MacBook Pro as a Desktop – Initial Observations

Without doubt the MacBook Pro is a very competent and powerful piece of kit.  Yes it can do everything I believe you need from a computer and I am almost convinced that it could be a realistic replacement for the desktop – ALMOST.

Processing power – I can see no difference.  It has enough grunt to do whatever you need.  I can see no difference from my Quad Core iMac.  Does it all easily.

My external monitors are running ok – Not 100% happy and still trying to experiment with it.  The second monitor is running through a USB2 Displaylink adapter.  I am mainly using this monitor for web based applications, windows virtual machines and things that don’t use a great amount of video horsepower.  It is still able to drive live video ok.  I am not sure if the display card in the MacBook Pro I purchased does not have enough memory to drive the monitors but it is usable for business purposes.  I have not tried it with any games as yet.  Passes muster but still looking for improvement options.

Looking at the how I use my system the most obvious advantage I have found is the portability.  Being able to take the MacBook Pro to where I want, to do they type of work (use) I am putting it to, is great.  Whilst the 15.4″ MacBook is not small it is still very portable for use while having the coffee or sitting in the garden.  I can notice the difference between it and the size of my wife’s 13″ model.  It is quite amazing what the extra size makes in regard to portability but the extra screen real estate is worth it.  Obviously the type of use dictates my location.  When you come to moving lots of data you just can’t go past an ethernet connection.

Doing this post whilst sitting in the garden having a coffee is just great.  Sitting with the family and being able to work is also a real benefit.

The downside is really to do with when working at my desk.  Once connected everything is almost the same experience.  The key thing here is once connected.  It is a royal pain connecting everything.  Power, ethernet, Apple Display, USB Display, USB 3 hub and finally speakers.  Whats that …. 6 cables.  I have to try and figure out how to fix this up.

The MacBook Pro sits on a Twelve South BookArc Pro.  Great stand getting the unit out of BookArchthe way and it looks awesome with the MacBook sitting on it.  The trouble is with this setup and my desk is getting the cables hooked up (perhaps I need to do a post on my desk).  Anyway whilst the cables are a problem the biggie is turning the unit on once it is shutdown.  Not an easy button to press like on the desktop models.  You have to life the unit out of the cradle with the cables all connected open it up far enough to get to the power switch (which is located right up near the hinge) to turn it on.  This is a real pain and it would be an issue with all units that store the MacBook closed.  Not so much of an issue if you have the other styles of stands which allow you to have the screen on display.  I have chosen not to go down this path as I have two external monitors and no space for the MacBook Pro to be open.  I need it closed.  Perhaps I need to learn to just use sleep instead of powering it off.

External peripherals are all connected via a USB3 hub and I am not finding many issues here, apart from trying to remember to eject the USB3 devices before grabbing the laptop from the desk.  Speed wise the USB3 devices are great.  Far better than the Firewire connections I was using previously.  I would suggest that a large powered hub is essential.  The more ports the better.  The use of USB3 hard drives, performance wise, is great though I have not had to do a large transfer from USB3 device to USB3 device (talking terabytes here) yet.

Right at the start I said almost.  My almost is simply about the ease of movement from laptop to desktop configuration.  It needs to be easy and neat.  That power button and I hate cables being everywhere.  So I am now on the outlook for something to ease my cable burden, probably utilising the Thunderbolt port.  That will leave me with only two cables to attach – Power and Thunderbolt.

There is no doubt that putting a laptop system together to replace a desktop alternative is more costly.  When looking at the current prices of both alternatives there is some significant difference.  Thank heavens I went for a second hand unit and upgraded it.  Monitors and other peripherals are not that expensive now, but it all adds up – boy does it add up.  If you like your computing then I have to say …. yes, it is worth the cost.  Throw that desktop system away and replace it with a laptop. That’s todays opinion anyway.

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