How does the new Apple MacBook Pro shape up for web designers?

22nd March, 2011 by

A typical web designer using products such as Adobe Creative Suite loaded with Dreamweaver, Flash and Illustrator has to periodically, make key decisions relating to his design and development environment, including the flavor of OS and whether to develop on a tower or a laptop.

As modern websites crave more and more HD video integration – especially with new advances in the upcoming HTML 5 standard – many web designers also need to consider learning new video editing skills in products such as Adobe Premiere or Apple’s Final Cut to complement their HTML/CSS and Flash skill-set. This requires serious juice in the form of RAM, CPU and disk space.

While opinions differ, a typical web designer will generally base his laptop choice on five areas including cost, speed/power, battery life, screen size/resolution and of course, portability.

In a parallel development, new technology innovations are pushing desktop and laptop machines to become lighter, stronger and more powerful. One laptop that regularly makes the Website Design Top 10 on sites across the web is the Apple MacBook Pro.

Of course, Apple products are not cheap but the MacBook Pro lineup; especially 15” screens (and above) generally sport an excellent reputation in the creative world of web design where performance and stability are key concerns.

Other indirect benefits in the form of a long battery life and added security, including the low incidence of spyware, malware and viruses entice more and more PC users to switch to the Mac system.

In early February 2011, rumours began flying around the web that Apple was at long last about to update it’s best-selling MacBook Pro lineup for the first time since April 2010.

On February 24, Apple confirmed the rumours with a confirmation that the MacBook Pro family had been updated with next-generation processors and graphics, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology and a new FaceTime HD camera.

“Featuring the very latest dual-core and quad-core Intel Core processors, the entire MacBook Pro line is up to twice as fast as the previous generation,” said Apple.

This immediately spawned a glut of benchmarking tests by various online publications including PC Magazine, which remarked that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro is the “fastest, most technologically advanced laptop to grace our lab benches.”

CNET echoed these claims by awarding it 4/5 stars or “Excellent” and flagged it as their Editor’s choice.

Video Review from CNET:

Meanwhile, Other World Computing stated that by doubling the memory on the latest 2.3 GHz i7 15” model a user could attain a 25% increase in speed for Adobe Photoshop CS5.

“More memory equals a faster Mac. It’s been our company mantra for quite a long time. With the addition of our new Mercury Extreme SSD line, we now have another contender for drastically increasing performance on your Mac,” said Other World Computing.

Chart courtesy of Other World Computing

But, not all reports were glowing. One site claimed that all three MacBook Pro sizes, 13”, 15” and 17” were causing random flickers on external 24-inch and 27-inch Cinema Displays when connecting via the much-hyped Mini-Display / Thunderbolt combo port. And, they had video evidence to prove it!

The new Thunderbolt technology largely developed by Intel, promise speeds more than 12 times faster than FireWire 800 and up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0, along with a myriad of other expansion capabilities.

“Imagine accessing multiple streams of uncompressed HD video — from your notebook — at speeds that let you edit an HD feature film in real time. That’s how Thunderbolt technology will connect the next generation of high-performance peripherals to the next generation of computers — starting with MacBook Pro,” said Apple.

The Intel site claimed that users could transfer a full HD movie in less than 30 seconds using the new technology contained in the Apple MacBook Pro line.

“Thunderbolt technology was specifically designed with professional audio and video applications in mind, where the inherently low latency and highly accurate time synchronization features play a crucial role,” said Intel.

One glowing review on Amazon for a 17-inch MacBook Pro up for sale was tempered by this warning:

“Unfortunately Apple has decided to saddlebag this wicked-fast tank with a relatively pokey 5400rpm hard drive, which ends up being a noticeable bottleneck in performance at startup and other disk-intensive times. I appreciate the capacity of the included 750GB drive, but swapping it out with my existing 500GB solid-state hybrid drive provided an additional performance boost well worth the reduced storage space. Incidentally, changing just about any of the internal components appears to be relatively straight forward, as the back plate removes to expose all.

To conclude, this is one speedy machine who’s only noticeable flaw is the included large but unimpressive hard drive. Swap it out for a faster drive (especially a SSD) and this is a laptop that cannot be topped.”

As the dust settles around the release of this best-selling line of Apple products, most web designers should continue to consider the MacBook Pro as a potential target platform for creative web design.

Guest Blogger: Jason Stevens from jason-stevens.com / Freelance web developer, tech writer and follower of cloud computing trends. Follow him on Twitter @_jason_stevens_

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