4 months with the new MacBook Pro

It's been nearly 4 months since Neowin reviewed the new, 2008 15" Apple MacBook Pro. So, how's it been doing? My initial review was very positive, and I was optimistic on how the unibody enclosure felt, as well as the sturdiness of the machine. Unfortunately, my opinion has changed slightly since then.

Don't get me wrong, this laptop was worth every penny for me. It runs all of my applications blazingly fast, and balances size and weight with power very effectively. But as with all first generation Apple products, there have been some small issues, and I've already sent the laptop in for repair twice.

So, what have I experienced, and should you be aware of the issues if you consider buying one? You can be the judge, but I'll provide my experience for you.

The paint

I'll start off with a small issue: the paint on the outside of the laptop, and most importantly, on the back of the screen. Within a few days of owning the laptop, I could already see some black spots showing through the silver lining. They aren't incredibly noticeable, but there is no denying that they are there. I didn't have these problems for quite some time on my earlier-generation MacBook Pro, and I was surprised at how quickly the paint quality deteriorated. Still, the laptop has not dented, and the aluminum feels much more solid than the last generation. It's a fair tradeoff.

The screen

I was never too happy with glossy screens. Brightness does largely compensate for the glare, but I have a different issue: glossy screens attract oil off the keys of the keyboard. These oils are nearly impossible to get off without some very heavy rubbing, in my case using a glasses cleaning cloth (I find these to be most effective and least damaging).

There is a fix, which is to simply keep a piece of paper between the screen and the keyboard when the lid is closed. But I can never remember to do this, and it's not a perfect solution anyway. Similar problems happen with matte screens, sure. But they aren't nearly as noticeable.

The trackpad

I'm in love with the trackpad. Yes, love. It took some getting used to, but I've really fallen for the full-trackpad button and extra panning space. There are two issues with it, however. First of all, you will never be able to use a regular trackpad effectively again. It takes using a large trackpad to realize how puny regular trackpads are, and how inconvenient the separate buttons are.

Second of all, the trackpad wears out. After four months, I recently called Apple to report that my trackpad had loosened up, to the point that even panning around became difficult unless I was very gentle. The button would click, and stay clicked, meaning that I would end up selecting text on a page instead of scrolling or simply moving the cursor. Clicking on a different part of the trackpad (the bottom right on mine seems fully intact, so I usually go there) solves the problem temporarily, but I will be bringing the laptop in for its second servicing very soon (the first servicing was because the SuperDrive died, and made very unattractive noises doing it. A simple replacement drive was issued).


All in all, these are minor issues to overcome. The screen problem is common across all glossy-screened laptops, and the paint is only a minor cosmetic issue. The only real, unpredictable issue was the trackpad. I'm hoping I was simply given a faulty trackpad, and the new one will permanently solve the issue, but I'm not yet sure.

These issues are enough for me to reduce my original rating, however: while I originally gave the machine a 4 star rating, the little things have forced me into downgrading that into a rating of 3 and a half. I hope the little issues don't continue piling up, but this is a first generation product: hiccups are, unfortunately, expected.

One advantage to Apple's product model is that they always build on a design similar to what they had before, until they replace the product entirely, and start from scratch, in 2 or 3 years. This contrasts, for example, Dell and Toshiba, who put out new designs almost daily. Each of these has little problems, and when they fail, a whole new design is often brought in.

Simon Andrews is a Neowin developer and guest writer.

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