MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.4GHz [2008] full review


The glass trackpad, keyboards and casing

While we noted with excitement that the last batch of pro ‘Books supported the new MacBook Air-style hand gestures, these new models support even more gestures on bigger trackpads. The new Multi-Touch trackpad looks huge, measuring about 4.13 inches horizontally and 3 inches vertically as opposed to 3.94 horizontally and 2.81 vertically (with .88 of an inch taken up by the clickable button) on the older model. It’s silky smooth glass and has no separate button because the entire pad is a button. According to Apple, the new trackpad has 39 percent more tracking area than the previous one.

You can use one finger to click, drag, drag lock, and right-click (called secondary click). You can use two fingers to scroll, rotate, pinch open and close, and zoom your screen, as well as secondary tap. A three-finger swipe will navigate you through a photo album, for example, and pulling four fingers up and down will activate the Exposé functions; four fingers swiped to the right or left gives you the Application Switcher. You can tap to click, double tap to choose and move a window, and to lock it in place again, and choose the right bottom or left bottom corner of the trackpad to designate a right-click function.

As people who've used the Mac’s trackpad buttons for years, we found this new design hard to get used to. The new unified trackpad/button may cause you to fundamentally change the way you use your Mac laptops. Because the button is so large (and to our hands, harder to click with the thumb as many people are used to doing), some will wind up using hand gestures almost all the time. Instead of leaning on the pad/button every time you want to click, just use the single tap or double tap with your forefinger to expedite most commands. This works out to be much easier on the hands over time and a much quieter way of computing as well. All that button pushing—gone.

Within the System Preferences, there’s now a new Trackpad preference pane that gives you video-enhanced information and demonstrations on how to use the new hand gestures.

The laptop’s front panel has undergone a significant redesign. The power button at the upper right hand side of the case is small, and blends in to the panel. The speaker mesh on both sides of the keyboard is likewise very delicate. And there’s a tiny iSight camera embedded in the lid, so small it blends into the monitor’s black border so that you can barely see it.

Within a small depressed well sits the Chicklet-style keyboard. The keys are black and scissor style, similar to the keyboards on previous generation black MacBooks, yet there’s nothing compressed about them. These are generous flat-topped keys with just enough key travel to not be hard on the hands, and which register a solid press without being mushy. While in somewhat the same style of the desktop aluminum keyboards, I find this one more comfortable to use than the aluminum keyboard. And there’s an ambient light sensor that lights up the underside of the keys if you’re working in a low light environment.

The glass trackpad has no button, instead you push the whole trackpad down to click

Next: Performance and Speedmark tests

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