As a tech writer who needed more flexibility in my office computer, I decided to trade in my 2011 iMac for a machine that would serve both as a desktop and a portable.
My choice: Apple’s latest MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina display, which was announced in August. I opted for the 256GB solid-state drive and 8GB of DRAM.
This post explains my rationale for purchasing the MacBook, and describes the unpacking and setup process (accompanied by many pictures). In next week’s post, I’ll take a deeper dive into the features and performance of the aluminum-clad laptop.
Publishing requires horsepower
In June 2011, I purchased the then-latest model of the iMac for my home office. Since I would be doing significant authoring, desktop publishing, and graphics work, I needed a powerful and affordable computer with lots of storage space.
For three years, the iMac served me well. It had a 21.5-inch monitor, 12GB of memory, and a one-terabyte hard drive. I certainly could have continued to make due with it as my official tech-52 blogging machine for years to come.
The problem was that, increasingly, I found myself needing more mobility, especially the ability to continue to write and publish my blog from any location.
The need for a laptop became more obvious, but it had to be a laptop that was at least as powerful as my iMac. While working on a blog post, I often have multiple browser windows, Photoshop, and one or two other applications running at the same time.
In my home office, the MacBook Pro, connected to an external monitor, Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, performs as a desktop computer nearly identically to my iMac. But when I need to switch locations, I can simply disconnect the peripheral devices and take the laptop with me. The MacBook Pro is thin and light, weighing in at just over three pounds.
Suffice to say the new laptop has been up to the task and has met all requirements so far. If I have one reservation, it’s the 8 GB of memory. I was leaning toward a 16 GB model, but the additional almost $400 was too tough to swallow.
Finding the best deal
I’ve learned that there is no advantage to buying Apple computers directly from Apple, which rarely discounts its products. Interestingly, however, many of Apple’s authorized resellers do.
The MacBook Pro model that I purchased lists for $1499 on the Apple Store, and because Apple has physical stores in Massachusetts, I would also have been charged an additional 6.25% of the purchase price in sales tax.
Add to that the fact that I was able to sell my three-year old iMac for $600, and the new MacBook was really quite affordable.
Unpacking the new MacBook Pro
One of the pleasures of acquiring a brand new Apple computer is the unpacking and setup ritual. Apple is second to none in the design of their product packaging. It’s attractive, suitably minimal, and remarkably green.
I’m always surprised by how small Apple packaging is. When delivered, the computer is double-boxed for protection, but even the exterior box is compact, requiring only four cardboard inserts to protect the interior package.
Pull out the Apple-designed interior box, and the unpacking ritual begins.
The box is shrink-wrapped. Peel off the plastic and pull off the box top, and the minimalist interior reveals itself. The MacBook, wrapped in form-fitting protective plastic, is flawless. Pull out the laptop to reveal the rest of the contents—power cable, MagSafe power adapter, and documentation.
The MacBook itself is wrapped in a protective plastic cover, and inside to protect the screen, there is form-fitting sheet of tissue paper. Along with all the other packing materials, I save these items for when the time comes eventually to sell the computer.
Plugging in and starting up the MacBook Pro automatically starts the process to set up and personalize it.
The setup process requires an Internet connection, so an early task is to connect to your local Wi-Fi signal, assuming you have one. I do and I did.
Moving forward, one can set the laptop up as a pristine new device, or restore saved information from the previous computer. I opted for the latter, as I want the process to be quick and easy, and the new computer environment to be immediately familiar.
Apple has mastered the process of restoring files and settings from an old computer to a new Mac. With a tool called Migration Assistant, the new Mac environment will look exactly like your old one. Applications, settings, and even the file system can be restored exactly as they existed on the old Mac.
Migration Assistant will even migrate an environment from a Windows machine, although I’ve never tried it.
Because I also have been using iCloud for storing backups of e-mail, photos, contacts, bookmarks, and passwords, part of the migration included restoring those settings as well. I simply entered my iCloud credentials, and clicked Continue.
Within two hours of opening the package, my new MacBook Pro desktop looked exactly like that of my old iMac, and my email accounts, browser bookmarks, settings, and applications were fully restored.
With one exception: Microsoft Office. Even though I owned a valid license, Microsoft built in logic that recognized that I was on a new computer.
Although Office was already installed on my new MacBook thanks to Migration Assistant, Microsoft required me to re-enter my license number to activate Office.
Which was a pain because it took 15 minutes searching for the original package that I bought three years ago.
Damn you, Microsoft.
Next week, Part 2