Thinking about buying a MacBook Pro?

Macworld 2006 Day 3 - 31
I can’t stop snapping photos of people at Macworld…

The MacBook Pro may be fast, but we still don’t have a real clear picture of what else we could really do with it. Top of every pro user’s mind might be:
1. Would an Intel Duo Core PC laptop be cheaper?
2. Can we really run it with Windows (XP or Vista)?
3. Can we really boot via USB (think bootable USB flash drives and iPods)?

While these questions make it hard enough to decide, rumors of a better portable Intel mac removed from Steve’s keynote at the last minute only makes the dilemma even worse. Regardless of the rumor, let’s get the facts right and see if we can make a decision:

1. You do get what you pay for
The MacBook Pro isn’t really that much more expensive. If you look at the features of the MacBook Pro vs. the G4 Powerbook vs. an equivalent Intel Duo Core PC laptop (see this awesome chart), you’d understand that it’s value for money given Apple’s excellent industrial design. You’re parting your good money for a good machine.

2. Booting Windows on Intel Mac
There’s a definitive Intel Mac FAQ which attempts to answer some of these questions and more, but right now even that indicates a general sentiment that running Windows on an Intel Mac is possible, though not achievable yet. It’s a technically complex issue and people like Colin on WinXPonMac.com are putting the money down for enterprising hackers to make it happen. Sadly, some Digg users think that he should just keep the money because they say that it is too difficult to accomplish (that damn EFI!). Either way, Colin made a point… he’s trying to make it happen by creating motivation to get it going.

3. USB booting for the Intel Mac
Peter tipped me off on the state of affairs when it came to USB booting on the Intel Mac. You might wonder what the big deal is about USB booting… in brief, USB is everywhere. Being able to boot off USB instead of just Firewire means that we could possibly boot off our personal USB flash drive or even the new USB-based iPods. This is great for added personal security when using someone else’s Intel Mac, or for easier diagnostic and repair of Intel macs. A MacSlash user pointed out an Apple Developer Connection document which hints of USB and Firewire booting, but requires special formatting of the drive which renders it unreadable by PowerPC Macs. No big loss on my count. However, there has been conflicting reports from Apple about the possibility of USB booting (or Target Disk mode). No one seems to have been able to do it yet.

Ultimately, here’s what I think. If you are satisfied with a faster portable Mac, go buy it. If you are buying it for the purpose of running Windows or USB booting functionality, you’re in for an indefinite wait. If I hear anything on the contrary, I’ll blog it!

UPDATE: Peter was sharp to point out that formatting a drive so it’s bootable on Intel Macs does not make it unreadable by PPC Macs. It’s still readable if you have Tiger, but you can’t boot off it.

UPDATE 2: Woah… at time of posting, WinXPonMac only collected a mere $622. Just look at how much Colin has collected now!

7 thoughts on “Thinking about buying a MacBook Pro?

  1. Concerning booting WinXP and others i noticed OpenOSX™ WinTel 2.0.1, have a look at http://openosx.com/wintel/

    The product includes the following separate disk images with 10 different popular open source x86 operating systems pre-installed:
    FreeBSD, Red Hat™ Linux OS, GNU Hurd, MuLinux, FreeDos, PicoBSD, Minix, NetBSD, Debian™ Linux, DLX Linux

    Still, rumors of an other portable Intel mac removed from Steve’s keynote at the last minute only makes the dilemma even worse indeed…

  2. It’s impressive that OpenOSX has now got Intel and PowerPC optimized binaries. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t pay $25 for a compilation of third-party open-source software. I rather get my hands dirty and compile my own using the packages at http://www.osxgnu.org/

  3. With the use of x86 architecture, the long awaited dream of running linux live cd will be much nearer. Just boot the cd and run, no installation needed, beating windoz hands down 😛

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