I am writing this on a brand-spanking new Apple MacBook Pro (yes, I know, clumsy name). One of the reasons for my purchase is because I have been spending quite a bit of time in trains lately. Trains are one of the most civilized ways to travel, Caltrain certainly beats being stuck behind the wheel in the gridlock that is U.S. Highway 101. A laptop is a good way to get things done during the 3-hour round-trip to Santa Clara.

My last few laptops were company-issued Windows models. I only ever purchased two laptops before, both Macs, a PowerBook 180c in college (it sported a 68K chip, proof that Apple could have kept the PowerBook moniker on an Intel-powered machine) and one of the original white iBooks in 2001 when they first came out around the same time as Mac OS X. For the last ten years or so, I always managed to have ultra-thin and light models (less than 2kg / 4lb) assigned to me, and the MacBook Pro is certainly heavier than I would like. That said, it has a gorgeous screen and a decent keyboard.

Subjectively so far, it does not seem appreciably slower than my dual-2GHz PowerMac G5. I ran Xbench for a more objective comparison, you can see the benchmark results for more info. Unsurprisingly, the disk I/O is in the desktop’s favor, but the Core Do processor holds its own, and even beats the G5 handily on integer performance benchmarks.

I prefer desktops to laptops, for their superior capacity and peripherals. With its relatively puny 80GB of storage capacity, the laptop (it doesn’t really qualify as a notebook given its physical size) is not going to usurp the G5 soon. It doesn’t even have enough capacity to store my complete music library, for instance. I am not looking forward to the usual hassles of synchronizing two computers. Apple’s synchronization solution requires buying a $499 Mac OS X Server license, and third-party solutions are a bit thin.

Now, Apple is a designer PC company, and you want to protect the casework with a decent amount of padding, but the protective case itself must look sharp. I have always had good experience with Waterfield Designs bags made right here in San Francisco, so I naturally got one of their sleevecases. It is made of high-grade neoprene rubber rather than the foam used by other manufacturers, but in exploring my options, I couldn’t help but notice the dizzying array of choices for design-conscious Mac users. For some reason, Australian companies are over-represented, I counted no fewer than 4 manufacturers:

  • Crumpler
  • STM

    As for the MacBook Pro itself, it is too soon to tell. One thing you immediately notice is how hot it gets, even though the entire aluminum case should act like one big heat sink. I haven’t played with the built-in iSight yet so I can’t compare its quality with that of the stand-alone iSight I have mounted on my desktop.

    The 512MB of RAM installed are woefully inadequate for a supposedly professional machine, but I would rather not pay Apple’s grossly inflated margins on RAM compared to Crucial. I bumped it up to the full 2GB. This upper limit is kind of disappointing when you come from a 64-bit platform (my desktop has 5.5GB of RAM). Laptops benefit even more than desktops from RAM, as free RAM is automatically used as a disk cache, and reduces the need to fetch data from slow and power-hungry 2.5″ hard drives.

    Update (2006-04-05):

    Don’t try to use Monolingual to strip non-Intel architectures to save some space. You will end up rendering Rosetta unusable… I used to disable Classic, I am not sure I would go that far in only allowing Intel binaries to run on my machine.

    Update (2007-08-02):

    More Australian laptop bag manufacturers: