of a "retina" display adds a lot of hype.

First, the magsafe 2.0 port; for my first macbook pro I had the original magsafe, which very similar to the new magsafe 2. I personally did not have any issues, design or otherwise, with the magsafe connector. j I was very careful with it and did not yank it to unplug the connector. However, I am aware that for other users there have ben issue fo fraying at the connector, which got apple to redesign the magsafe connector to the new "L" shape they have now. Personally I like the original design of the magsafe, because with the current connector that I use there is only one "right" way to connecting it, since if I flip the connector 180 degrees, it would block up the ethernet port. However, as with the original connector I've had no problems with it. Since it just came out, I don't know what new design features are incorporated into the connector but all I know is that the connection is smaller and it reverts to the original magsafe design. I hope to try out the magsafe 2 connector at an apple store, but I am disappointed that the new connector is not compatible with the old one (who would have guessed), so for plugging the old connector into the latest model macbook pro an adapter is needed for the low price of $10.

I personally love using the ethernet port on my current macbook pro, since I love having a direct connection to the router, especially when it comes to gaming. I find that when I download files the speed is far superior to a wireless connection, so I question the removal of the ethernet port on a 15'' machine. Of course, apple now has a dongle for thunderbolt to ethernet, but personally do not appreciate this change.

Now for the two thunderbolt ports and the hdmi port. This part leaves me quite apprehensive about the change. To me, thunderbolt to me is a very niche connector, where the market for it is still very small at the moment due to pricing. I've never used the port myself but I in the past I've considered a minidisplayport to hdmi adapter. However, I do not own a HD TV so buying one would be pointless. This adapter from monoprice was the one I was looking at, and though the price is cheap I have no need for its function.

So back to my original point, if having one thunderbolt port is barely necessary (one is enough if you want to connect to an external monitor), what is the point of having a second one, plus a hdmi port. Actually, I am just bewildered as to why they would include a hdmi port. Minidisplay can easily switch to hdmi (linked already provided), why is there a need to have another hdmi port on the computer? This, to me, just does not make sense whatsoever.

In the end, the addition of some ports (and subtraction of others) leaves apple to provide new dongles, such as thunderbolt port to ethernet. An interesting move is the abandonment of the firewire 800 port, but the hilarious part about this decision is that apple provides yet another dongle for thunderbolt to firewire 800. These multimedia port decision just leaves me so frustrated with apple.

The audio in (or microphone jack) has also been taken out for whatever reason, and is replaced by a headphone jack not unlike that in the current 13'' macbook pro (where you can use apple mic/headphones and it'll still work with the one port). The machine gones with USB 3.0, which is a welcome upgrade (though I still wish it would come with more than 2 USB ports, I can wish can't I?).

Battery and Superdrive
Since there is no longer a superdrive in the new model, and the hard drive has been shrunk from the traditional sata drive to solid state storage, the batter capacity of the new macbook pros has been increased, from about 75W to 95W. This is a welcome change, though even with my current macbook pro I have never run out of battery. I run gfx cardstatus, so when I'm in battery mode I switch over to the intel integrated graphics and the battery life is extended by many hours. Though I suppose that due to the increased pixel density of the screen a larger battery would counter the increased power consumption of the screen.

As for the superdrive, I personally don't mind having a superdrive but Know there are many who absolutely find no use for it. I burn rewritable media once in a while, for backup and also to transfer files to others, and also to watch DVDs once in a long while. So I would not mind having a superdrive, though it increases the heft of the machine. In the end, due to the ailing nature of DVDs it would depend on the needs of the user but it is still a worthy upgrade.

Last thoughts
The weight decrease as well as a thinner body is quite nice. For me with the older macbook pro, I always notice the heft whenever I carry it. I watched the video of designing the new macbook pro on the apple website and the new fan structure was quite awe inspiring. With an discrete graphics card on the lose it really does increase internal temperature of the machine, and having more vents is a straightforward approach when it comes to heat issues. I also wonder about whether the new fans are indeed quieter than the old ones. For the older version when I browser the internet I don't hear the fans unless it's youtube, but when I do it the sound is noticeable. Typically during the summer I try to restrict the GPU to the integrated graphics which helps preventing the computer from getting too hot.

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