Chimps hands, tiny keyboards, and the end of the world as you know it

So in case you hadn’t picked up on this already I’m a tech guy. I like to play with gadgets, thing-a-mabobs, and doohickeys of all shapes, sizes, and creeds. I like to dip my technological toes in many different waters. Until recently though I had shied away from Apple products, not because of a hatred for them, as some people may believe, but mainly because of price. I have always (and still do) think that Apple products are over priced for what they are. I cannot deny that Apple makes beautiful products. They have some of the best industrial design I have ever seen, but the look of a device has always played second fiddle in my book, however I digress so let me get back on track. I recently found myself in possession of not 1 but 2 Apple products. For Christmas my boss gave my a shiny new 64GB iPhone 4s for Verizon, and then later that same week told me to order myself a pimped out Macbook Pro laptop. So who am I to argue; the boss wants me to have a an iPhone (because he has one and needs someone to help him out on occasion) and a Mac laptop to support the pool of users here who have those as their main PC; yes the Mac is a PC because PC stands for Personal Computer. To that end, this article will be about my experience thus far with both of these devices. I will try to keep it brief and do a simple Pro vs Con type of review of both. Ready for it? Good Here we go.

The iPhone 4s:

This is a gorgeous piece of industrial design, suitable for display in a gallery or museum. It is a solid little brick of a phone with good heft and hand feel. It has a simple look and clean lines that the minimalist in me finds appealing. The display is glossy and a and the face and back are composed entirely of glass, but you should know all this stuff, so I’ll get into my pros and cons lists.

Pros:

  1. Design: the clean industrial look and feel are nice, though the single button bugs me, but that said it works.
  2. Rear Camera: The 8Mp camera is fast, nearly lag free shutter, and takes great pictures. It does well as a camcorder taking HD video as well
  3. Physical switch for vibrate: Call me old fashioned, I like a physical switch for switching between noisy and shush modes on my phone
  4. Battery life: I use my phone pretty heavily, work email, personal email, games, surfing, tweeting etc. after about a week of subpar battery life it settled itself and now I can get 12 or so hours out of it.
  5. App Grouping: Folders on the main screen are nice, they allow me to organize my crap into neat little pockets of relatedness, yes I said relatedness.
  6. iMessage: I liked BBM when I had a Blackberry, I like iMessage to communicate with my friends overseas who have iPhones. No silly international costs to send a text.
  7. Email setup: it is dead easy to setup all your email accounts on this device, including Microsoft Exchange.

So that’s my list of things I like about the iPhone 4s, naturally I have to have a list of things I do not like so here it is.

Cons:

  1. Screen Size: sure it looks pretty with it’s high res specs and all but it’s easy to make things look good with the size of the screen is tiny. I HATE, yes I said hate how small the screen is. I understand all the discussions about scaling apps to use bigger screens and all that hoohah but this is 2012, a 3.5″ screen is pathetic for a smart phone.
  2. Keyboard: on Android I used an awesome keyboard called Swiftkey X. I could use any number of keyboards that suited my liking or needs on Android, on the iPhone I get one, that’s it, no choice in the matter. I get one tiny little keyboard that I cannot type on. It takes me at least 2x as long to type out messages on the iPhone because I have chimp hands, and everyone knows chimps have big arse thumbs. I find myself mashing 2-4 keys at any given time, and while the autocorrect feature on the iPhone is good, it cannot compete with my gigantor thumbs.
  3. iTunes requirement: Oh I can hear you already, “You don’t need iTunes anymore” Bullshit. When I had an Android phone I could plug it in to my PC and copy or remove files from it like any other USB drive. Not so with the iPhone. You want to add music to it? You need iTunes. Add pictures or video to it? yep iTunes. Sideload an app to it? Yeah forget about it unless you jailbreak it. Total Bullshit.
  4. Home screen folders: Yep I said I liked em up above but guess what, I dislike the fact that you can only put 9 items in them. That is crap. Apparently there should never be more than 9 apps that that I should ever need in any given category.
  5. Non-removable battery: Sure it get’s good battery life, but I still want the option to replace it my damned self. If I ever need to replace the battery I have to ship this damned thing off to some undisclosed location and have someone else do that, again I call BS. Give me the option to replace it myself without voiding my warranty.
  6. Non-replaceable launcher: Again this is a niggle that relates to having had Android. If I didn’t like the stock app launcher, I could replace it with any number of 3rd party options.
  7. Lack of Profiles: On Android I had different profiles setup for my sounds depending on my circumstances. Outdoors? Everything cranked to 100%. In the office? everything at 30%. In a meeting? Hello vibrate only. On the iPhone? you get either sounds on or vibrate that’s it.
  8. One hardware button: Again this is a niggle that carries over from Android. I liked having multiple buttons to perform single or dual functions as opposed to a single button that serves multiple purposes. I liked having a back button, a home button, a context menu button and a dedicated search button. iOS needs to copy that from Android ICS and ditch the one physical button for the onscreen ones.

OK I have listed my likes and grievances for the iPhone 4s. Now let’s move on to the Macbook pro.

To give you a little context here are the specs for my MBP:

  • Quad core 2.5GHz i7 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 512GB SSD
  • 17″ 1080p matte screen
  • AMD/ATI Radeon 6770m video
  • Dual boot OS X Lion and Win7 Ultimate

I know that there are different camps when it comes to the way to run Windows on a Mac. Some people like running it as a virtual machine and others like the Bootcamp option. I am the latter, not the former. Running Windows in a virtual machine is fine for most things, but I intend to use this machine as my one and only machine. That means I will be doing some gaming on it under Windows, so a virtual machine is out because I want true hardware acceleration for that. If all you are going to do under windows is run productivity apps for work, then yes a VM is the way to do it.

So here we are I have a spiffy MBP boot-camped and loaded up Windows 7, which will be what I use it for mainly. I can hear the groans and lamentations of the Apple fans out there. Sorry but I don’t care for the OS X interface, or the fact that most of my programs don’t have a Mac version. I live in a mainly Windows world, I work in a mainly Windows world.  With that in mind I will present my Pros and Cons lists and will designate which are for Windows or OS X explicitly.

Pros:

  1. Design: Again Apple has their design down pat. the Macbook Pro is a spectacle to behold. Clean lines, impeccable grooming, great profile.
  2. Weight: My MBP weighs in at 6.6 pounds not bad for a 17″ behemoth of a machine. it is about 1 pound lighter than my HP Envy 17, which is nice.
  3. Matte screen: I wish more manufacturers would give this option. Sure I had to choose to have a matte screen but none the less I had the option. Having a glossy screen is great if there are no outside light sources that can muck up your viewing. In my world there are errant light sources everywhere. Having a matte screen helps to negate their effect on my viewing experience
  4. Keyboard: The chiclet style keyboard has decent travel and makes a nice reassuring click when your press on the keys. Seeing as the MBP is a unibody device the keys come up through the body and the keyboard has a solid feel to it.
  5. Unibody frame: The solid aluminum body of the MBP gives it a great rigid feel that adds to the solid feel of the device. It flexes very little and I can carry it while holding only a corner of the device while the display is open and not worry about it bending or feeling like it will break.
  6. Magsafe Power plug: This is something all notebook makers should adopt. I have tripped over my fair share of power cords and damaged either the adapter, the laptop or both in the process. This has to be one of the greatest innovations for a laptop ever.
  7. Battery life – OS X: Because it switches between the dedicated & embedded graphics adapters automagically you can get good battery life out of this 17″ monster under OS X. It’s no where near the 7+ hours apple claims, but I have gotten 5 hours out of it, which is decent.
  8. Trackpad: I admit, I thought I would hate the trackpad and it’s lack of buttons, but I don’t. It works well and once you get used to using multiple fingers for the right click and such it is a decent feature. I like it equally as well in Windows as I do in OS X.

Now for my list of

Cons:

  1. Non-removable battery: Yep, I hate that I cannot replace it myself. if I run out of juice away from an outlet I’m hosed. This has to be the dumbest feature ever in a laptop device.
  2. Battery life – Windows: Because Apple doesn’t want Windows to perform as well as OS X on their hardware They hide the embedded graphics adapter from Windows. This means all you get to use is the dedicated card, which sucks the battery life to about 3 hours under windows. C’mon Apple, lighten up and let us switch between the two.
  3. No Delete Key – Windows: Oh sure there is a key labled Delete on the keyboard, but it is the backspace key, not the actual delete key. and through their bootcamp trickery you can use it to logon to the machine under windows but if I’m editing text I like to use the delete key to remove items that precede others.
  4. No hard drive activity light: Call me old school, but I like to know when my drive is being accessed, sometimes I like to look to see if my drive being accessed is teh reason for a bottleneck in performance. Not easy to do if there is no indicator for drive activity.
  5. That Big, Obnoxious Lighted Apple on the cover: I hate illuminated logos on the cover of my laptop. I have the same beef with my HP Envy. Put your logo on the device, sure that’s cool, but don’t have it lit up like a damned bat signal. Give me a way to turn that blazing eyesore off.
  6. Brushed Aluminum body: Yep the same thing that gives the MBP a solid feel is also a pain in the ass. It scratches too easily and gets marred up. It looks pretty at first but you have to treat it with kid gloves, unless you want to get a cover for it. Mine will get marred and scratched, much top the chagrin of Apple fanboys everywhere.
  7. No USB 3: I bought this MBP in December, USB 3 has been out fro a while now, heck I have it on my Envy which is over 18 months old. Sad Apple, just plain sad.
  8. No Bluray: Again my Envy has this but Apple has deemed it unworthy. Give me the option to make that choice.
  9. No AD2P Profile: I use Bluetooth headsets for many of my audio requirements on a PC (Again Person Computer, and yes a Mac is a PC) but the MBP Bluetooth adapter seemingly has an aversion to AD2P profiles for my BT headset. Under both OS X and Windows my trusty Backbeat headset will not work properly. I works as a fully functional headset with my Envy, but not the MBP.

So that’s my take on the Macbook Pro.

What have we learned here today? Well you learned that despite what people my say I do not hate Apple products, though I have my own list of issues with them.  The iPhone is not the be all end all that the hype machines would have you believe but it by no means a phone that should overlooked in your quest for a device you like. It is a solid device and for a great number of people it would be a perfect fit. Is it the ultimate in devices?  In my opinion, no. It has it’s pluses and it’s minuses; overall I’d say it’s a mediocre device. and while it may be perfectly fine for a large number of people it is not for me. In fact I will be getting a new phone when my contract comes due in March.

We also learned that I like the Macbook Pro. It is a decent machine. It performs well as a Windows rig. In fact After doing some bechmarking (cinebench and geek desk) it actually performs better as a Windows rig then it does as an OS X rig. It scored lower than my 18 month old Envy 17 but not by much. Given that I can run both OS X and Windows on it without some convoluted hacking solution  it is a great device for my need to support both operating systems. There are are some oversights that I would like to see corrected but I know that won’t be so I will have to suck it up and cope.  I still think it the MBP was overpriced for what it is, but the fact that I can use it to support all my users makes the premium something I can overlook. Like I said earlier OS X is not my cup of tea, but I can see it’s appeal. It’s simplistic feel and cheery vibe is great for a whole demographic of non-techy people out there. Overall I’d give the Macbook pro an B+/A-. It’s a decent all around machine.

There you have it.

Rob