Apple MacBook Pro 13 Mid 2010

Apple Macbook Pro 13 Mid 2010 Overview

Features

  • MacBook Pro 7.1 platform
  • Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz (soldered)
  • 4096MB PC3-5300 DDR3-SDRAM standard, 6144MB max with 1x4096MB and 1x2048MB modules
  • 13" TFT display (1280x800 resolution)
  • Nividia Geforce 320M video controller with 256MB VRAM
  • Internal, on-board audio codec
  • 250GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • Combo DVD Writer/CD writer drive
  • AirPort slot with Apple Airport Extreme 802.11a/b/g/n

Other

  • Stereo speakers (upfiring, near the screen)
  • mini-DVI-I with DVI and VGA output port
  • 2xUSB 2.0, Firewire 800 port
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Li Ion rechargeable battery
  • 18.5V power supply (separate)
  • Mac OSX 10.6.3 installed, OSX 10.13.6 maximum possible
  • Can run PowerPC applications using Rosetta emulation layer
  • Can run from Windows XP SP2 up to Windows 7 (32 bit) using BootCamp

Apple Macbook Pro 2011 13"

Best retro purpose

This laptop is suited to run a very wide array of OSX versions, offering a good insight into the evolution of Apple operating systems and its application. The Intel CPU can also run Windows using BootCamp, which brings other interesting comparisons between the classic PC and Mac environments. The platform offers good expansion capabilities as it supports up to 4GB of RAM. The integrated video controller is powerful enough also for 3D gaming although expectations should not go over a typical mid-range laptop of the era.

This model is interesting as it heralded a new era of Apple laptops. The chassis was replaced with a more stylish design, the keyboard had a flat but still a pleasant tactile feedback keyboard and many other improvements were made. The laptop was also quite silent in operation due to the small heat output of the CPU and system accessibility was very good. For a few years, this laptop lineup was the best of Apple un terms of upgradeability.

Benchmarks

Durability and Repair-ability

Considering that it is a cool running laptop, survivability prospects are very good as components are less stressed. The battery may not be great, as deformations can damage the trackpad but it can be easily replaced. Here apple is to blame since the case of the battery was very light, having no way to contain the bilging battery.

The durability of the laptop is very good, mostly due to the resistant aluminum case. Overall, this is a step above the previous generation MacBook Pro, as even without an internal framework, the chassis is rigid enough to withstand most shocks. In terms of design and manufacturing, this was a major victory for Apple, as an aluminium laptop could finally be on par and even exceed some traditional designs. Internal accessibility is also quite good. unscrewing the bottom case allows access to all user replaceable components such as the hardd-drive, memory, even the cooling fan. This showcases a very rare inclination in the whole history of Apple when most of the internals were easy to access and replace. Of course, not everything is so fine. Replacing the screen is very cumbersome and prone to damage, as the entire front housing is made of glass which is glued to the chassis. Any scratch or glass breakage is, thus, very hard to repair and avoid.

Greatest features & flaws

Features Flaws
Great MacOSX 10.7 to 10.9 performance Worn batteries can damage trackpad
Good software compatibility Odd maximum RAM size, hard to replace LCD screen
Comfortable keyboard and trackpad Glass trackpad can be broken easily
Cool running laptop, easy to access internals Screen can be easily damaged

Review

A business laptop, released in 2010, which offers good performance but has a slightly fragile build. The chassis is much improved from the previous MacBook models, offering better rigidity and survivability, along with a larger and better responsive trackpad. This laptop had a somewhat dated configuration for its time, featuring a dual processor but and odd DDR3 maximum memory size. The harddrive is a SATA type, offering improved performance and a rare chance of experiencing very modern performance if replaced with a SSD. The graphic chipset is also an improvement over the previous generation. The processor performance improvement was not as large as expected since Apple did not make the switch to the newer Core i5 and i7 architecture.

The LCD TFT screen build quality was very good, using a modern technology that offers good contrast and response times and the LED lighting quality was finally decent. Unfortunately, the lack of any possibility to choose matte screens meant that glare was quite common, even if Apple handled this issue slightly better than even some modern laptop manufacturers, as late as of 2021. One odd design choice is that Apple will stick quite late in the release cycle with 1280x800 screens that felt outdated by 2010 and replaced only in 2013 when Apple released an entirely new MacBook Pro lineup. On the other side, the screen is quite fine for use, it is just that the technology been used was not as advanced as expected.

The keyboard is very comfortable to type on even if it was a major departure from previous designs. The black plastic keycaps are quite durable and the laptop's keyboard feels pleasant to use. On the other side, the butterfly mechanism is much more sensitive to damage, if improperly handled. In most use cases, survivability is quite good put precautions should be exercised when cleaning the keyboard. Of course, Apple is to blame also for starting the unpleasant trend of flashy but less comfortable keyboards. The wireless performance is slightly improved compared with previous PowerBook laptops. On the other side, the included Ethernet port offers very good performance and reliability, being a good networking choice. The laptop also included a slightly better Bluetooth implementation.

The chassis was slim, well rounded, very comfortable. This is perhaps the biggest achievement of the laptop's design as it features a flashy case that is durable yet attractive enough. Of course, not the same can be said about the screen, as it can be easily damaged. However, if properly cared for, the laptop had a good chance of long service. The display hinges are still very well engineered even if they may not look to be anything special. It should be said that most other laptop manufacturers at that time were willing to cope the design but did not care to make a build that was durable enough. The integrated speakers are average, having decent performance.

The rechargeable battery can be easily removed or replaced as are most internal components such as RAM. The standard HDDs are fast enough for Mac OSX. Replacing the hard-drive is somewhat difficult but the system accepts even last generation SATA 3 drives, including SSDs, for massive speed improvements. Software support is good as the system can run PowerPC applications, albeit at slower performance, in the Rosetta emulation environment.

Historic context

Apple was interested in having much improved PowerPC processors but the alliance with IBM and Motorola did not show great prospects. The pc market was quite small and a more balanced situation against Intel/AMD pcs was never materialized. Having quite low sales and not being attractive enough for professional user needs, especially in the video production environment, meant that Apple was desperate to release much better performing computers. Major efforts were done to release dual PowerPC G5 workstations, but any implementation attempted on laptops was even worse in terms of dissipation and energy consumption and Apple had to accept poorer performing laptops when the laptop market had the most promising sale increase.

As the OSX platform was agnostic to any CPU architecture, attempts to test Intel CPU performance were underway for many years. Recent stagnation in the PowerPC platform pushed Apple to attempt negotiations with Intel but Intel did not seem interested so Apple invested further in the last attempt at releasing faster PowerPC products. However, as soon as an agreement came, Apple switched the entire lineup to Intel in less than 2 years. Despite all previous marketing showdowns, Apple knew very well the strengths and weaknesses of the PowerPC. While PowerPC architecture shined on floating point performance, the Intel one did the same but for multiprocessing, memory access and energy efficiency. Switching to the new platform required emulation and some operating system tweaks but Apple focused mostly on ensuring good enough compatibility. The code emulation for PowerPC was not very fast but ensured a quicker, smoother transition for users.

Core 2 Duo was the second generation Intel Core CPU, with very good improvements over the previous release. Multitasking was improved due to the caching and microarchitecture enhancements, offering very good performance while not increasing power use and heat dissipation. This was also the first Intel architecture to feature support for AMD x86-64 platform, making it possible to run 64-bit operating systems, use larger applications. Of course, code was also larger and typical applications did not show any improvements except on video and photo editing applications. At that time, 64-bit capability was still far from being a requirement, and the transition to 64-bit dragged on for more than 10 years.

The development of the so-called unibody Apple laptops was a milestone in design as it signaled the end of traditional laptop designs that were thicker, heavier, had taller keyboards and were more easily serviceable. All laptop manufacturers followed closely the Apple design, releasing somewhat successful designs but ones that compromised usability and durability. Of course, this was just the start of a decade long evolution but it ended poorly for the end user as laptops became overly difficult to service and even skimped on traditional upgradeability features for RAM and storage, with no visible advantage. This design trend is what ended up cornering consumers and servicers into demanding the right-of-repair comeback.

On the architectural field, Intel din not made enough architectural improvements, forgot about the near-disaster of the Pentium 4 and Itanium CPUs, slowly losing the performance per watt competition that Apple was very keen on keeping. This will lead to Apple's transition to in-house developed CPU and GPU designs, in the late 2010s.


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