17″ MacBook Pro: Six-Week Review

by J.D. Roth

I’ve been using my new 17″ MacBook Pro for about six weeks now. How do I like it? That’s a difficult question to answer.

I purchased the 17″ model because I’ve become increasingly reliant on screen real estate. In order for me to work efficiently, I need a w-i-d-e screen, one on which I can fit a browser window and a text editor side-by-side. My old 12″ Powerbook didn’t allow me to do this. Its screen resolution was 1024×768.

In this regard — and many others — my new machine is like a dream. Its resolution is 1680×1050. That extra 556 pixels in width makes a HUGE difference in the way I work. Also, the MacBook Pro is zippy. I loaded it with 3gb of RAM and, except for one notable complete melt-down (which Nick witnessed), the machine has run without a hitch (or restart) since I received it at the end of November. As a computer, it’s wonderful.


But a 17″ laptop is a big machine. It’s bulky. It’s unwieldy. It’s not nearly as convenient as my old 12″ laptop. To port the MacBook Pro around with me everywhere I go (which I do) requires planning and effort. Hauling the 12″ Powerbook was simple.

There are some subtle — but very real — aesthetic differences, too, all of which fall in favor of the smaller computer. For the past few years, I’ve been impressed with the fit and finish of Apple’s products. The iPods and laptops and desktops are all wonderful to work with: they’re solid, polished, and beautiful. Everything is molded to fit smoothly and work fluidly. However, my new iPod and my new MacBook Pro both suffer from little defects that detract from the pleasure of use, remind me that I’m using a machine instead of just experiencing it.

The biggest nuisance on the MacBook Pro is the lid — it won’t stay open. On the Powerbook, the lid is stiff — if you open it, it stays in place. You can swing the computer around in all directions, and the lid won’t budget at all. But on the MacBook Pro, the lid moves at the slightest provocation. I often write in bed. This is difficult to do when the lid of your computer falls shut when elevated even a tiny bit. My MacBook Pro’s touchpad is poorly fitted, too. On the left side, it sits below the case, but on the right side it rises above it. The differences are slight — fractions of a millimeter — but noticeable in daily use.

I’m torn. I want to love my MacBook Pro unconditionally, but I don’t. I love it as a computer, but not as a product that I hope to live with for several years. I love my Powerbook, and yet it doesn’t meet my needs.

Are other people as obsessed with their computers as I am?

Updated: 17 January 2007

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