Apple’s recently introduced mid-2009 MacBook Pros sure do look nice! I am definitely tempted to trade up my late-2007 model, leveraging the excellent resale value that Mac hardware commands. But two of Apple’s trick features for 2009 are already present on my old workhorse: An integrated SD card slot and up to 7 hours of battery life.
Card Slot In Card Slot
Apple has equipped the MacBook Pro line with an integrated ExpressCard slot since the very first post-PowerBook model back in 2006. This new expansion card form factor has never been as popular as PCMCIA/CardBus was on the laptops of the early part of the decade. So, for mid-2009, Apple decided to drop the slot altogether for all models but the massive 17″ MacBook Pro. In its place is an SD card slot, popular with the digital camera set.
Part of the blame lies in the increasing integration of features in modern machines: Users no longer need the slot to add a network adapter, Wi-Fi, audio, or optical drive since they’re all built in! Another huge factor is USB 2.0: It’s fast enough for just about any remaining peripheral.
There are only three urgent uses for an ExpressCard slot in a modern laptop:
- Adding 3G wireless networking capability to systems (like Apple’s) that lack built-in 3G cards. Of course, many folks choose a USB 3G modem, and I’m in love with my Cradlepoint 3G wireless router.
- Adding a second video adapter and external monitor. Modern MacBooks work great out of the box with two monitors, though, if you count the built-in LCD! And the new USB video adapters seem to work fairly well, too.
- Adding more high-speed ports like e-SATA or FireWire 800. Although the MacBook Pro has two USB 2.0 ports, both are compromised in terms of speed or power. All of the new Pro models (even the new 13″) now include FireWire 800, but e-SATA is still AWOL.
I didn’t need any of these features with my MacBook Pro: My Sprint 3G card is connected to the Cradlepoint router, I am happy to use the built-in LCD for multi-monitor desktop use, and I don’t need more FireWire or e-SATA storage. But, as I noted back in October, I did find a great use for the ExpressCard slot: An SD media card reader! That’s right: My now-old Mac features the exact same function that Apple just added!
I love having the convenience of an SD slot when it comes to importing photos from my Canon PowerShot cameras: It’s quick, the cards open right up in iPhoto, and I don’t have to carry any cables with me. Adding an SD card reader was cheap and easy, too! Amazon sells the exact same Sandisk SDAD109A11 adapter I bought for around $40. They’ve also got a Sonnet SD adapter (which I haven’t tried) for under $30!
I Have The Power!
Massive battery life is another solid addition to the mid-2009 MacBook Pro line. Apple integrates a huge battery right into the laptop, and reports indicate it really does deliver 7 or 8 hours of runtime. This is the first laptop I can think of without an easily replaceable battery, and follows Apple’s similar moves with the iPod and iPhone lines. Expect this to be copied by other manufacturers in the future!
Although my MacBook Pro lasts three to four hours on a charge, I purchased a second battery from the Apple store to help me work on the go. This has proven an excellent investment, and I have come to rely on battery power more than I thought I would. I have spent entire trans-Atlantic flights with the computer up and running, and have touched 8 hours of run time with two fully-charged batteries. Although extra batteries are not cheap (Amazon lists mine at $120), they’re much less expensive than they used to be!
If you do decide to get an extra battery for your older MacBook, here are some tips:
- Get the original equipment Apple battery, not a third-party workalike. I’ve always had bad luck with off-brand batteries, and they’re not that much cheaper.
- Download a copy of SmartSleep, the awesome and free sleep/hibernate utility. I have mine set to hibernate below 5% charge so I can swap batteries without losing data.
- If you don’t want to wait for hibernation, just leave the Mac plugged in when you swap batteries. You can do this while it’s running or while it’s plugged in but asleep.
Sure, the cool unibody case and faster performance is tempting. But I’m still pretty happy with my good old MacBook Pro!