Apple MacBook Pro 13″ Unibody

By on June 23, 2009
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Back to My Mac. Thats the name of Apple’s Mobile Me component that allows you to access your Mac remotely. However, I’m using the sentence more or less in its literal form as I switched my notebook back to a Mac after spending six months with the Sony VAIO and Windows 7. Its not because [...]

Back to My Mac. Thats the name of Apple’s Mobile Me component that allows you to access your Mac remotely. However, I’m using the sentence more or less in its literal form as I switched my notebook back to a Mac after spending six months with the Sony VAIO and Windows 7. Its not because I felt my VAIO/Windows 7 combo was less powerful or buggy- I’m just more comfortable on a Mac and the new 13.3″ MacBook Pro easily lured me back.


I picked up the 2.53GHz model which retails for AED 7000 compared to the 2.26GHz model which is 1400 Dirhams cheaper. I’m generally a DIY kind of guy picking cheaper machines and beefing them up myself but the reason I picked up the higher-end model was simply because I found a buyer for my VAIO. Regardless, I wasnt interested in the hard drive capacity which is 120GB vs 250GB as I was going to replace it with my Intel X25-M SSD. DDR3-1066 RAM was going to cost an additional 400 Dirhams to bump from 2GB to 4GB so I basically paid 1,000 Dirhams for the CPU upgrade. Not so smart but I wont have to think about how much faster the extra 266MHz would feel like for the rest of my MBP’s life.

As of all Mac notebooks of recent, the 13.3″ MBP is based on the nVidia 9400GM chipset which is an integrated chipset as it utilizes 256MB of your onboard RAM. However, dont let the “integrated” part fool you which has traditionally been associated with slower Intel models. The 9400GM is an extremely capable GPU and handles everyday tasks thrown at it with elegance. About the only time you will see it hiccup is playing GPU intensive games or using Final Cut kind of apps (or so they say.) Since my computer gaming is limited to World of Warcraft and the only video-editing I do is restricted to copying and uploading videos from my Flip to You Tube, I don’t have any issue with the GPU.


Rounding the specs off, you have the iSight, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB ports, mini-display port, firewire 800, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and an SD card slot which took Apple five years to figure out. Coming from the Sony Z series, these specs are somewhat expected for any notebook I’d buy. While we’re on the subject of my Z series, there are two things that I will miss. The first is the gorgeous 1600×900 matte display which makes the MBP’s 1280×800 Ultra Glossy display seem a bit underwhelming. Sure, the super glossy screen on the MBP makes the colors look richer- but only when I’m not sitting close to a light source behind me. I’ve found myself adjusting the screen angle more than once to remove lights shining on the screen.

The second thing that I miss is the weight of my Z series which is about half a kg lighter. It might not seem much on paper but when you’re dragging it around airports or events, it adds up. I dont know why Apple couldn’t have shed half a pound or so from the MBP- after all they have Engineered the Air. Speaking of weight, the Sony Z series had a funny habit of getting the whole notebook lifted when I tried to open the screen with one hand- and then it would drop the base of the unit back on the surface. The MBP doesn’t do that but is harder to open with one hand.

Looks-wise, the MBP is a killer- its a beautiful notebook that feels extremely well built thanks to the Unibody enclosure. What I did find it a bit weird is that ALL the ports are on the left side of the notebook- at least one USB port on the right would’ve been nice, however, when I unscrewed the back, I realized that there was no space. The optical drive takes the bulk of the space on the right side and battery kicks in right below it. The unit also runs much cooler than most of the MacBooks I’ve used in recent years. It would get warm at times but never uncomfortable.


One more thing I want to talk about is the Glass Trackpad with no visible buttons. What looks like a big trackpad is, in fact, just a button at the bottom. You notice this when you try to glide your finger along the bottom edge of the trackpad and realize the the mouse doesn’t respond. While I did review the unibody Macbooks when they were released late last year, I didnt get to thoroughly play around with them. So I’m not sure if its the glass trackpad or the very mediocre touchpad on the VAIO thats making me love it. The gliding is smooth like a hot knife through butter and the multiple finger swipes give a big boost to productivity although I would stop at three fingers gestures. Putting the fourth one sometimes proves to be inconvenient. The keyboard is what you’d expect out of a Mac notebook- silent, comfortable to type and backlit.

This 13.3″ MacBook Pro is FAST- especially with the Intel X25-M SSD. Apple recently updated the firmware for these new MBPs to correct the 1.5 Gigabit speed issue of SATA- it now runs natively at 3 Gigabit. Instead of talking numbers, I thought I’d just record a video of how fast this MBP is with an Intel SSD.

Excuse the “While I work at the full review” sentence at the start as this is it. As you can see, the notebook is insanely fast with an SSD. The O/S loads up in a few seconds and applications are almost instantly opened. Even spotlight is extremely snappy. This same drive on my Sony Z series didn’t feel HALF as fast.

Battery Life is impressive on the 13″ MBP which is good since Apple has taken away the option for it to be user-replaceable. On my first charge, I got about four and a half hours which is pretty decent especially considering that I took 30 minutes or so in that period to install applications leading to high CPU utilization. With subsequent charges, I was getting between five to five and a half hours. I’m sure that conditioning the battery for a week or so will result in even better battery life.

Overall, the 13″ MacBook Pro is a notebook you could easily fall in love with. Sure, a higher-res matte screen and lighter weight would make the notebook PERFECT for me but everybody has a different idea about a perfect machine and there will never ever be one. The price is a bit expensive in the UAE but that is a sad fact of life we’ve come to accept.



Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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  • Pawan

    Great review there Abbas. I think you covered everything!

    The USB port was a problem for me, esp if you have an apple wired mouse, the length of the cable is so short that you can’t actually use an apple wired mouse with the new macbook!

    I have had the 13″ since november. Only thing that bothered me was the screen resolution. I just sold it a few days back and have ordered the 17″ again due to the nice drop in the price. Only upgrade now I have to think about is the SSD.

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  • Guus

    So would you say you’d definitely prefer this over your Sony VAIO? I’m tossing up between these 2. Thanks.

  • khairul

    Macs are always insanely intoxicating… I am on the I-mac at home. i bought the new Acer Timeline 13.3″, superb lighweight design although no optical drives of any sort and make do with intel solo to replace my pb 800 g4 which was bewildered with problems i decided not to live with anymore.

  • Sunil

    I don’t think you mentioned this in your review but I’m thinking about getting the macbook pro 13.3″ 2.26 ghz version for college and I was wondering if I would be getting the same speed as I was seeing in the video above. Also, I’m probably going to upgrade my macbook pro so it has 4 gb of ram instead of 2 for about 60 dollars. Good review by the way :)

  • scott

    Immediately on restart after updating my OS from 10.5 to 10.7, the screen would not come on. Just stayed black, even though the machine was on, and the keys worked. Everything was working fine before the update.

    This MacBook Pro is less than 2 years old. I have an iBook G3 that is still working at almost 10 years old. Both have endured the same type use with no issues.

    It took a week to get an appointment with an apple genius. Once there, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, to my dismay the place was crowded. There were a lot of iPhone users who were being denied warranties because of a water sensor catch clause.

    After waiting beyond my scheduled appointment, I spoke with an Apple genius, who is apparently some kind of tech guy. Apple genius claims without any testing or diagnosing under the hood that it is a bad logic board. (Actually he plugged in a hard drive to get the serial of the video card, pretending it was a diagnosis.)
    Earlier I tried deleting the sleepimage as recommended on the forums. That brought back the screen. So I’m thinking, how is it a hardware problem? Only for some reason the black screen of death returned. So maybe it is a hardware issue that is caused by an unstable driver.
    When I asked the Apple genius to explain this, he said that the update must have brought out an existing hidden problem in the GPU. He was careful not to say it was a defective GPU, but that it was an issue my machine is having.

    This contradicts Apple’s statement:
    “About Mac OS X 10.5.7 Combo Update

    The 10.5.7 Update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Leopard version 10.5 to 10.5.6, and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility and security of your Mac.”

    My Macbook Pro is no longer stable as an immediate result of installing the update! But by this reasoning the update should have made it less likely to have brought out an existing issue! This statement was the whole reason I felt comfortable updating my MBP even though i didn’t feel like I really needed it. I simply thought an update would always make things work better, and here I am experiencing the opposite.

    I asked the genius how i could be making screen shots of working software if the logic board had failed? He could only guess it was the GPU, at which point I realized he was willing to tell me a price to fix the machine when he did not actually know what was wrong. He had just told me earlier that the video card was working after plugging in a hard drive to determine if the card was in the specific range of Nvidea’s coverage. Wait a minute… THE GPU IS WHERE? I thought the GPU was the video card.
    Why did the Apple genius, after telling me the video card was fine, tell me that the problem could be in the GPU? And why doesn’t the external monitor work if it’s not an issue with the video card or its driver?
    The answer is obvious, he does not know. He could not possibly know. He’s just following orders. He’s not a genius technician. It’s all a sham to reduce expensive fixes. In this case they want me to pay for a refurbished piece of hardware that could very well have the same problem because it is made from the same manufacturer. And it could still only be a driver issue.
    It seems the logic board replacement is a “catch all” fix at my expense, or else one should suspect the logic boards are defective, at the rate they are replaced (check out the forums). Yet there is a precedence noted in the apple forums of dozens of people getting their logic board fixed free, and a lot of problems eerily similar to mine regarding the Nvidia 8600 chipset which is the same as mine!
    Still, the Apple genius claims that my specific Nvidia chip is not covered in the warranty extension! How can the chip manufacturer predict that my chip isn’t defective if it did not know there was problem with the specific range they are covering when they sold them??? If problems within chips were that predictable, they would be avoidable. The logical conclusion is that there are multiple ranges beyond the existing coverage that are also defective! My case should be explored to determine what is wrong, not shoved under the rug at my expense!
    This is a clear case of a defective product or software, and there is a precedence set for free replacement if it is hardware, and yet Apple is so set on profiting from my misfortune that they cannot see how they are shooting themselves in the foot. I will never buy Apple again because they do not stand behind the quality of their product, and I will make sure everyone I know will not make the same mistake. $300 saved prevents tens of thousands in future purchases. Good luck with your genius tactics Apple.

  • mike

    Hi, Great review. Just wondering if you are using the new 34-nm Intel SSD or the 50-nm? Thx

  • james braselton


  • macbook pro 13 review

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  • mike

    In a recent review, the 13″ MBP clocks in ~42FPS for a Doom3 test, compared to ~82FPS for 15″ MBP (w/ discrete graphics – the 2.66GHz). That’s almost double the FPS just by having discrete graphics. But I’m just curious of how significant of a “bump up” in FPS if you move to SSD? Or does it have only a slight improvement only?

    The reason being is that I’m planning to get the 13″ MBP but am concerned if I’m better off going for 15″ due to the graphic card being discrete, instead of the shared version. So basically, the stand off is between a regular 15″ MBP @ 2.66 GHz vs a 13″ MBP with SSD, in terms of graphics.

    Would appreciate it if you can give a comment on that.

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  • PHinMiami

    ** Design Flaw! Broken Track Pad

    Just got back from the Apple store. My MacBook Pro has a cracked track pad inside of 1 week from purchase. Now, I can make an appointment in a couple of days so they can let me know how much it will cost to get it fixed @#$%*&! Simply, someone picked up the light weight laptop with one hand, placing their thumb on top of the middle of the frame. Unfortunately, Apple left only 1/4 inch of frame along the front edge. Handling the laptop near the track pad risks pressure on the edge of the pad, causing a perfect crescent crack. Reading blogs, normal usage cracks them, too. Apple designed the track pad to be clicked down, yet makes it incredibly FRAGILE.

    R & D needs to stop patting each other on the back and get back to the drawing board.

    Pay them to fix it?? They owe me an apology for rushing this one to market.

  • Abbas Jaffar Ali

    @PHinMiami: That indeed sucks, but you should be able to get it fixed for free. All Apple products come with a one year warranty.

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  • Abbas Jaffar Ali

    I’m quite comfortable with OS X and prefer it to Windows so if you know which OS to go for then there really is no comparison :)

    If I was to stick to Windows I would definitely continue using the Z. Both the notebooks have their strengths and weaknesses- it all comes down to which O/S you want to use.

  • Abbas Jaffar Ali

    Its the older 50nm version

  • Abbas Jaffar Ali

    Hi Mike-

    the SSD wont make Doom 3 RUN faster but it will help in loading the game faster. So if right now, it takes 20 seconds to load the game, that’ll probably drop down to 8 seconds. But the game will not run any faster when you’re playing it. The discrete GPU will surely make a much bigger difference than SSD for games.

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