In December I had to make some choices for a new laptop to replace my Lenovo W530. The main drivers were for something fast enough to run Virtual Machines for SharePoint 2013/web development, Adobe Photoshop for my photography hobby and something to do my day to day job in Office 2013 at work.
After looking at the options, I finally decided to purchase a MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display. I maxed it out with 1Tb Flash drive (extra USD$500) and 16Gb RAM. I already have an iPhone 5S and iPad Mini so had already jumped on the Apple Hardware wagon. In the early 2000′s I had the MacBook Quicksilver 17″ laptop and was super impressed by the battery life, screen and build quality of that machine. In the 10 years since my last one, I wasn’t disappointed…much better than the crappy bulky plastic build of the Lenovo’s for sure and enormous power brick!
I saw that Andrew Connell posted a blog post that covers the fact that he also got a MacBook Pro, shortly after I did actually coincidently due to his Lenovo dying and we chatted about my experiences first hand. Also Sahil Malik who recently moved too. Sahil has some great advice on tools to add to OSX and Andrew gives some sound advice on the hardware side.
After using Windows 8 touchscreen devices for a long time, I really thought I’d struggle without it…but the retina screen is amazing and I have yet to even reach to touch the screen. I occasionally miss the stylus for sketching UI layouts, but had a WACOM pad hanging around I use. It does feel so old school over drawing directly on the screen. I was spending a lot of time on my Surface Pro and didn’t realize what I was missing in screen real estate and quality.
As Andrew points out, there is no docking station yet, but its coming from Hengedocks and I’ll get it as soon as its out…I’m super lazy and plugging in power & two thunderbolt ports into my two screens (you get the 15″ screen as well so three screens is sweet!). I tend to use the keyboard and touchpad rather than closing lid and using keyboard & mouse (one less thing to plug in too). I take this home with me everyday, and am up and around the office in various meetings all day, so a dock would be very useful.
Base Operating System
I decided to stick with OSX on the base metal and use VMWare Fusion to run Windows 8.1 for the programs I need and Windows Server 2012 for my dev environment.There is absolutely no slowness at all…and even when I have on a Windows Server machine running AD and SQL and another running SP2013 and VS2013 it still purrs along. I think this is a lot to do with the 1Tb flash that is spread very efficiently in the machine compared to a SSD etc. 16Gb RAM vs 32Gb RAM really doesn’t seem to be an issue.
The three finger swipe between Windows 8.1 and OSX is so fast its ridiculous. I really don’t see a problem with using both and switching between them for the strengths of both. The notifications from OSX show up no problems in the full screen Windows 8.1 which is great. The fact that I can have Windows Programs in my OSX Dock is a real bonus!
The other thing I was totally amazed by is that the VMs just work with my two monitors plugged in, so I get multiple monitor support with Windows 8.1 (or Windows Server 2012) and can share all the devices I plug into my MacBook with no problems.
I find that I’ve been using Lync 2013 and the Office 2013 programs in Unity mode so they run looking as part of OSX (rather than three finger swiping). Lync for Mac and Office 2011 for Mac is really not as good as Office 2013…Lync seems to be quite unstable and doesn’t allow me to join too many companies Lync servers to have meetings (Microsoft works but other large orgs it doesn’t).
It’s interesting to see that Apple has the same problems with OSX and iOS in terms of apps. For instance, I love the feedly.com app on my iPad Mini, but the OSX App Store doesn’t have it. So you have to install OSX programs rather than OSX apps. Even the most common ones aren’t apps e.g. Photoshop, Skype etc.
Out of box OSX apps:
- Messages is epic! I have it configured to Google Hangouts, Facebook Chat and because I have an iPhone all my text messages to fellow iPhone people is on there too!
So far I’ve installed these OSX apps:
- MindJet Mindmanager (not as feature rich as Windows one)
- Microsoft Remote Desktop
- ReadKit (awesome RSS reader with Feedly support)
and these OSX programs:
- Adobe Photoshop CC
- Camtasia (very buggy compared to PC equivalent)
- Microsoft Office 2011 (stopped using and use Windows versions)
- ReadyNAS Remote (to hook up to my NAS at home)
- VMWare Fusion
The whole concept of opening a .dmg file and then drag and dropping the icon into your Applications is a little bit of an awkward approach. I haven’t used OSX since the first release and I’m pretty sure others will struggle! But I do like the way that you can remove things in a very clean way.
It’s interesting that the Widgets really haven’t taken off in OSX, the “More Widgets” page is pretty awful with a three column picker. I like it for the World Clocks and Weather. This could be along the lines of the Windows 8 home screen with the live tile updates, but obviously no deep linking into apps. Apple should really just remove this from the OS I think.
I am not a heavy user of advance features of Virtual Machines, I’m pretty brutal and trash VMs regularly to rebuild them from base Windows Server OSs as opposed to heavily using Snapshots. VMWare Fusion does support Snapshots and from the tests I’ve done it is just as useful as that in VMWare Workstation or Microsoft Hyper-V on Windows 8 for what I need when running tests and rolling back.
Don’t hate me
I’m not a total Apple convert by any means, I’m running more Microsoft software on here than Apple and the reality is so much is done in the web browser now the OS will eventually become just a bunch of tiles with notifications and everything will be stored in the cloud. For me its just the same as buying a Lenovo running Windows…but with the added benefit of an additional OS and Apple ecosystem to give me even more choices than not having it!