MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014) overview

The Macbook Pro arrived Monday morning just before lunch – having stayed up last night and then grabbing 2 hours shut eye before my alarm went off at 7:30am as to avoid missing the courier then having to deal with either a redelivery or having to go out to the TNT depot and picking it up. It came in the usual brown plain box and inside the box that the MacBook Pro comes in now resembles the style of packaging that the iPad and iPhone are now being shipped in – probably part of Apple’s over all ‘eco-friendly’ packaging to save on packaging, bulk (volume) and weight but it still well protected for those concerned that maybe Apple is cutting corners when it comes to protecting products when in transit.

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 2 21 07 am

When I placed the order I grabbed the highest model of the 13.3” range, upgraded the CPU to i7 3.0Ghz and from 8GB to 16GB RAM – it came in at around NZ$3100 which sounds a lot but when you stand back and have a look at the memory, the processor and solid state storage it should provide at least 3-4 years worth of service. Then taking into account the fact that there are fewer moving parts in the laptop; a small fan to keep the CPU cool and the rest can keep moving along without having to worry about hard disk head crashing or some other catastrophic failure. Then add to that the Intel Iris GPU that has a great performance/power ratio and the Haswell process which comes with a sorts of cool goodies such as improvements to the extensions, die shrinkage, improvement to its power efficiency, improved memory management (transactional memory extensions IIRC). The cool quiet running makes the experience so far definitely makes me happy that I didn’t have the flirtation with Windows that I was originally planning in my weakest hour lol.

I took the computer out of the box, attached up the power cable and turned it on – and that was the first thing I noticed which was different. Where as with the old MacBook Pro the on/off button was on the top right hand corner of the  laptop the key is now sitting where the old eject was. When you open up the the screen you’ll find that the hinge appears to be a lot more chunky and there isn’t the visible gap between the keyboard/case part and the screen itself – where the heat would be shot out the back of the laptop via the heat vents it appears that the heat how escapes upwards which may have to do with users wanting to use their laptop on their douvet which would block up the vents where as with the vented air being directed up the issue of proper ventilation on on-hard surfaces such as a desk or coffee table, has now been addressed.

Open up the screen I pressed the on button and the first book up configuration routine springs into action – and anyone who has done the OS X installation with the traditional hard disk will realise how long it would take so when it loads up the first time with an SSD you’ll realise just what you’ve been missing out on in terms of what a performance bottleneck a traditional spinning disk is when compared to modern SSD solutions. The whole routine takes hardly any time – the progress bar zips across the screen, the icons quickly appear and suddenly I’m greeted with a completed loaded copy of OS X on my brand new Mac.  I then proceed to set up the language to English UK then reboot, then start to install all the updates along with the recent crucial update for the network time daemon, then another reboot. After all setup and kosher I started going through the motions of checking things out; for example I connected to my router (Airport Extreme Base Station 802.11ac/Draytek Vigor 130 soon to be replaced with a Huawei HG659b which has a 160Mhz bandwidth on the 5Ghz frequency where on the Airport it is 80Mhz on the 5Ghz frequency which makes me wonder what the performance will be like on the HG659b) and in my bedroom I’m hitting 264Mbps but when I’m in the same room I can get a connection sometimes in excess of 800Mbps.

Running through the usual course of a day the extra 8GB does come in hardy since Apple tends to take advantage of that extra memory that is there in much the same way that most *NIX’s take advantage of the memory available to cache frequently loaded applications and keep them in memory to improve the over all performance. If you are looking at getting a MacBook Pro I’m sure you’ll look at the amount of memory and think, “oh, that is far too much, I’ll never need 16GB” but trust me, 3-4 years down the road you’ll be kicking yourself for not grabbing that extra memory given that the MacBook Pro ‘Retina’ is non-upgradeable once it leaves the factory. In terms of the SSD, it is very fast and snappy – I haven’t run a benchmark primarily because it never really gives a real world feel on what it is like and secondly because there have been so many of them out there I don’t think me uploading yet another benchmark is going to contribute much the discussion. What I can say is that as long as you’ve got 256-512GB then you’re good to go and then better off having something like a Drobo 5D device for archiving and long term storage – hooked up to a thunderbolt port and the speed is great whilst you keep the space for the internal drive for those files you need to carry around with you where ever you go – the perfect compromise which is reminiscent of the days where you would have long term storage in a massive tape library.

Battery life there is a definite improvement but then again with battery life it is very much a subjective situation that depends on what you’re doing; if you’re writing a letter then you’re going to get a lot more battery life that if you’re watching an Adobe Flash video or compress a high resolution video using ffmpeg via iFFmpeg. So far I haven’t noticed the fan speed up so I haven’t been pushing it all that hard but I go pretty close to the theoretical amount listed on the website – and that was surfing the net, powering a 3G dongle (currently waiting for the HG659b to arrive from Spark) and playing around 5 hours worth of flash movies (the resolution I think was 640×480 or there about, nothing high resolution). Over the next couple of days I’ll probably push it a little bit further then when my modem router arrives I’ll upload a detail video review that’ll accompany this written review.

On a good side, the 6 months interest free came through on the GEM Visa which means I’m all good for the next 6 months meaning by the time they either refresh the iMac or the iMac 5K I’ll be ready to do it all over again but then again from what I’ve read the existing iMac non-Retina is pretty good with the Haswell CPU, the GPU is good enough for what I want to do and then throw 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD at the problem then voila the perfect desktop. Then throw on the Drobo 5D device and the 10TB of storage available which makes for quite the robust experience so I’ll be looking forward to getting that review out of way next year some time.

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