A new unibody MacBook Pro (2.53 GHz, 4 GB, 320 GB HD) came home with me on 15 November 2008. My old one, an original 2.0 MHz Core Duo (32-bit) with 2 GB RAM, wasn't liking running Aperture, VMware, and a few other applications at the same time.

I’m absolutely thrilled with this new machine after having used it for a week and would buy it again in a heartbeat.

Let’s get one thing straight right away: the glossy screen looks fantastic, and photos viewed on it look like slides on a light table. It’s that good—no more matte screens for me! The only downside is that folks may see my photos on a lesser screen where the colors don’t look at rich, the blacks as black, and the whites as brilliant. The matte screen option should be renamed low contrast screen. The glossy screen makes a good mirror when powered off, but reflections simply aren’t an issue once it’s fired up if you take a little care in arranging your environment. Matte screens diffuse the light that impinges on them in all directions. If you have a light behind you, you won’t see it reflected in the screen because the light is effectively scattered by the screen, but the net result is that the blacks aren’t as dark. With a glossy screen, you’ll see the specular reflection of the light, but changing the angle of the screen removes any effect of the light.

Aperture runs fine on the new NVIDIA graphics chipset. Not wicked fast, not smokin’, but fine. Scrolling around raw files zoomed 100% works as it should, the adjustment sliders respond well, and synchronized scrolling of two images in compare mode hiccups occasionally. Occasionally, bringing up an image in full-screen mode leads to a few seconds of Loading… at the top of the screen and grayed-out adjustments, but the situation is much better than with my previous machine. I tried exporting a large volume of raw files to a directory when running with the NVIDIA 9400M and 9600M GT GPUs and timed the process. It took exactly the same amount with both GPUs. However, the adjustment controls feel more responsive with the 9600M GT. Perhaps 10.6’s improved GPU support will improve the overall situation.

The new glass trackpad works beautifully, and a variety of gestures with two, three, and four fingers control rotating images, scrolling around and through them, task switching, and Exposé. There’s no button under the touchpad. Instead, the whole thing is a button and responds to both left and right clicks. Works beautifully, and I sometimes miss it when using my Bluetooth Mighty Mouse.

The keyboard feels good, much better than my earlier MacBook Pro and snow iBook, and the computer feels like it was carved out of a single hunk of aluminum, which it was. There’s no noticeable flex when typing or handling the computer, even when you pick it up and carry it around by a corner of the case with the display open. The result is a pride in ownership that only comes with items that are solidly designed, like a customized 1911, a fine Swiss watch, or a Bryston amplifier. The overall fit and finish is several steps ahead of any previous Apple laptop. My previous MacBook Pro loosened up over the years, and the screen and case didn’t quite line up anymore. A cover locks into the bottom of the case, and removing it reveals the batter and hard drive. Replacing the latter is now the matter of taking out a screw as opposed to partially disassembling the machine. The speakers are a big step up with richer sound, less distortion, higher volume, and more bass. The only downside of the new design is that all the ports are on the left side, and it’s often handy to have a USB port on the right for connecting peripherals.

Running Aperture, Firefox, a VM with 512 MB, Mail, and a few other utilities simultaneously isn’t a problem, and the computer doesn’t hang when switching between them like my original MacBook Pro as it swapped pages to/from virtual memory. The computer will apparently recognize 6 GB of RAM, but I’m not feeling the need to replace on of the 2 GB modules with a 4 GB one at this time.