I had heard of it before. I had even seen the wonder for myself. The 15” unibody Macbook Pro. Cut from a single piece of aluminum, ornamented with unicorn horn and cooled only by dodo tears. It was a one of a kind machine, and no other laptop in the world could compare. If I had to buy a laptop, this was the one. So I decided to follow the white rabbit and experience it for myself. As it turns out, not all was well in Wonderland.
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I bought a 15” Macbook, and for a time, it was good. The hardware was as good as they said it was. It was sturdy, nice looking, minimalistic and the details were impressively polished. Things like the the keyboard, the power adapter, the trackpad and so on, everything bore the mark of continuous tweaking, polish and iterative improvement. This was in stark contrast to most other hardware whose motto to this day can still almost be heard from the flexing and creaking of keyboards, from the bending of screens and from the unwrapping of taped-in rechargers. If you listen closely you’ll hear it chant: “good enough, good enough, good enough”. Which it isn’t.
As it sometimes is with good things, they come to an end. Not long after I had received the singularity engine, this most expensivest of dream machines, the troubles started. A freeze was coming.
Doing computer intensive things and computer un-intensive things alike, the screen would randomly freeze. Every pixel on the screen would lock their position and time itself would stop. This would happen to the eerie ambiance of the last half second of sound or music, which would repeat itself like a record skipping. This would go on until you held down the power button for 5 consecutive seconds, forcing the unibody power-station to turn off. The freezes would happen randomly, but most often when crazy multimedia was involved; multimedia such as gorgous 3D graphics flowing through the dedicated graphics card, or simply multimedia such as the web-based video of a prepubescant teenager getting kicked in the groin. But it was not the teenager that was kicked in the groin. It was me. And my wallet.
Suddenly things were propelled into perspective. Instead of splurging on a Macbook, I could have bought a used Toyota Camry 1990. Or perhaps a Dell Vostro, a Dell Studio Hybrid, a Playstation 3, Rockband and instruments. Or perhaps the collected works of Carl Barks, and an EEE PC. Or perhaps I could sponsor a child in Africa for 8 years. What had I done? I had paid more than three times what a laptop should cost, for something that didn’t work.
In all fairness, the freeze problems are probably very common in laptops. It’s probably a problem with Dells, Lenovos, Acers and all the others. There was no problem returning the system. Instead of returning the unit, I could undoubtedly have exchanged it for a new one wherein the problem didn’t appear, no questions asked. It was probably just a bad batch of Apples, probably due to bad bump material under the Nvidia GPU, which went soft after the computer temperature rose above 60° Celcius, starting the string of random freezes.
However, when you pay the price of a used car for a laptop, you expect it to be served with champagne and strawberries, not a side of headache and backups and data migrations.
During the course of my 13 days of Macbook Adventure, I scoured web forums searching for solutions. I learned that this is a huge problem experienced by, well at least hundreds of registered Apple forum posters. I heard things you wouldn’t believe. I heard horror stories of entire advertising agencies where all their 15” unibody Macbooks were bad. I heard stories of odd screetching noises and fans that either didn’t kick in, or kicked way too much in. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain. Because I returned the unit, and I’m not sure I’m getting another one.
It’s not that I didn’t like my time in Wonderland; things were indeed strange and marvelous. But I learned that Wonderland is a club, a closed circle of stone-cutters who all adhere to the belief that this hardware is the only right hardware and for a while, I was part of that circle. But I couldn’t deal with the shroud of secrecy that veiled everything, and without knowing if my real-world problems would eventually be fixed by the mothership, it was a club I couldn’t afford to be part of.