owning a Macbook Pro: vicissitudes

January 26, 2010
my 2006 MacBook Pro

Many of those who bought MacBook Pros in 2006 – when Apple made the switch to Intel processors – noticed a series of issues with these machines. The built quality wasn’t even close to that of their predecessors, the PowerBooks; the amount of heat dissipated from the processors area (top and bottom case near the lcd hinge) was bothersome.

The late 2006 series – featuring new Core 2 Duo processors, wireless n-enabled wifi – seemed to be more mature and of better built quality.

By the time I could afford a MBP the late 2006 series had just came out. It took me a while to decide whether to buy the newly released MBP or rather the previous one for cheaper in the refurbished section of the apple online store.

Why I decided to go with the old series (MacBook Pro Core Duo 2.0 GHz):

  1. Many applications (Photoshop, Office,..), even months after the launch of intel based macs, were still running with rosetta, so the intel processor would be used to translate instructions given for another processor’s architecture (PowerPC), vanishing the outstanding speed of the intel processors. Would I have noticed a difference in say launching and using Photoshop with a CD or a C2D? Nop!
  2. The lower price of the old CD MBP would allow me to get a 3 years international coverage with Apple – my budget was 2000 CA$ (1700 the MBP + 300 the apple care). I was paying big bucks for a laptop I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t have to deal with expensive repairs: it was worth every penny.

Problems I had with my 2006 MBP:

The superdrive of was defective, it kept giving errors when burning cds or dvds… I had it changed once, and only a few months later the same errors reappeared so I brought the baby not only to get the superdrive fixed, but also to get it checked for a heating issue. When touching the top case near the airport antenna (bottom of the display) you could feel an unbearable heat, same with holding the machine on your lap, it would start burning!

As a result they replaced the superdrive and the logic board. The machine seemed to be working well …. except for the superdrive,… again! I eventually gave up burning cds or dvds but I was pissed, I had a 2,000 $ machine that had had the superdrive changed twice and still I wasn’t able to burn media… What a piece of crap…. I called the Apple Care number in Italy, told my story and complained with resentment, claiming a new MBP.

The guy was nice but wouldn’t let me have a replacement and suggested me to get the superdrive replaced AGAIN. Ok, I did that, fine! But after a couple of weeks my hard drive broke and I could only stare at the grey screen with a folder and a question mark.

Getting a machine replacement:

After several calls (calling Apple Care costs like 15 cents/min in Italy!) and a lot of complaints I got a replacement. I sent back my machine and after a couple weeks I received a brand new MBP 15″: I went from a 80 gb to a 250 gb hard drive, from a 2.0 CD to a 2.4 C2D processor, from a small to a large and multitouch trackpad and so on. The only dud was the glossy screen with the black frame around which I found ugly and not as clean and classy as the former macbook pro or the powerbooks.

The nice thing was that the new machine has a one-year warranty and the possibility to activate an apple care plan. Given my previous experience I was motivated to get one.

Problems I had with my 2009 unibody MBP:

Ironically a few months after I had the new machine I notice a screen blinking. I do a quick search online and find out it is a well known issue with the first series (late 2008) of unibody MBP probably due to the nvidia graphic chip…. Basically the screen blinks randomly, it is not constant, it can be fine for hours then happen once then not happen again for a while then happen several times… It blinks regardless of using the slow 9400M or the faster (dedicated) 9600M GT.  I think putting 2 graphic units in one machine was pretty stupid of Apple: you have to restart the machine in order to switch from one to the other. As if the common user changes settings all the time according to what he’s doing…

What a hassle! What I have learned is that a 3 protection plan is worth the money, you never know. And hey, nowadays is the customers that do quality control for Apple so better not take the risk!

Disappointment:

Apple’s reputation for attention to design, choice of materials, and cleaness of operating system has lost some shine. The sale surge of products these past years, mostly due to the ipod popularity and the iTunes music store (along with the fall of the Microsoft empire), brought about some arguable decisions among with a decrease in quality. Of course overall today’s products are rockets compare to those of a few years ago and have fantastic new features, but…. Take for example the screens: unless you pay a premium when buying a 15 or 17 inch MBP to get a matte (antiglare) screen, you have to stick with a glossy one; if you’re buying a 13 inch apple laptop or even an iMac you have no matte choice at all. I hate the glossy screens, I know the crowd loves them for their flashy look, but light reflex and false reproduction of colors make the matte unbeatable and much preferable. Apple must have made this move to make more money and make its products more appealing to the masses but they did realize some customers weren’t happy at all to go glossy. I can’t think of buying an iMac, which is a terrific machine, with a glossy screen… and imagine reading an ebook on the glossy screen of an iPad,…. what a pity!