2011 MacBook Pro Review

MacBook Pro 13"

With the help of a Traktor Tips reader we present you with a mini user review of an Apple MacBook Pro 13″ late 2011.

The Reviewer

Dimitris Diavatis
Background: Musician (classically trained), with several years experience in classical music live recordings and production. I’ve also been making music with electronics for the past 12 years.
This is my third apple computer, and fifth laptop. I’ve been loyal to Apple and Toshiba all these years.

The Computer

13-inch, Late 2011
Processor 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5
Memory 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000 384 MB
Model Identifier: MacBookPro8,1

MacBook Pro Review
Hardware

backlit keyboardIt’s a very beautiful aluminum case and it gives you the feeling that it will never break or bend no matter what. This is likely down to it’s unibody structure, which means it is machined from one solid block of aluminium. Unlike standard PC laptops the Mac doesn’t have visible air intake vents which means there is no requirement to clean out any dust from the fans. I opened my first Toshiba laptop two times to clean the dust on the exhaust which was glued on the processor. Obviously bad for its health.
The macbook pro gets pretty warm on your lap, which is why I never use it for more than 10 minutes in that position without a book or something underneath. For the last couple of months, my work surface is a standing table the four 2.5mm-thick rubber-feet elevate it nicely so the air can freely move around, keeping it cool.

Apple have moved away from the matte screen, which has upset some people, however, the glossy screen has never bothered me and I am quite alright with it. The backlit keyboard is also a huge plus, once you use it for a couple of weeks you can’t go back.

The ports:

MacBook Pro 13" portsSD card reader is a huge plus. You can sync Android phones and import stuff from cameras etc.
The audio jack is an in/out combo, requiring it to be assigned for each different software you are using, which is not so practical in particular situations.
There are two USB ports, which is one too less for me.
And a small problem, solved with an adaptor, is the new smaller firewire port. I used it to connect one Mackie sound-card and one 1620 mixer, but now I simply daisy chain them without any problems.
My other soundcard is a Native-Instruments Audio 2, which is USB powered. The macbook can play through it with an extremely low sample buffer of 32 or 64. Very nice and steady.
I haven’t used the thunderbolt port yet as there aren’t too many peripherals manufactured with this functionality as yet.

The right side features the DVD slot and the Kensington lock [Editors note: which is handy for certain places DJ’s may play!]. DVD is alright to have for burning discs and installing software, but slowly not so relevant any more, having phased them on the new Macbook Pros with Retina Display.
The back only contains the very hidden exhaust vents.

The FaceTime camera is nothing too exciting and the sound of the Macbook Pro’s speakers is reasonable. Brightness and volume can be tweaked very simply using the function keys directly, no need for a shift or control button, which I find very useful.

Software

Mac OS X is a very pleasant environment for me and the major reason is that I can play music in extremely low latency without using an external soundcard. Every technology that starts with ‘Core’, developed by Apple, elevates the user experience.

It’s a very powerful machine when Mac OS X doesn’t get in the way loading and swapping stuff off and on the hard disk. I never reached the limit of its quad core i5 processors; using garageband, logic and even reaktor. You can of course load a bunch of heavy reverb audio units, lower the latency and then bump into problems. But any experienced producer or DJ can manage to work with this machine for more than a couple of years. This is perfect machine for DJs and that is probably why it’s almost the only one you get to see on stages around the world or videos on the net.

Conclusion

DJ'ing with Macbook ProIf you need it to be snappy you should consider buying double the amount of memory and researching how to put an SSD inside.
I might be doing both moves soon.
You can’t easily downgrade to Mac OS X Snow Leopard, although it is possible but not recommended. Snow Leopard was a better platform for me than Lion, but to be honest, the best I used so far was Mac OS X Tiger.
Apple machines keep getting better, but the OS keeps making them hungrier for resources. I find the recent structure changes in Apple’s management and technical development regarding OS are not so unrelated or coincidental.
You can use parallels, fusion or even the free virtualbox, to experiment with Linux and Windows but the audio latency is a disappointing factor in these cases.
The bottom line is, buy a macbook pro if you have the small extra money it costs, you won’t regret it if it’s your first Apple machine. If it’s not, then you already know what to do😉

Thanks to Dimitri for providing this brief overview of an older MacBook Pro, if you have any thoughts or suggestions you would like to add, feel free to do so in the comments.
You can find some free piano content from Dimitri over at http://m23music.bandcamp.com

photo credit: GabrielaP93 & c-reel.com via photopin cc

4 comments

  1. Hey thank you for that useful tips.
    I have one those and it’s my first Mac.
    Also I’m having a hard time to record using the audacity program.
    Can you tell me other easy way to do that
    using a traktor scratch A6?
    And thank you again.

  2. @Rodrigo Please consider reading the manual for A6, also buy Computer Music for a couple of times to get you started. you can contact me direct, with a description with what exactly you need and what you are doing.
    Good luck!

  3. Before I bought my first MBPro last year I have to admit I was a total Windows geek, I grew up with it and was part of my fulltime job (sysadmin). But oh boy was I glad I made the change, no more hassle with drivers, no system crashes whatever, usb is really plug & play!

    I only noticed how annoying Windows was earlier this week when I had to install Traktor and the Traktor S4 controller on the Win7 laptop of my girlfriend, haha I got slightly irritated to say the least.

    I got a 13″ MBP with 8 gigs of RAM and i7 cpu, it goes like a train! After working with it for less then a year, even decided to get rid of my main Win7 machine at home and bought a MBP Retina. Not ever switching back again to Windows!

  4. I have an MBP 2011 15″ with a Core i7 2.3Ghz and 8gb of ram and it is a tank to be sure. It performs very well with Traktor and Live, even at the same time.

    Animine: When they day comes you need to get you Retina MBP serviced you’ll regret having bought it. The entire thing is soldered together on the inside, even the battery. I recommend users skip the current generation of MBP’s.

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