MacBook or MacBook Pro?
March 23, 2008 9:09 PM   Subscribe

The multi-touch trackpads on the new MacBook Pros are cool and all, but are they $750 cool?

So I'm buying a MacBook. I'm not entirely sure whether I should go with a MacBook or a MacBook Pro. I'm not using this for any crazy video/audio/image editing so the way I see it, there are only two reasons I can see that would make me want an MBP instead of a plain MB:

1. Multi-touch trackpad
2. NVIDIA graphics vs. Intel

I don't plan to do much/any gaming on it so I don't think #2 is a huge thing (unless you think it is, in which case I'd appreciate some insight on why). #1 is where I'm not sure. Is the multi-touch on there really useful for normal people? I played with it a bit at an Apple store yesterday and it had some novelty but all I was doing was pinch zooming and rotating an image in Preview, which doesn't seem worth the $750 difference between the lowest grade MBP and the middle of the road MB. My question is: am I missing something? Is there some kind of super useful application for it for an everyday user that I'm missing? Should I buy a MBP pretty much just for this feature?

Bonus question if you recommend sticking with the standard MB's: is the black one sexy enough to justify an extra $200?

posted by saraswati to Computers & Internet (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These are subjective things of course but I was in the same position as you recently except I was price-insensitive. That is, for me, the MB and MBP are the same price (as well as the Air) and I still chose the MB over all the others.

Like you, I had no need for the extra power. But the MBP was a) a bit more portable b) much better wi-fi reception. Reason b) was actually the main reason because that is a feature thats important to me.
posted by vacapinta at 9:14 PM on March 23, 2008

Yes, the blank one is the perfect intersection of sexy + value. No, the multitouch is not worth $750. It'll be many years before multitouch is in the interface enough to be worth worrying about.

I have owned... man, about fifteen Apple laptops over many many years, and the Black MacBook is the best form/function combo Apple has ever made.

If they'd make one the size of the old 12-inch PowerBook... I'd marry it.
posted by rokusan at 9:23 PM on March 23, 2008

*the BLACK one, of course.
posted by rokusan at 9:25 PM on March 23, 2008

Oops. Meant Macbook not MBP there at the end. Agreeing with rokusan.
posted by vacapinta at 9:28 PM on March 23, 2008

It's an interesting question, without a simple answer:

1. The MBP has a bigger screen. On the other hand, from a portability standpoint, the MBP has a bigger screen. I'm surprised the vacapinta said that the MBP is _MORE_ portable? The MBP is certainly thinner.

2. I have concerns about a metal cased laptop. Plastic and polycarbonate may crack, but it won't WARP. I have an old Powerbook 12" (aluminum), and it TOTALLY warped-- really bad, so bad that the lid doesn't close and the battery won't stay in. Would you have to worry about that with a new MBP, or have they learned something in the past couple years.

3. The MBP gives you an ExpressCard slot. The MB has NOTHING of the sort. Of course, is USB 2.0 enough for most things? Maybe!

So... I dunno. The MB will have the multitouch pad probably in the next 6 months...
posted by gregvr at 9:31 PM on March 23, 2008

In no way is the trackpad worth $750. You can practically buy an iPhone and a year of service for the same price. Or you can buy a new iPod touch and a bunch of songs on iTunes for the same price.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:31 PM on March 23, 2008

You forgot to mention that the MBP is 15" vs a 13" MB. The MB is a lot heavier for the size, and also the MBP screen IMHO is worlds better than the MB.
posted by mphuie at 9:31 PM on March 23, 2008

Ah, thanks vacapinta, that makes more sense.

Oh, and White vs. Black? I have to admit-- Even though aesthetics do matter to me, I simply cannot justify spending $150 for a different color. It still seems like a somewhat unpleasant move for Apple to me, though, of course, they are free to do whatever they want.

I just couldn't bring myself to spending that money.
posted by gregvr at 9:34 PM on March 23, 2008

NVIDIA graphics vs. Intel

The issue isn't NVIDIA vs Intel, it's robust, dedicated GPU vs integrated shared-memory GPU. The former blows the latter away. But if you aren't gaming, doing video work, or using graphics apps, you may not care about the difference.

Is there some kind of super useful application for [the multitouch trackpad] for an everyday user that I'm missing?

It's new. The new events aren't officially documented (yet), so they might change in the next few minor updates until they are [documented]. Elliot Harris has written an article about them, but you probably won't find tons of developers using them until Apple puts them in public API docs.

It doesn't sound like you need a MacBook Pro, unless you want the backlit keyboard and larger screen. Grab a black MacBook and enjoy the lighter machine.
posted by secret about box at 9:41 PM on March 23, 2008

The white ones look yellowish and sad after a year. The black ones stay pretty.

I hate all Apple's white products for that. They look great... when brand new.
posted by rokusan at 9:41 PM on March 23, 2008

The trackpad on my MBP rules. Put two fingers on it and drag, and it scrolls the screen like the mouse wheel (or zooms in/out in Google Earth, which I use a LOT.) So far that's all it does (that I've noticed) but I'm so trained to do that now, using a different computer Drives. Me. Crazy.

750 dollars though, all other things being equal? I don't think so.
posted by ctmf at 9:49 PM on March 23, 2008

As far as the smaller screen goes (15" vs. 13"), I just switched from an old 15" aluminum Powerbook (same form factor as the MBP) to a new 13" MacBook. I was worried that I'd miss the extra two inches, but I don't notice it at all. In fact, when I pick up the 15" model, it seems kind of weird and bulky to me.

I agree that the multitouch trackpad, while drool-worthy, is a novelty. And if you're not going to be using Photoshop, etc., how much zooming and rotating are you really going to be doing, anyway?

As for the black vs. white MBs, I couldn't justify spending $150 simply for another color. In fact, the whole idea of it kind of ticked me off. I got the middle-of-the-road MB model, because it had the higher capacity "Superdrive." The higher-end model also has a larger hard disk drive, which might make the price worthwhile. But the hard drive is relatively easy to upgrade, so you could do that down the road if you needed to.
posted by PlusDistance at 9:50 PM on March 23, 2008

Response by poster: mphuie, I thought about the 13" vs 15" display as a possible issue but in the end I don't think it'll really be a problem for me, as it's intended to be just a laptop (not a desktop replacement) so portability trumps screen size.

Thanks everyone else for the answers so far!
posted by saraswati at 9:54 PM on March 23, 2008

What about the longer battery life they claim for the MPB's led-lit screen?
posted by spasm at 9:57 PM on March 23, 2008

The trackpad on my MBP rules. Put two fingers on it and drag, and it scrolls the screen like the mouse wheel (or zooms in/out in Google Earth, which I use a LOT.) So far that's all it does (that I've noticed) but I'm so trained to do that now, using a different computer Drives. Me. Crazy.

750 dollars though, all other things being equal? I don't think so.

I'm pretty sure this isn't the new multi-touch feature. The Powerbook G5 had this feature, and both the current MacBook and MacBook Pros have this.
posted by meowzilla at 10:01 PM on March 23, 2008

You can do two finger scrolling on the straight-up MB, FWIW. That's just a feature of the basic trackpad.

I'm no laptop expert, but I got a black Macbook about a month ago. I love it dearly. I was going to get the white one, but as this computer is my first completely-mine computer and is intended to last me at least through college if not beyond, I went for the black because that's what I really wanted and plus it'll show less wear. Then again, I'm so in love with my shinyshiny new computer, I polish it when it gets so much as a finger smudge. So I might have been fine with a white one after all. :P
posted by MadamM at 10:11 PM on March 23, 2008

Just to chime in real quick about a couple of differences between the MB and the MBP. Other than the screen, keyboard, case the biggest difference is the video card in that it is a dedicated video processor on the MBP BUT shared on the MB. What that really only comes down to is this....if you are going to do any professional video editing (not iMovie) using then get the MBP. As a matter of fact Final Cut Pro will not even run on a MB.

Other than that save a few hundred buck and get the MB. And yes you are paying a "cool" tax by getting a black MB. The jump in processor & hard drive from the white version doesn't justify the cost of the black one.

(* and yes disclaimer again if it matters...I am currently an apple employee)
posted by eatcake at 10:38 PM on March 23, 2008

My feeling is that the MacBook trackpad already has the killer parts of the multitouch functionality already, like two-finger scroll and tap-to-click; the MBP has things I don't use so much except on my iPhone, like zoom and drag.

I'd wait until Montevina to buy an MBP. Might as well get the performance boost you're paying for. Full disclosure: typing this on a white MacBook, 2.0 GHz.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:59 PM on March 23, 2008

i LOVE the backlit keyboard on my MBP and can't imagine life without it.

ok i can, but it involves holding a flashlight between my teeth.
posted by dawdle at 11:02 PM on March 23, 2008

I work on a 15" MacBook Pro, previous generation and a MacBook Air.

Before this, I was a PowerBook user.

The multi-touch trackpad on the Air, and on the new MBPs is at present pretty worthless. Other than zooming and rotating in preview/iPhoto/... it adds nothing new. The two finger dragging and panning is possible on the non-multi touch trackpads as well.

It depends on your workflow whether you'll notice the difference in graphics, but one thing I would surely miss on a MacBook is the LED backlit display (and for a bit the backlit keyboard).

The current MacBooks are IMHO much closer to the MBPs than the iBooks were to the PowerBooks. If I'd have to replace my MBP, I'm pretty sure I'd go for a normal MacBook (probably the black one, even if it has a "coolness" tax), provided it would be an updated version with LED display.
posted by lodev at 1:41 AM on March 24, 2008

One more thing I forgot. Make sure you max out the RAM. (I have never bought the memory upgrade from Apple as it's incredibly overpriced.)
posted by lodev at 1:43 AM on March 24, 2008

I am a programmer, thus keyboard ergonomics are very important to me. Based on approx a year with a MB and maybe 8 months with MBP, I would rather have intimate relations with a cheese grater than use a plain Macbook again (despite the fact that they are a very very attractive deal for someone price-conscious like myself). This is a personal choice. Some folks really like the ultra-light touch of the MB and similar new apple keyboard. Others, such as myself, yearn for something a little more.. thinkpaddy. I would advise you determine your keyboard preferences before spending any loot.
posted by thedaniel at 2:18 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, no, the multi-touch is not $750 cool - and you can do 2-finger scroll and all that just fine on a lowend MB.
posted by thedaniel at 2:19 AM on March 24, 2008

I think, but I'm not completely sure, that the black MB is superior to the white one in terms of components. At least, that's how it was told to me. I have a black MB (on it right now) and I love it, but I only got the black one because it was on sale, and the sale price was the same as the white one's sale price. So, who knows.
posted by nursegracer at 6:07 AM on March 24, 2008

I just got a refurbished MacBook, and I'm quite happy with it.

I would suggest stalking the refurb shop for a black MB. They show up a few times a week, it seems, and for about $1050, you get a one-round-back black laptop which is probably still powerful enough for you and a few hundred dollars less.
posted by that girl at 6:12 AM on March 24, 2008

The price difference between black and white MacsBook tends to disappear if you buy an official Apple refurbished model.
posted by joeclark at 6:25 AM on March 24, 2008

Ditto Black MacBook. It's the best mac laptop I've had, and vastly superior to the metal cases for wifi reception. Follow lodev's advice - max out the RAM.

One thing to consider though is the lower-end graphics card on the MacBook. I don't know if this is still the case with the newer ones but I bought mine about 6 months ago and was annoyed to discover it would not run Second Life (or WoW, I think) because the graphics card was incompatible.
posted by media_itoku at 8:58 AM on March 24, 2008

Thirded on max out the ram, and go third-party (Crucial, for example). I bought an MBP 17" with the 2GB of RAM, and just recently kicked in to replace the 2 GB and go up to 4GB.

From Apple: $500.

From Crucial: $125. Including the next-day-I-am-very-impatient shipping.
posted by mephron at 10:17 AM on March 24, 2008

Also re: black MacBook v. white: the black one kind of feels more sturdy. I don't know if there's any reason why that would be so, or if it's even true, but my university lends out MacBooks, and apparently they went with black for reasons of durability (and I only learned this after buying my own black MacBook, so that lends a bit of credibility to my theory). Also, yes, the sexy =)
posted by estherbester at 12:11 PM on March 24, 2008

The white ones look yellowish and sad after a year.
If it's stains, you can get them out with a pink eraser. I erased all the smudges out of my MB with it.
posted by junesix at 12:13 PM on March 24, 2008

Yeah, I'm late to the game. Been busy.

I had a PowerBook G4 for almost 3 years and went to a Black MacBook when I upgraded. I miss the backlit keyboard. I miss the dedicated graphics. I don't miss the metal case much (the black shows skin oils bad, though). I didn't miss the screen difference at all.

I play World of Warcraft, and it's harsh on the integrated Intel graphics. I think the latest generation of MacBooks use a better integrated graphics card than the previous generations, so it might be better... But, if you plan on doing any gaming other than Bejeweled, think hard about the pro. No 3D gaming, then it's a no brainer: Save the cash.
posted by jeversol at 1:23 PM on March 26, 2008

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