Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Apple laptop reliability: Macintouch survey and sleep times

Every MacBook and MacBook Pro(Intel Mac) owner should review the latest impressive Macintouch reliability survey. Early adopters of the new machines basically got it in the back, but are not as outraged as one might expect. It might be they were an unusually savvy group and knew they were taking risks. The newest machines seem to have better than average laptop reliability -- perhaps a 10% rate of big defects in the first 6 months or so of life. This is outrageous by the standards of automobiles but is relatively good for the world of laptops.

One note deserves a lot of attention:
MacBook/MacBook Pro Reliability:

... Apple's MacBooks and MacBook Pros behave differently from their PowerPC predecessors when they are put to sleep, taking up to 30 seconds to go to sleep, as they write the contents of system memory to the hard drive. This enables a more efficient power saving mode of sleep (basically identical to a PC's 'hibernate' mode), but the implementation seems to have some troubles. Many 15' MacBook Pro owners report that their machines fail to sleep successfully, overheating while being carried in bags, eventually discharging the battery completely and potentially risking a fire hazard, as well as hardware damage...
Apple dropped the ball by not shouting this from the laptops. Mac veterans are used to smartly closing the laptop and walking off with it. You can't do that with the new machines. You have to close them and wait for the far-too-small sleep indicator to start "breathing". It's bad enough training oneself to do that, much less the rest of the family!

I suppose the "hibernation" mode reduces power drain on the sleeping machines, but it's a real step backwards and likely a major contributor to device failure.

In addition to the 30 second delay (longer the more memory you install), Spotlight and various background processes, including Bluetooth devices, can all stop sleep/hibernate from occurring. So the basic problem is compounded by a number of bugs and design flaws. I see similar problems on my XP laptop, but this is new for the Mac. Tossing a laptop with a spinning drive into a backpack is not a great thing ...

The authoritative review ends on an upbeat note. I did everything I could to keep my G3 iBook alive until the Core-2 Duo MacBook came out. I'm patting myself on the back now ...
... All in all, we see a distinct trend of improvement for all new MacBook models, which bodes well for the future. Apple's Core 2 laptops are showing fewer problems than the original Core Duo models did when they were similarly young. With their fast, 64-bit, Core 2 Duo processors, higher memory capacity and FireWire 800 on the 15" models, Windows compatibility and competitive pricing, all of Apple's latest Core 2 MacBooks and MacBook Pros appear to be good choices, considering reliability, as well.

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