Apple MacBook Pro 13 Inch Review (for Programmer)

Apple MacBook Pro

Just after I review the iPad 32 GB yesterday, a good friend of mine asked me to rather write review about my MacBook Pro. I’ve actually plan to write about it but I never had time, so maybe now it’s a good time.

I bought my MacBook Pro last August from Apple store in Boston, it was during a back to school promo period and tax-free day in Massachussetts. So I got $100 discount, a free iPod touch, free HP Wireless Printer Scanner, and no tax. Not bad eh..

I’m taking Master of Science in Computer Science, so most of the time I’m a programmer and let’s see if the Apple MacBook Pro can handle my demand from a laptop.

Specification

For those of you who are really into detail, these are the specification of my MacBook Pro:

2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB DDR3 memory
250GB SATA hard-drive
13.3-inch LED display
NVIDIA GeForce 320M 256MB shared
Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard

It was simply the most basic MacBook Pro configuration during the time when I bought it.

Applications

Probably one of the first question someone ask if he’s going to convert to Mac is,

‘Will I have all the applications I need?’

There is no single answer for the question, but at least I can say that there are a lot of applications for Mac OS X now, both free and commercial.

Programming / Development Tools

Since this blog post is requested and written by programmer, I’ll write some of the experience using MacBook Pro for programming.

Scheme

A bit about my programming languages, lately I mostly write in Scheme (Racket) so the IDE I used most of the time is DrScheme (DrRacket).

It seems that DrScheme is more optimized to be used in Unix rather than Windows. It may doesn’t show significant difference in few lines of codes, but it definitely beats it’s Windows version when the code lines get bigger.

Java

I still write codes in Java also, and my favorite IDE is Eclipse. Interestingly enough, although there is not so many difference with it’s Windows version (except for some shortcut keys), I still prefer the Eclipse in Windows or Linux version.

I found that sometimes the Eclipse window is not displayed in the most top layer even after I switched the Windows to Eclipse. I know it’s minor thing, but I still consider it to be quite distracting.

MySQL

There is no problem at all to install MySQL in my MacBook Pro and the SQL GUI Tools I use is Sequel Pro. It’s a native Mac OS application and it beats the MySQL’s own Query Browser and MySQL Workbench in terms of performance. Maybe Sequel Pro’s features is not as complete as the Query Browser’s and Workbench’s, but it has everything I need and a very clean user interface.

Text Editor

There was one time when I really wanted a MacBook because of the TextMate syntax color coolness. I consider the TextMate Monokai theme is really fancy and interesting, but alas, there is no TextMate for Windows nor Linux.

Then now I have a MacBook, my text editor of choice is.. TextWrangler.

It’s created by the company who created BBEdit, one of the most famous text editor for Mac, and it’s free. For me it’s my Notepad++ in Mac.

Office

If you are a Microsoft Office user, I tried the Office 2008 for Mac and unfortunately it doesn’t come close to even Office 2007 for Microsoft Windows. That’s why when I need Office applications, I rather use my school’s library Windows PCs.

But if you’ve already get used to OpenOffice, there is a Mac OS X version for that and it’s just neat. In fact I prefer the OpenOffice than Office 2008 if I’m using my laptop.

Hardware and Looks

Lookwise, the Apple MacBook Pro is simply cool. It maybe very common here in US, but it still wows your friend when you take it out of your laptop bag.

Don’t be fooled by it’s outer look, it’s actually a beast inside. Maybe not the kind you can use for 3D gaming, but it’s the kind that can handle more than all your everyday needs.

Its battery lasts longer than most of laptop I know. The website says it can last for 10 hours, but we all know that’s only marketing joke. However it can lasts more than 5 hours depending on the use. Wireless internet and video streaming consumes a lot of energy and can dramatically shorten it’s battery power, but it still about twice longer than the other laptops’ battery duration.

The Mac OS X

When I see people who use Microsoft Windows as their primary operating system in the MacBook, I pity them. They have paid so much for their MacBook, which in part is for the Mac OS X, and they still choose to use Windows.

I have no bias against Windows, I’ve been a Windows users myself  since I was 8 years old and I believe Windows is good for certain type of job (read: office jobs). It’s just that it can’t beat Mac OS X when it comes to stability because the Mac OS X is based on Darwin, a Unix.

Simply put, Mac OS X is a mix of the best of both world. It has the great stability of a Unix and the user friendliness of a Windows. Although you may argue that some distros of Linux has both trait also, they still aren’t as beautiful as Mac OS X, sorry.

Downside

Allright, allright, I don’t just want to boast all the good aspects of MacBook Pro. There should be some downside too for this review to be objective enough. Well, so far here are some of the downside of the gadget:

1. It still crash (at least the applications)

Never believe when a Mac fan tells you that a Mac doesn’t crash. Mac OS X is a software and the universal law of a software is… they will crash sooner or later. Although so far the OS haven’t crash yet, I had two experience when the Firefox in my laptop crashed.

2. Lack of USB ports

The 13″ MBP only gives you 2 USB ports. I don’t know what is the reason, but if you want more USB ports you need to buy the 17″ Mac Book Pro.

3. Applications are not as many as of Windows

I know maybe I sound like I contradicted what I’ve said in the beginning of this post, but that’s the fact. Apple users should live and use whatever applications that are available for them, and these applications may not be as good as the applications that are available in Windows.

4. Need to install virtual machine to develop Windows app

Since this review is written for programmers, I just want to remind you that if you are developing .NET applications, you need to install virtual machine to do that. That means that you will need to share some of the RAM and Disk Space for the guest OS.

5. If it crashed, it may not be easy to get it fixed

The best thing about PCs with Windows is it’s easy to recover and re-install. I suppose Microsoft knows that their OS crashes a lot so they made it also easy to re-install the OS. For Apple Mac OS X, I’m not sure it would be that easy. Plus, there are less people who are familiar with Mac, so the only way to save your computer is probably to bring it to the Apple Service Center.

Conclusion

Some of you maybe don’t read all my babblings above and just skip to this conclusion immediately to know what I have to say in the end about the Apple MacBook Pro. Oh well, that’s fair enough cause sometimes I also do that when I read other people’s review.

For all the goodness and some badness of the laptop, I would say..

Go buy it! (but after you read the MacRumor Buyer’s guide for the best time)

The laptop is a great laptop for programmer. It can make you looks cool even though you’re not (bad joke), it’s powerful, it has great battery life, and it can handle all your demands to create the software you want.


Author: Trijito Santoso

I’m Trijito Santoso, a Seventh-Day Adventist, a medical technology graduate, and a software developer. The reason why I shifted from medical technology to computer science is because I love to create things (design, software, articles, anything), and being a software developer allows me to create things everyday. I’m currently studying Master of Science in Computer Science at Northeastern University, Boston. My Google Profile+

9 thoughts on “Apple MacBook Pro 13 Inch Review (for Programmer)”

  1. @Si Mbah,

    LOL.. 😀
    you’re right, I should have bought several and resell them in Indonesia separately with the iPod Touches and HP Printers..

    Anyway, just wait for the new MacBook this summer 2011 with their new Mac OS X Lion and FaceTime capability, then just buy one. 😀

  2. i’m with you dude,
    Mac OSX is simply beautiful.
    dunno whether i am bored of using windows or linux (let say ubuntu 😀 ) every day or it is just the truth.
    whatever it is, i’m glad that Snow Leo can be installed on my lappie thought there are some hardwares that didn’t work
    when my tohbisa stop workin, i’ll get one of those 😉

  3. you forgot to mention ipod nano there dude. as far as i know, it’s still counted as apple device 😛

    and, if you don’t wanna gettin yourself troubled by re-installing osx, just use carbon copy cloner, it’s easy to use man 🙂

    1. @gandos,

      Hahaha.. you’re right, I missed the nano.

      Thanks, I’ll check the carbon copy cloner. As of now, I’m using the Time Machine. 😀

  4. So, how is the 13” display as far as programming goes? Does it hold out?

    I’m thinking about getting one, but if the 13” is too small to program in adequately, I may get the 15”.

    Let me know! Thanks.

    Chris

    1. @Chris, I think this will be a subjective choice.
      I know sometimes I wish a larger screen, but that will also mean heavier machine. I usually set the font to smaller size to fit more lines. 😀

  5. hii . i jus read your review about the macbook pro. and i liked it a lot .

    im looking forward to buy the macbook pro retina 15inch one .

    i want to develop apps using it

    your opinion about my decision ?

    how easy or hard would it be for me to successfully develop the app using pro 15inch .

    any advantages / disadvantages ?

    thank you 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *