MacBook Pro 13 Inch: First Observations and Experiences

by Chris Howard Jun 29, 2009

One of the most exciting moments in any nerd's life is getting a new computer. For Mac nerds, being as passionate as we are, that moment is doubly exciting. Today it was my turn as my new MacBook Pro 13" turned up. 


A couple of months back I wrote about the difficulty in affording Macs for a lot of people, and me in particular being on government benefits. So you're probably wondering how I can afford a MacBook Pro. Well, since then, two things happened. Firstly I discovered a no interest loan scheme for low income earners (up to AU$1500. Look for them in your part of the world. Try googling for NILS or "no interest loans". In Australia they are run by community organizations and the one I used is funded by one of our major banks.) Secondly, I had been saving for several months for a Mac mini and was half way there (AU$600). So all up, I could then afford an MBP 13 with a 4GB RAM upgrade.

So here I sit with a new MacBook Pro that just a couple of months ago was an impossible dream. It's specs are 2.26GHz CPU, 4GB RAM and 160GB hard drive (though I will shortly replace it with a 500GB one.)

Early Observations

It's been less than 24 hours but here are some early observations.

• Initially it felt heavier than I expected but once I carried it around I found the weight negligible. It slung in my palm quite comfortably. Also feels very light when compared to my wife's 14" G4 iBook.

• I had a titanium PowerBook a few years back and never liked the black keyboard. But the MBP keyboard looks good.

• And it's got a real nice feel. Much better than the PowerBook's. Key impact is firm but dampened, so keys aren't light or clicky.

• Sharp edges! The edges of this could do with some rounding off as they are quite sharp. Or maybe that's Apple's way to force me not to rest my hands on it while I type.

• Battery predicted life is all over the shop. In the short time I've been typing this it's gone from 8:09 to 6:51 to 7:08 - 6:20 to 7:00 to 4:48 to 4:40 and that's just the times I've checked it. It's available usage is currently 4:41 and 88%. Now it's back up to 6:42 but still 88%. That's it, I'm switching it to percentage view. (At the time of finishing this piece, battery was down to 75% with 5:08 remaining. Nearly two hours of mostly using Google docs. So, 100% should be 6 hours. Good, but lower than I'd expect for such light usage - although, I did do a couple of downloads and I am on wireless.)

• Touchpad takes a little getting used to. Will have to unlearn years of behaviour. Currently I am still using finger to move pointer and thumb to click. But this causes problems in Safari as it regularly detects touches that it interprets as zooms. 

• Interestingly, the touchpad can tell the difference between a thumb and finger click and a two finger click.

• The keyboard backlight is very bright. Have now discovered F5 and F6 can adjust that. 

• If used on a large angle - such a using it on you lap laying back in bed or on a couch, the keyboard lights can be seen below the keys and are rather bright, even at their dimmest.

• It's nice to have a screen that noticeably dims in darkened rooms and brightens in bright ones. iPhone OS developers take not.

• It's cold! I left it on my desk while I was out today and (being winter here), it was freezing to touch when I picked it up later. That's a drawback of a metal enclosure. Summer will be interesting to see how hot the case gets when run for a while.

To do list

When you get a new computer the first thing you face is what to put on it. Do you just migrate your whole messy profile across from your existing Mac? Or should you start again, start with a nice factory fresh hard drive?

I like to start afresh. I always swear that "This time I'm only putting on the essentials". But I'm a software junkie and always end up filling my apps folder with all sorts of crap.

So, what apps to put on this time? What are apps I really need?

• Adobe Creative Suite

• Dropbox


• Pastor (my old password app that I am still migrating from)

• Onyx (I use it to change things like the Screen Capture settings)

• iLife (which came pre-installed so no need to install it)

• OpenOffice (free MS Office equivalent. Does the job.)

• Evernote (I am trying to use this more and more. Currently use it mostly for saving snapshots of inspiring webpages with tags and their link)

• Flip4Mac (view Microsoft format video in Quicktime)

• Parallels (for Windows. To check how websites look in Internet Explorer)

• iStat menus (I really like its menbar calendar and system monitoring information)

• SuperDuper! Somewhat complicated but couldn't live without it. Fantastic for maintaing a bootable image of your system drive. 

• CyberDuck (FTP)

• FireFox (the browser web developers can't live without)

• TextWrangler (code editor)

• XBench (Mac benchmarking app. See below for results)

• Thunderbird (for all my less important email addresses)

Ideally that should be all, but I know that won't last and I've probably missed one or two.

After that it's the data. That is a mess but how do you clean that up? So I will just be copy it straight across. Although I do keep all most of my current work on Dropbox (except for larger files) but then archive it to my hdd once finished.

The last thing to do will be changing various settings and other miscellany. For example, I create an "-Apps" folder where I drop shortcuts to my applications. This folder I then put on the Dock giving me quick access to applications. Though, I must say, I'm using Spotlight more and more lately to launch apps.

(Note: That dash in "-Apps" isn't a typo. I always use dashes as prefixes on my folder names as OS X still doesn't let you sort folders to the top of folder listings.)


For those of you who like to see XBench figures, here's mine for the MacBook Pro 13 inch (running on battery - if that matters). The figures in brackets are those of my 2.5 year old white Intel iMac Core 2 Duo, 2.0GHz, 3GB RAM, 160GB hdd.

Overall: 132.67 (120.18)

CPU test: 153.09 (97.37)

Thread test: 304.33 (172.89)

Memory test: 179.72 (122.51)

Quartz graphics test: 197.00 (165.62)

OpenGL graphics test: 146.97 (183.07)

User interface test: 290.37 (214.45)

Disk test overall: 45.34 (55.97)

Disk sequential: 84.14 (78.91)

Disk Random: 31.03 (43.36)

Mostly it looks like I'll be very happy. The slower disk speed is interesting and I guess the difference between the 5400RPM in the MBP and the 7200RPM in the iMac. Makes me seriously consider making the new 500GB hdd a 7200RPM one. And hopefully the slower OpenGL won't affect what I do in Photoshop.


There is no conclusion! I haven't used this anywhere near long enough yet to be able to make any definitive conclusions. But I realised that if I didn't put my thought about it to paper now, I'd forget lots of the small things - that are still important. So, this is more like "Getting a new Mac, part 1" but I'm not sure there'll ever be a part 2 unless I have some interesting (i.e. weird) experiences.

But I am loving it! I've written this entire piece quite comfortably propped up in bed. You can't beat that!


  • Oops! Don’t know how, but I left “Things” of that list of software.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jun 30, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • re: the ‘-Apps’ folder with app shortcuts - no need for it! You can simply add the original Applications folder to the dock - then set it to List view and it will behave (sort of) as a win Start menu.

    ediediedi had this to say on Jun 30, 2009 Posts: 6
  • Give me another generation or two to get some faith in the new battery system, and I might be a customer. Meantime, the week the new models with the locked-down battery were announced, I went to my supplier of choice and asked if he had any “old” models still on the shelf, at discount. Turns out they were practically having a fire sale. So I got what was, until a couple days earlier, the “latest” model MacBook Pro 15 (and the last one with a removable battery) - 2.53ghz, 4GB ram, 300GB HD, for about $600 off. The savings allowed me to pick up both a second battery, and a 2TB networked backup storage unit from Western Digital.

    I’m sure these new laptops are all right, but I just feel better being able to swap out my own battery. Call me a luddite, I don’t care.

    tao51nyc had this to say on Jul 01, 2009 Posts: 45
  • Chris, in the USA we’ll all soon be on government benefits, the way the ‘Chosen One’ is printing money and borrowing our future. So I maybe able to get a new Mac at that time.

    enos233 had this to say on Jul 11, 2009 Posts: 3
  • Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colors. Multi-Touch trackpad for precise cursor control; supports inertial scrolling, pinch, rotate, swipe, three-finger swipe, four-finger swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities.

    Yochanan Berkowitz

    Ana had this to say on Aug 16, 2011 Posts: 76
  • I have one from two years. Working very fine. Hard and stable hardware.

    Alpina had this to say on Aug 26, 2011 Posts: 154
  • It’s the only major complaint I have about my MacBook. The reviewer notes that with FireWire having been included in almost every Apple Mac for over a decade, many -– perhaps most –- Mac users had at least one peripheral which used FireWire, and were dismayed to find it missing on the new MacBook. undermount kitchen sinks

    Undermount Kitchen Sinks had this to say on Aug 31, 2011 Posts: 11
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