Can a laptop be faster, more beautiful, and clearer?


Picture the scene.

Regents Street Apple Store in London, 8pm on a glorious summers evening. The store is crammed with customers, Apple fans and those just there to marvel at the shiny shiny.

If you look closely, there is me, standing next to the MacBook Pro lines…. trying to decide, Retina, or no Retina screen?

2 years of having a savings account with the title “LAPTOP” are there persuading me that really, if I am going to buy a laptop, I should buy the best I possibly can.

And with a wave of the debit card, my latest purchase is in a white Apple bag. The most expensive single item I have ever purchased outright in my life, and I’m left on a complete purchasing high for the hour or so trip back to the hotel on the underground. I manage to sneak a peek into the box when there is no-one else in one of the carriages, only I get to look at this beauty!

Back in the hotel room, it is almost like opening a lifetime achievement award, only better. It looks like a single solid block of aluminium, and then the screen opens so perfectly, with just the right amount of resistance. And what a screen.

Power button, delicately pressed.

If this was Windows, I would be waiting for about a minute, but there it is, before I can count to 2 in my head I am being bid “Welcome”. I can already tell I am in for a treat with the screen even though it is only grey at the moment. It is clearer than you can possibly imagine, and when you put it next to any other laptop you realise just how good it really is.

Whoops, its midnight, and I am still experimenting with settings, my entire iTunes library already synced and playing. MineCraft experiment tried, and finding that it is brilliant for that too!

The next day I go to work, and being a sensible sort take the new MacBook along, only to discover at my first meeting that I can power it up in under 4 seconds and shut it down in less than 1, so I take great glee in doing this 8 times before the Head of IT’s brand new Sony Vaio laptop manages to get to the blurry Windows log on screen.

7 1/2 hours of use later, the battery is reading 18% remaining, so to give it a real test I don’t bother charging it when back at the hotel and use it to type up notes for an additional 46 minutes before I get an alert that I really should put it on charge.

In my job as an IT consultant I get asked constantly about new laptops, and I have always replied that you really get what you pay for, but now I have a personal experience of this exactly. I could have spent one tenth of the amount of money that I spent on this laptop and got a plasticy, slow, noisy beast of a laptop that would probably last a few months before being either sold on or passed on to one of my children to use to do nothing but play flash-based games on.

My last Dell Inspiron laptop which in its day was top of the range and cost at the time a scary £1200 lasted for almost 4 years. It started off in the world of Windows Xp, survived Vista and still just about runs Windows 7 after CPU upgrade, Memory upgrade and a larger, faster hard disk. Total spend on extras: £800.

So I guess the real test for my MacBook Pro Retina is this: If £2000 of laptop lasted almost 4 years, will £3000 of laptop last past the 5 year mark? I’m hoping so, and I hope to be back here in 5 years time writing that yes, it really is still good, and still running as well. Only time will tell.

3 months on, I am pleased to report that it is not only still running well, but still boots in under 5 seconds, even with running Parallels and loading a full Windows 7 installation to enable me to use Visual Studio on the laptop. Its so fast that I am giving serious consideration to making my laptop my primary work machine, with two Thunderbolt displays currently residing on my iMac being used for additional screen estate.

More than 1 year on I am still loving the MacBook Pro. Its been through a rough year, with an entire cup of coffee draining into on the keyboard in a restaurant and having to be washed under the tap to remove it (but thankfully still working perfectly). It developed a single dead pixel just left of Centre of the screen in July 2013, but a quick trip to the Apple Store in Belfast and they replaced the whole screen under warranty (yes, Apple customer service is still exemplary).

Update: 2018 – after 6 years of daily use and gaming, I have just replaced the MacBook Pro with the new MacBook Pro 15″ with touch-bar. The original MacBook Pro is still running, but was starting to feel rather slow, especially when connected to 2 thunderbolt screens in the office. It’s still in daily Monday-Friday use by work placement students in our office and also still runs Minecraft and League Of Legends with ease, but the fan does come on and is considerably louder than it was when new.

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