$#*! Tech: 2009 MacBook Pro

Editor’s Note: Complete $#*! is a new section we are launching today that will focus on topics  we find to be $#*!, or want to find out if they are $#*!. Here is the first post, regarding an old MacBook. -PJS


Backsliding is what they call it; where an individual returns to an ex in the hopes of finding what once was, thereby completing the regression into a certain time in his or her past that is remembered as so much better than the present.

I’m pondering this term as I put my 15inch MacBook Pro with Retina display atop a newly purchased iPad Pro. In fact, the iPad is still residing in that temporary buyers’ remorse phase where it still sports its plastic wrap. I won’t be needing either of this devices this evening.

It’s time to explore an old friend, and find out if he has turned to $#*!.

The 2009 MacBook Pro, the elder statesman of my devices, sits on its side on the floor by my bed. It has to remain constantly plugged in to avoid the quick death that comes with having the battery carry the weight of handling background computing functions.

I remove the old laptop from the sleeve it’s lived in since it was given to me as a high school graduation gift. The shell of the device gives away its age immediately. The aluminum unibody casing is discolored and scratched badly, giving the computer a battle tested, yet unaesthetic, look. Even so, I can’t help but smile as I recall all the late nights in the library, the meetings planning events, and the classes spent on Facebook instead of taking notes. The damage on its aluminum is not so much a product of neglect, but rather of intense use and companionship.

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I place the laptop on it’s rightful perch on my thighs, and the weight and thickness from the old components, like the optical drive, is immediately evident, and unpleasant. Not only does the computer look old, but now it comes to light how old it feels as well.

I flip the clamshell open, and that doesn’t feel too great either, to be honest. Over the last 7 years, the hinge has become mushy, and now the top flips open haphazardly. This is bearable though, because once I select an angle to use the laptop at, it holds. I press the power button, and the screen reluctantly comes to life.

After years of using Apple products with Retina displays, the ‘09 computer’s screen looks deplorable. One really has to ask how he or she survived using the low resolution found here for so long. It’s remarkable what passes as “cutting edge” when looking at one generation of technology to the next. Look, you can even see the pixels in the picture below! Perhaps this is too personal a gripe, as many continue to use this same screen or a similar one on computers like the the MacBook Air without complaint. At the same time, there’s a good chance these people haven’t gotten a chance to use a Retina laptop, so they have no basis for comparison, and no idea what they are missing.

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I bang the old keys to enter my account password, a welcome reminder of the papers written, emails sent, and Facebook messaging done. In fact, this keyboard feels better than the one found on the 2014 MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which frankly feels kind of “clickity,” as opposed to the elder Mac’s “clackity.” The travel and rebound on the ‘09 are more noticeable for sure, while the ‘14 feels quite shallow with not a ton of travel in the keys. A keyboard has never been a huge deal, but rather an added delight to my computer experience, so I can accept the slightly less than ideal experience typing on the ‘14 in exchange for improvements like the Retina display. However, I may begin to reach for the ‘09 instead if I find myself in a situation where a lot of writing needs to get done. The trackpad, on the other hand, is a different story. It feels sluggish and clunky compared to the new one found on the ’14.

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That about does it for the hardware that you can see and touch. Now for software performance. I should note that everything in this machine is as it was purchased back in June 2009, except for the RAM, which was upgraded from 4GB to 8GB in early 2014.

Since the end of my college career, I’ve been a pretty light laptop user. I really only went with the 15 inch model of MacBook for two reasons: 1, because I was an Apple Retail Store employee at the time and wanted to maximize the use of the massive discount, and 2, a desire for the extra screen real estate. As such, it’s probable that the ‘09 can handle the tasks I need done: browsing the web, watching video, writing for this site, sending some email, etc. I didn’t test the laptop on intense tasks like editing video or gaming, because they are not essential to my ability to use this computer as my daily machine. Additionally, it’s rather obvious that a 2009 computer of any brand would not be ideal for this kind of work.

Anyway, Let’s get on with the testing. First up: checking social media. The computer should be able to accomplish this, which is probably/pathetically the majority of what I do with my current devices, and usually the first.

I navigate to Facebook using Safari, and do some browsing. It’s not bad at all, as pages load comparably fast to my newer tech. However, I notice some lag in scrolling through the news feed, and the trackpad feels even slower to respond on the webpage than on my desktop when no programs were running. I open Twitter in another tab, which puts additional and again noticeable strain on navigation. It’s slight though, and tolerable.

To add to the stress on the machine, I add another tab, the PortaBloggy WordPress page, and boot up YouTube to stream some music. I start typing, which goes is alright at first, but after a few words, lag sets in. Auto correct is also slow to respond to corrections, and YouTube skips in the background. This would not work as a writing and listening solution for me as a soon-to-be-world-famous-blogger. It is a poor experience, and introduces frustration in the form of hiccups when trying to write.

I now open a fifth tab, Gmail. I mark some conversations as read and draft an email to my co-bloggers about who is going to cover Thursday with a post. Same issue, more lagging on text input and a skipping video in the background.

Tab #6. Netflix. I switch off the YouTube music for now, and fire up an episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia (watch it if you haven’t). Oh man, does this computer hate me right now. The video of the show is stutters badly. I jump back to Facebook to check notifications and Twitter to check new tweets, and both are super sluggish in their response to my trackpad prompts. Typing a post on WordPress is impossible, due to pauses when the website auto-saves my work. With this much going on at once, this machine feels truly unusable. I step away from the laptop for a moment, and return to jump around tabs again, only to find the performance has worsened greatly. The fans are going at top speed, and in the 30 minutes I’ve been using the computer, the battery has gone from full to 50%, so taking this out of the house for work on the go, without the charger, is not an option. This wouldn’t work for someone looking to head down to the local Starbucks and get some writing done.

All things considered, the ’09 MacBook performed admirably and surpassed expectations. While not a buttery smooth experience like the two products I set aside for this review, this computer would step up when required to do some very light web browsing and writing, as long as that’s all one is doing. Oh, and bring your charger if you are leaving the house.

I know this omits a ton of topics a typical review would cover, but this is what I do on my computer, and what I believe the majority of computer users do on their computers as well. Besides, a tech-informed individual would already be aware that this machine would not provide a usable experience for video editing and the like, so I felt it unneccessary to explore those use cases.

While I wouldn’t make this computer the first choice for fulfilling my needs as an individual and my needs as a blogger, it certainly was a dose of nostalgia to use it, and made me smile in the process.

7/10, might use again. Not $#*!.

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