Apple MacBook Pro 13—Some Quirks as a PC

Yes, there are quirks, but not as many as one might suspect. For the most part, the MacBook Pro functions as any PC notebook would, though with some of Apple’s features present. To smooth out the transition between the designed-for-OS X hardware and the Windows system, Apple has included a Boot Camp utility to customize settings with the mouse, keyboard, and which operating system the notebook should boot on the next restart.

The keyboard settings are pretty sparse; you can choose between having the F-keys default to F1, F2, F3 etc., or default to the brightness and volume changing utilities, with a press of the function key to use the standard F-keys. The trackpad settings are more interesting: you have two finger right click, two finger scroll, and various options to lock the touchpad in drag mode (it’s hard to describe, but makes sense instantly when you use it). The best part is turning the bottom right-hand corner of the touchpad into a right click button. Tap anywhere else, you get a left click; tap at the bottom right (where you’d expect the right click button to be on a PC notebook) and it’ll give you a right click. It’s pretty brilliant, and rectifies one of the chief complaints with running the older MacBooks and MacBook Pros under Windows, where it was necessary to Ctrl+tap to get a right click.

Overall what struck me was how cohesive the experience was in Windows. Everything translates over pretty well—Apple has coded in the same popup animations for the hardware control shortcuts (volume, brightness, etc) for Windows, and the two finger scroll is simply the best in the business. I don’t know how or why, but two finger scroll on the MacBook Pro just works better than two finger scroll on normal Synaptics touchpads, and the entire touchpad just works. It amazes me that basically nobody else has figured out how to do a buttonless/single button touchpad yet (Dell, HP?), but Apple’s is pretty great, especially with the new right click corner. Maybe it's just the size of the touchpad—bigger is better?

The keyboard wasn’t as easy to adjust to though. I go through a lot of laptops, so I’ve gotten pretty adept at switching between various layouts, but for some reason the MBP threw me more than most. I don’t remember having trouble adjusting to any of the previous two dozen-odd notebooks I’ve had in the last few months, so it was definitely different. I’m not entirely sure why, probably just a combination of things. Apple likes to switch the control and function keys, Lenovo-style, and I think I got used to the OS X shortcuts on the Apple keyboard (which is odd because I never actually used OS X on this system beyond running the Boot Camp partition utility the first time). Unfortunately, Apple+C and Apple+V aren’t copy and paste in Windows.

But other than that and the occasional annoyance at having to use the function key to get some keys (Fn+Bkspace to get Delete, Fn+Up/Down for page up and down), the keyboard was as awesome as it always has been. As I said before, it’s the best chiclet keyboard out there, even better than the ThinkPad chiclet keyboard. It just underscores this point: everything that makes the MacBook Pro a great notebook in OS X still makes it a great notebook under Windows, with a couple of quirks along the way to give it character.

Apple MacBook Pro 13 - Introduction Apple MacBook Pro 13 - Awesome Display
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  • disappointed1 - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I don't think your comparison holds. Movies can only ever be compared with reviews & scores on a star-based system, whether from newspaper critics or laypeople on IMDB, unless perhaps you are suggesting that you read the script beforehand to identify a weak script or watch clips to identify weak acting. If not, then the star system is still inherently subjective, whether you're looking at one reviewer or the aggregate reviews of millions.

    When I say 3DMarks are meaningless, arbitrary numbers, I mean that I can't go out and play 3DMark at 8,710 3DMarks. I can, however, play FC2 at a standardized resolution at 60fps, and as you imply, I'd even prefer that be just one factor in the review. There are tons of other games that include built-in, standardized benchmarks that report in meaningful frames-per-second, and more of these games should be substituted for the meaningless 3DMark numbers.
  • Sufo - Monday, October 18, 2010 - link

    I think the comparison holds insofar as it makes my point that even subjective information - when presented as part of a larger body of information - can still hold value. Apart from that the two have next to nothing in common :)

    Personally I don't think it can hurt to have 2 extra (I say extra, they're already there) bars in a review - they're certainly not so ostentatious that they might preclude one's ability to ignore them, and at the same time there may be people that want em. If a review was *entirely* based around benchmarks then i'd understand the resulting frustration.

    Incidentally, my gpu tends to do better in 3dmark than cards it's better than, and worse than cards it's not. This may be a lucky coincidence, but for me at least it provides a quick, albeit *somewhat* dubious reference point, as most new hardware will def get a 3dmark run, whereas it may not have been run against games i've benched.
  • beginner99 - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Are there any test around with battery live in linux? Is the better battery live a general linux/unix advantage or did apple tweak OSx on their own so much?

    Anyway makes you cry as a windows user...
    (I recently installed Jolicloud on my eeepc. As far as I know it runs as a Virtual machine next to windows (dual boot). But it is still much faster and more responsive. pretty weird especially the responsiveness.)
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I looked at this a while back with a couple laptops:

    At the time, Win7 bested WinXP bested Vista, with Ubuntu generally far behind. It may have improved since then, but drivers and power optimizations are critical to get the most out of your hardware in terms of battery life, and Apple has obviously spent some time in OS X on this stuff. Win7 is good, but the wide compatibility isn't helping it keep up with OS X.
  • kawatwo - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I bought a 13 inch MBP just to get some Mac experience and it is a beautiful screen. It makes a great coffee table laptop with the perfectly lighted keyboard as well. I am curious how much the faster 2.66 CPU would have helped on the benches, but that does lower the value equation a bit probably too. It handles every game I own so far at 1200x800 though not all at highest quality settings of course. Just as an aside after several months using OS X it still boots to the desktop in about 40 seconds with zero fine tuning with the stock HD which I find amazing.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Not enough to spend the extra ~$40 USD. Or, in your case ~$259 USD to replace the CPU with a newer one. The P8600 is actually a very good CPU.

    As an example. I have an E6550( 2.33Ghz stock ) C2D overclocked to 2.8Ghz, and barely notice a difference. Mainly, I just did it because I could, and to run the "FSB" 1:1 with my memory. Even overclocked on up to around 3.8Ghz, there is barely a noticeable difference. Unless you start benchmarking games, and comparing FPS. But playing the games, either stock, or overclocked. The difference is barely, if even conceivable.
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - link

    i really think your booting speed has more to do with what you install, than the h/w spec or the OS.
    my netbook with 1.6G atom processor still boot up in 40 seconds after 2 years of use. so?
  • plewis00 - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    Is the battery life thing anything to do with BIOS in regular PCs vs. EFI in Mac machines? In a previous article it had been mentioned that Windows 7 'could' run on Moorestown (Intel's new Atom) but due to the constant bus-polling, etc. that is built into Windows it could never achieve low-wattage idles and the bus-polling is part of the antiquated BIOS architecture PCs use - this is just a theory, but also having read UEFI-based PCs could boot in seconds, I imagine Mac OS X's speed and efficiency is down to having semi-custom hardware with many unnecessary and legacy processes not running. I could be wrong and if I am and someone knows please explain where.
  • fokka - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    i must say when i saw the article i was really looking forward to reading it, because it's exactly what i am doing right now - trying out win7 on the latest 13" mbp.

    but in the end it seemed a little too positive, at least to me.

    while i agree, that the the 13 incher is a great little machine, especially on windows its not without it flaws.

    the first thing that comes to my mind is the long booting time. i think it has to do with the bios-emulation, but that really shouldn't last that long.

    second there is the choppy and much too fast scrolling, which i yet have to find out how to slow it down.

    the third point is not a windows-one, but never the less i have to mention it: the display is not that good. sure, on paper and even in real life it looks fine with high contrast, brighness and color gamut, but it still is a tn-panel and so the viewing-angles are only "good enough".

    there are other shortcomings as a win-notebook, too, like the keyboard-layout and, of course, battery life.

    so all in all it's a great machine, but it sure as hell isn't designed for windows.
  • mrsmegz - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I had a Macbook 13 aluminum w/ the 9400 for a year. I really liked the notebook for all the reasons mentioned above, the touchpad, the screen keyboard etc. However I had more than a few hangups running Windows 7 on the laptop. 1), Bootcamp wouldn't support 64 bit windows 2) Sound would only come out of one speaker/headphone at about 20pct volume while the other was at 100pct 3) it got so damn hot sitting in your lap, the aluminum just didn't vent the laptop enough. Everything else on Windows though, worked much as the article explained, If they fix those problems, I will consider getting another next cycle.

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