First Impressions: 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro 2009 (Unibody, Anti-Glare)

It started out like any typical Friday morning. I snoozed the iPhone alarm about 5 times then got a late start to the morning and did a groggy stumble to the desk to check email before doing anything else. Unfortunately, this time my 11 month old 15-inch MacBook Pro (unibody) kernel panicked a lot, on every boot. It wouldn't even see the Intel X25-M SSD I had in there although the drive was completely usable in two other computers. After a half-day of debugging I ended up going to the Apple store, doing a "quick drop" at the Genius Bar and buying a new 17-inch MacBook Pro so I could keep working; based on my experience that Apple repair can be slow sometimes and I didn't want to wait a week or more before getting back to work. The problem ended up being the SSD, which is currently being RMA'd back to Intel to be replaced with the G2 version of the drive, but I digress.

17-inch Apple MacBook Pro with antiglare screen
If this were not antiglare you'd be seeing my reflection in the screen right now.

Why 17-inch? Why anti-glare?

So why did I opt for the 17-inch MacBook Pro this time? Well frankly, because I have never owned a 17-inch laptop before. I had the 13-inch original white MacBook, the 13-inch Air, the 15-inch first generation MacBook Pro, the 15-inch unibody MacBook Pro - but never a 17-inch. Aside from that, I wanted to see what it would be like to have a portable 1920x1200 resolution-capable laptop. Yeah it is kind of odd to see someone get a huge laptop so they can be more mobile but here's my logic: with my 15-inch MacBook Pro I always had to dock it up to my 24-inch Dell LCD so I could get the resolution I'm used to working with and disconnecting it to move was a pain, and dealing with the reduced resolution while not connected to the external display was a definite bummer.

As for why I went with the 50 anti-glare option this time, well I got tired of looking at fingerprint smudges and my reflection with past glossy MacBooks. While glossy displays are better for video watching with slightly more vivid colors and darker blacks, I began to loathe it for daily use. I mean how often do I watch movies on my laptop? I have other computers and TVs for that. Also, have you tried watching a movie with a glossy MacBook on a plane? With all the overhead lights, or sun coming in the side of the plane window, the glossy screen is remarkably annoying.


The screen is brilliant — that is, once you get adjusted to the ridiculously high PPI (pixels per inch). Everything is small on this screen. A 15-inch MacBook Pro with a native resolution of 1440x900 has a PPI of 110. A 24-inch display with 1920x1200 resolution has a PPI of 94. The 17-inch MacBook Pro at 1920x1200 has 133 PPI.
PPI comparison: 17-inch MacBook Pro and 24-inch Dell 2407
PPI comparison: 17-inch MacBook Pro and 24-inch Dell. Look at the window shared across the displays. 133 vs 94 PPI

The downside of having such a high PPI with a relatively small display is that you can't comfortably work from the screen from more than a few feet away - even with perfect vision.. everything is just small. That being said, I sold one of my monitors that I would have used to pair to my laptop and now rely solely on the MacBook Pro itself. The 17-inch MacBook Pro's display is also 8-bit and has "60 percent greater color gamut that delivers desktop-quality color in a notebook."

This is the MacBook Pro revision without any easily user-accessible parts. Instead of a latch to access the hard drive and battery, you need a screwdriver to remove the back panel. A bit of an inconvenience but it makes room for a (40% larger than previous generations) behemoth 95WHr battery. This lets Apple claim a ridiculous 8 hour battery life with the integrated graphics enabled. This translated to a real world runtime of about 4.5 hours (Wi-Fi + heavy web browsing + half-brightness) in my experience over the few days I have owned the laptop so far.

I'm still playing around with the laptop and will update this post if I have anything to add. Overall, I'm very pleased with it as long as I don't remind myself that it cost 2,752. Unfortunately yesterday I realized that this laptop does not fit in my Timbuk2 messenger bag. Hrm.

Have you ever owned or used a 17-inch or larger laptop? How did you like it? What are your thoughts on "desktop-replacement" laptops? Where do you stand on the glossy vs anti-glare debate?