Post updated February 26th, 2016 at 05:27 pm
I used to be a Windows-only guy. If you asked me a few months back if I would ever get a MacBook over any Windows laptop, I would’ve glared at you…intensely. Never in my lifetime would I imagine using a MacBook as my daily driver.
All of that went out the window (pun intended) after spending some time with my 13-inch MacBook Pro.
For the past few months, I have used numerous Windows Ultrabooks. While each of them impressed me in one way or another, I wasn’t satisfied. Every one of them had something that just wasn’t up to par. The Surface 3 didn’t have the processing power I needed; neither did the Asus UX305. The Lenovo U41 was plenty good for the money you pay for it, but the screen was pretty disappointing. The Dell XPS 13, often hailed one of the best Windows laptops, was close – but there was just something that didn’t feel like the perfect laptop for me.
The Dell XPS 13.
However, after spending a good month or so with my 13-inch MacBook Pro, I began to realise that it is more than just a status symbol; it’s one hell of a machine for work purposes. As I used the device and learn more about it, there are various aspects of the machine itself and Mac OS X that are just superior to Windows counterparts. I never knew what was all the fuss was about the MacBooks’ superiority; now I do.
I have never used Mac OS X before in my life.
That’s right. I grew up never having the chance to use a Mac, and for me a PC meant it ran Windows. The only interaction I’ve had with a MacBook was whenever I happen to be in an Apple store, and that’s about it. Always, the prevailing thought at the time was that while the MacBook Pro and Air were really handsome products, they just seemed to be overpriced. Now that I was offered the chance to use one, it’s safe to say I have a lot of learning – and re-learning – to do.
The first thing I noticed when I booted up my MacBook Pro was the absolutely stunning 2560 x 1600 Retina display. The fact that it’s a 16:10 display means there is more vertical space as well, which is a godsend on a 13.3-inch display. Yes, the Dell XPS 13 has a much sharper display compared to the Pro, but here’s the thing: Windows’ text scaling isn’t as good as OS X.
Basically, in order to ensure that text on a high resolution display is legible, the operating system has to scale the text accordingly. With Windows, it’s not uncommon to see blurry text as they are basically magnified. On top of that, programs that do not scale properly will have ridiculously tiny fonts that are impossible to read (unless you’re Ant Man or something). As a result, Windows on a high resolution display just doesn’t look as polished as it should be.
OS X, on the other hand, handles text scaling much better. Text on programs such as Safari, Google Chrome, and Finder (which is OS X’s equivalent of File Explorer in Windows) are crisp and sharp. The best part is: I don’t have to do anything. It just works. (There, I said it.)
While we’re on the topic of OS X, I love how simple it is to install programs. I simply have to download the appropriate file and drag it to the applications folder. This is ridiculously simple compared to Windows.
I couldn’t figure out how to shut it down.
But then, I stumbled upon my first stumbling block: how do I shut down my MacBook?
I kid you not, this was a genuine question I asked myself. It was hard to get used to the fact that there’s no Start button of any kind. Just when I was about to do a quick Google search, I decided to look around the desktop first. That’s when I found out that the tiny Apple icon at the top left is OS X’s equivalent of a Start button.
Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of my struggles. After all, it’s not easy to get accustomed to a new operating system. Next on my list of stumbling blocks: getting used to the new keyboard shortcuts.
As a Windows user, I instinctively use the Alt + Tab (well, Command + Tab in this case) keyboard shortcut to switch between programs, and sure enough, it works. Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that OS X shares with Windows (as far as I can tell). Ctrl + A does not select all of the text in a field, and same goes for the classic Ctrl + C or V to copy and paste.
Normally, I’d resort to doing a Google search, but I wanted to see just how much I could learn without doing so. After fidgeting around with the keyboard, I found out that the Command key is basically the equivalent of Ctrl in OS X. Essentially, Command + C or V is the all-important copy and paste shortcut.
Curious as to what other shortcuts I might be missing, I caved in and did a Google search anyway. The plethora of new shortcuts were slightly overwhelming, such as Command + Spacebar to summon Spotlight Search (which is amazing to find anything) and Command + Shift + 3 to take a screenshot.
There’s definitely a learning curve to using OS X for the first time. It took me about a week or so to start using the operating system effectively. Once I had settled in the new surroundings, I was working as fast as I was able to with a Windows machine. Initially I thought I’d be wanting to go back to the familiarity of Windows after struggling with OS X, but surprisingly, that didn’t happen.
The trackpad is ridiculously good.
What makes the MacBook Pro (or any MacBook for that matter) such a great laptop is its trackpad. The early 2015 Pro that I have comes equipped with the new Force Touch trackpad. Physically, it’s the same as previous iterations; the difference lies underneath it.
Just like the trackpad on the new MacBook, there are no moving parts. Instead, it takes advantage of a haptic feedback system that simulates a click. To put it simply, the experience is incredibly good. It feels just like a regular clicking trackpad, and that’s a huge deal (to me anyway). Thanks to this, clicking at the top or bottom of the trackpad requires the same amount of force. Traditional trackpads usually require more force to click at the top.
This new trackpad also introduced a new feature called Force Click. Essentially, it’s a second, “deeper” click after the initial one. As of now, the practical uses are limited as this feature is app-dependent. In the case of Safari, a Force Click on a word would give me a dictionary meaning. It also gives me a Wikipedia definition.
Other than that this new addition, the trackpad is as reliable as ever. It tracks my fingers accurately (much more accurate than other Windows laptops, if I might add), and the plethora of trackpad gestures that do a whole suite of different things – such as swiping up with four fingers to reveal active programs or “Mission Control” – is amazing. This is one laptop I don’t see the need to attach a mouse to, and that really speaks volumes as to how good the trackpad is.
The keyboard, however, didn’t impress me as much as the trackpad did. While the keys have a decent amount of travel, it is not the best laptop keyboard that I’ve used. Some will be surprised by this (like most of my colleagues), but the MSI GS30’s keyboard is still my personal favourite.
How do I uninstall programs?
After using my MacBook Pro for a few weeks, I have several programs that I would like to remove. Normally, I’d just fire up Control Panel on Windows and uninstall programs from there. With OS X, however, I don’t have a single idea. None.
Not willing to resort to doing yet another Google search, I tried to figure it out on my own. I opened the Applications page (which I found using Spotlight Search) and right-clicked on several programs to see if I can uninstall it that way. Nope, didn’t work – “right-clicking” isn’t even as easy as it sounds; Apple has a support page dedicated to “Control-click“. Using the ever-reliable Spotlight Search and keying in “uninstall” didn’t yield any useful information either.
Feeling hopelessly lost and questioning my job security, I opened up Safari and Googled away; only to find out that I simply had to drag any program to the trash and clear it to uninstall said program.
I felt incredibly dumb at this point.
I was dumbstruck by how easy it was to uninstall programs. It never occurred to me that it was just as easy to uninstall programs as it was to install them in the first place. How is this so intuitively easy and yet I failed to see it?!
Speaking of programs, I tried to do something that OS X was seemingly isn’t built to do: gaming. Feeling optimistic of the Intel Iris Graphics 6100 under the hood of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, I installed Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on it. I was quickly disappointed by how poorly the game ran.
“Gaming shouldn’t be your main concern with a MacBook.”
With every single video setting turned down to the minimum and the resolution set at 2048 x 1280, the game was unplayable. Only when I set the resolution down to 825 x 525 it ran satisfactorily. Even then, screen tearing was prevalent, not to mention the fact that it felt like I was playing CS: Minecraft or something.
Okay, Counter-Strike isn’t exactly the least-demanding game to run, so I also installed Hearthstone. For the most part, the game ran really well, but it’s not without any issues. If I played more than a few games, the game would eventually display “rainbow effects”, and eventually crash after exhibiting this graphical glitch.
If you want to game on OS X, it’s safe to say you can forget about it. For a consumer, there isn’t a satisfactory answer that best explains this phenomenon, other than “Windows runs games better and are more optimised”. This is actually my main gripe with MacBooks. Why can’t I game on a laptop that costs me so much money?
It’s the perfect laptop for work purposes.
The answer to this question lies in its purpose: it’s not made to game. Instead, it does everything else really, really well. It’s the perfect work laptop. For one thing, it has a ridiculously long battery life.
Apple claims that the 13-inch MacBook Pro can last up to 10 hours on a single charge. While I didn’t specifically measure how long it lasts for me, I can easily get through a typical work day on battery power alone. That’s easily more than nine hours worth of writing, social media sharing, and even surfing the web for news. Okay, and the occasional round of Hearthstone. I can even leave my charger in the office and not worry about running out of battery over the weekend. That’s insane, and literally changes the way I think about a laptop.
Another reason why it’s the perfect laptop for work is the fact that I can re-open active windows whenever I shut it down. I can just leave tabs open on Safari or my incomplete review in Pages (OS X’s equivalent of Microsoft Word) and get right back at them when I boot the laptop back up. This is incredibly useful to make sure that I never miss anything whenever I need to get away from the MacBook.
The MacBook Pro is not cheap, but so are the competition.
One of the main reasons why Apple products are criticised so much is their high asking prices. In the case of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, however, I feel it’s justified. Yes, it’s not cheap, but so are the best Windows laptops.
Let’s take the Dell XPS 13 as an example, seeing how it’s often lauded as one of the best consumer Windows Ultrabooks in the market today. For a fair comparison, I’ll take the most affordable model with the QHD+ (3200 x 1800) display, which goes for a hefty RM5,599. For that amount of money, the XPS 13 offers a sharper, touch-enabled display, 256GB of SSD storage, and a smaller footprint than the 13-inch MacBook Pro, thanks to the almost borderless Infinity Display.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro that I have, on the other hand, costs RM4,769, which is RM830 cheaper than the XPS 13. As trade-offs, I’m getting a slightly bigger and heavier laptop, half the SSD storage (albeit it’s a much faster PCIe SSD), and a lower resolution non-touch display. For RM830 less, I’ll happily accept these sacrifices.
Of course, there are many other Windows laptops out there that are worthy competitors to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but not many can offer the same package as the Pro. Its trackpad is unrivalled, the display looks stunning thanks to OS X’s superior text scaling compared to Windows, and the battery life is almost unmatched. It also uses an Intel Core i processor instead of a Core M like many other Windows Ultrabooks such as the Asus UX305 and Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro.
Here’s an interesting truth: I almost went for a 13-inch MacBook Air before deciding to invest more for the Pro. In my eyes, I reckon I’m getting a lot more value for my money. The most affordable 13-inch Air goes for RM3,709, which is RM1,060 cheaper than the base Pro. For that amount of difference, however, the Pro offers a lot of upgrades. These include a superior Retina display, twice the amount of RAM, a more powerful processor, and a smaller footprint (yes, the Pro is actually smaller in terms of dimension than the Air). Collectively, I think the Pro is a better buy than the Air even with the jump in retail price, unless the slightly slimmer and lighter design of the Air are of utmost importance.
Will I go back to Windows? Definitely; but only for certain reasons.
The big question is: will I ever go back to Windows? Of course. There’s no reason not to – being flexible in the platforms I use also makes me better at my job. Windows is the best operating system to game on, and with the arrival of Windows 10, there’s a whole suite of improvements that I have yet to experience.
However, whether or not I will switch back to a Windows laptop in the near future is an entirely different question. I have a gaming rig running an Insider build of Windows 10, and it’s good enough to satiate my gaming needs. When I need get some work done, I wouldn’t hesitate to switch to the MBP.
The battery life is insanely good, the trackpad is an absolute bliss to use, and the Retina display is simply too good to pass on. I have yet to run Windows 10 on a high resolution display, but I’ve a feeling that text scaling on Windows 10 isn’t any better than previous iterations of the operating system.
Those are merely some of the reasons why I’ll stick with my MacBook Pro as a laptop. OS X just generally offers a different experience than Windows, and I’m all up for a change. After all, I’ve been using Windows all my life, so why not give OS X a chance? I’m still learning new tricks with it even after spending a good month or so with the operating system.
On top of that, I have yet to fully explore the programs that are native to OS X, such as Pages and iMovie. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what else OS X has to offer. For now, I will only go back to Windows for my gaming needs. OS X has my attention for everything else.