I’ve just got back from the London Apple Store, having wanted to try out the MacBook for myself.
I’ve got a few notes, but the main headline for me is how much the new keyboard sucked.
The MacBook sports an all-new keyboard consisting of flat, square, widely spaced keys. They look beautiful and minimalistic (AppleInsider has some great shots).
But as soon as I got down to typing on them… eeek! In order to reach the keys it felt like I had to splay my fingers out really widely. Try holding your hands in front of you and splay your fingers so that they are as wide apart from each other. That’s how it feels to type on this keyboard. I don’t have particularly small fingers either.
I was still able to type, but my speed and accuracy was reduced drastically. Aside from the wide spacing, the flat keys offer no tactile confirmation of your finger being on the centre of the key – a really important thing if you’re a touch-type like me. Most keyboards, including my Thinkpad X32, have ridged keys that dip in the middle so you know where the centre lies.
I wasn’t the only person voicing keyboard concerns around the MacBook display either. I wonder whether it’s going to become an issue, especially for those who have ordered online without even trying the new machine out first?
A few other points to note:
I have to say the black casing does look very cool. That’s partly because it’s reminiscent of the old-school black Mac laptops and partly because I’m known for my love of black.
However I’m a bit concerned about the fact it’s matte-black. Those paying the extra $200 for the dark aesthetics may find that their purchase looks dated in a year or so compared to the more time-less white. I think it’s because it’s not glossy-black like the iPod black option.
The high contrast glossy screen is new for Apple, but has been a feature of many laptops, including Sony VAIO’s, for sometime. However under the bright halogen lights of the Apple store the, the glare was really annoying.
The Apple sales person kept setting the MacBook to show a photo gallery of highly optimised photos (which looked wonderful on the screen). But whilst trying to type on a high contract black-text-on-white-background environment like MS Word, the glare became a little annoying.
I’ve not spent a great deal of time in Apple stores – I went to the one in San Francisco (hey it’s practically a tourist attraction) and I’ve been in the London one once before. However I was really taken aback at the upsell, near-hardsell, I was getting from the Apple staff. (is that normal?)
“Hey, well this is really more for students – you should think about the MacBookPro”
…was the line I got twice from the sales guy. I was really taken aback because he hadn’t really asked me what I was going to use it for so I wasn’t sure how we would know that a MacBookPro would be more appropriate.
He also got really funny about things when I said that I wanted to remove OS X and put just Windows on it “because the MacBook was a good Windows option for for the spec you for the price”.
Clearly I had offended his Apple’y feelings by diss’ing his beloved OS!
So I don’t think I’ll be buying a MacBook. I just can’t get on with the keyboard, and in many regards it’s form-over-function taken too far (IMHO). It’s also given me a reality check as to why I don’t like Apple hardware.
You can check out MacWorld’s review for an alternative perspective.