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MacBook /Pro Ergonomics

#1 User is offline   poltroon 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 01:30 PM

Like so many others, I'm in the market for a new mac laptop. /forums/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/laugh.gif
I have been dazzled by the pictures, but I am very concerned about the ergonomics of the new laptops. I went to the nearest Apple Store, determined to fall in love, but I left feeling grumpy. Admittedly their setup can only be tested hunched over and in weird uncomfortable positions, and the store was too busy that day to ask for help for me to try what I needed to try (computer in my lap). But I found all of the machines fairly uncomfortable to use, and I'm particularly worried about the heat.
I currently (hold your laughter!) am living on a 6 year old G3 bronze. I love this computer, can you tell? I do web programming and development on it - which means I mostly do email, edit text, and view web pages on it, with some Office and a smattering of simple photoshop to create and manipulate images. I kept it on OS9 because it did what I needed to do and because I knew OS10 would stress its resources. I am often running a lot of apps at once.
This is a 15" machine, but the resolution is less than that of even the MacBook, so I'll be good there.
This computer is very comfortable for me and I have no complaints. Really, the only issue I have is that the newest browser I can run is IE 5.1.6, and people are writing web pages that are too complicated for it that unfortunately I need to use. Additionally, it would be nice to have wireless and in general to be running OS10 just like everyone else. It wasn't top of the line when I bought it, even - so you can see that speed isn't a big concern. I'd love more battery life, but sadly, that is not one of my choices going forward.
So. The time has come, and I'm basically ready for a new machine. But the sharp edge on the case, the heat, and the placement of the mouse all felt problematic.
I use my laptop quite literally on my lap, and unfortunately often without air conditioning. I get up and down a lot during my day. I move between a couple of rooms and travel, so I use the portable factor constantly. I use the laptop keyboard and laptop trackpad - never an external set.
I don't use a lap desk now, but I'm open to something like iLap. My main issue with that would be how cumbersome it is or isn't to lift off my lap, put on the shelf, and take it back again. I don't know if a 17" will be too large to do that comfortably.
Because I've waited so long, and because I do this professionally and keep my machines a long time, I can justify any of the machines $$ wise. I wanted to love the 17", but paradoxically, the most comfortable in the store was the puny MacBook, which was not really what I had in mind. But maybe that is what I should have. I think mostly it was because the mouse button was close to the end of the machine, where 6 years of experience tell me it should be. Maybe I can learn to love a new mouse placement.
The only thing I did decide was to get the glossy screen. Although I have glare problems sometimes, when I compared the glossy on the lowest brightness with the matte on lowest brightness, glossy was easier to see, which was the best proxy I could come up with for how it will behave in sunny conditions.
I was hoping to buy one in the next month, but now I'm thinking I may want to wait for the next release and see if they do a case redesign.
As a side note, I know the 17" can drive a big external display, including the 30" that I will never afford /forums/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif . When it does that, does that give you a second monitor or does it just echo its regular screen?
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#2 User is offline   Typhoon14 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 04:14 PM

Well, firstly, comfort and ergonomics are two different things. Laptops are not ergonomic, period the basic design makes it impossible. If you use it on your lap, you're pretty much getting the worst of all worlds your neck is positioned at an unnatural angle, and your wrists are in a cramped and ultimately unhealthy position. If you use a laptop on a desk, you have choice: You can position it at eye-level, in which case typing and mousing will be extremely non-ergonomic, or you can position in to give your wrists a decent position (never going to be as good as an external keyboard), and strain your neck to look down at the screen.
Comfort is subjective what feels right to you may be destroying your nerves and tendons in the long run.
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#3 User is offline   drmbb 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 05:20 PM

As to the heat issue, I have not used a laptop in the past several years - Apple, Dell, HP, IBM or Sony (the only ones I have personal experience with) - that I would want to have sitting in my lap for any extended period of time. They all get too warm to really be used for long work sessions as literal laptops.
In that regard at least, I think it is just a function of modern portable computers - faster processors, faster RAM, faster hard drives, faster optical drives - the heat load is inherently higher, and they all get uncomfortably warm sitting on your lap. If that is the way you really like to use your machine, you will want some kind of laptop lap table, regardless of the make of machine you buy.
Just my feeling based on the machines I've used in the past couple to few years.
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#4 User is offline   poltroon 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 05:55 PM

So.... you're saying I should hold on to my current laptop tooth and nail, maybe see if I can get some more memory in it, and hope for the best? That what I have is as good as it gets for what I need?
I don't need a fast, hot processor. What I need is a web browser that doesn't suck. If I'm going to pay a lot of money for one, I want it to actually be better, sigh.
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#5 User is offline   moose_n_squirrel 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 06:03 PM

Quote:

I currently (hold your laughter!) am living on a 6 year old G3 bronze. I love this computer...So. The time has come, and I'm basically ready for a new machine. But the sharp edge on the case, the heat, and the placement of the mouse all felt problematic...
As a side note, I know the 17" can drive a big external display, including the 30" that I will never afford /forums/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif . When it does that, does that give you a second monitor or does it just echo its regular screen?


I can empathize better than some of the other replies. I came from a PowerBook G3 FireWire and now use an Aluminum PowerBook. The curved plastics of the G3 are far more comfortable on the hand. On the G3 it is quite comfortable to lean on the mouse button that rises gently from the surface in a sculptural curve. On the newer laptops your finger hits or presses against the hard sharp edge of the mouse button or catches the sharp ridge of the trackpad. This is in fact a step backwards from the more Apple-like style of the PowerBook G3, where the tactile transition was subtle and elegant. I guess some of the newer users never knew that it used to be better.
As for plugging in an external monitor, all MacBooks/MacBook Pros can extend the desktop to an external monitor. You have the choice of extending the desktop or simply mirroring. This has been the case for all PowerBooks since the early 1990s. Your current G3 probably extends the desktop too. My PowerBook G3 certainly does.
If all you want is a better browser, you can try what I did with my PowerBook G3. Put a gig of RAM in it, put a large hard drive in it, install 10.4 Tiger, and suddenly you have a machine that can run the latest browsers and applications (the ones that don't need a G4, anyway). That worked on my PBG3 FireWire, but if your G3 is too far back it may not work with Tiger.
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#6 User is offline   RichL 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 06:05 PM

Quote:

I don't need a fast, hot processor. What I need is a web browser that doesn't suck. If I'm going to pay a lot of money for one, I want it to actually be better, sigh.


I'd argue with the "hot" point. Yeah, the MB warms up pretty good, but I use it on my lap all the time and I'm not some big burly guy. The latest firmware update dropped the static temp by 20 as well.
RichL
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#7 User is offline   drmbb 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 06:29 PM

Quote:

So.... you're saying I should hold on to my current laptop tooth and nail, maybe see if I can get some more memory in it, and hope for the best? That what I have is as good as it gets for what I need?


Actually, I never said anything remotely like that. I merely pointed out that, in my experience, modern laptops, Apple's included are too warm to be comfortable in your lap. As already stated, some people don't find that, but that's been my experience.
If you do plan to use a newer machine in your lap for long periods of time, just use a laptop lap table - there are several marketed. They not only keep the heat from the case off your lap, but many people just like them for the extra comfort they offer when working with a laptop.
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#8 User is offline   moose_n_squirrel 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 06:44 PM

Make sure any lap table has a hard top so that the air circulation space under the bottom of the laptop is preserved. Don't use a pillow or other soft top or the heat will build up under the bottom, which will no longer be able to throw off heat. And all the heat that can't vent out the top or back will end up staying in the laptop, which can only end badly. That is actually true for the G3s as well.
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#9 User is offline   poltroon 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 07:51 PM

Thank you, moosensquirrel, for the perspective of someone who has used both. I did some hunting and I realized that actually I have the Powerbook G3 Firewire (Pismo) which can take 1GB of RAM, not the puny 384 MB of the Bronze which seemed unlikely to be enough.
I think I will spring for the additional memory for this machine (a whopping $200), and perhaps attempt the upgrade to OSX. It won't be wasted, since we're keeping this laptop anyway as a spare for my partner, whose home base is a desktop.
Meanwhile, I'll keep investigating the new ones and cross my fingers that we get new cases at least in the next quarter.
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#10 User is offline   RichL 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 08:18 PM

I would recommend the Levenger laplander with the pillow underneath. VERY comfortable.
RichL
Levenger
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#11 User is offline   moose_n_squirrel 

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Posted 20 August 2006 - 09:26 PM

If you are going to OS X don't use a hard drive smaller than 10GB. Try 40GB or 60GB. RAM + a bigger hard drive worthy of OS X won't cost more than $260 total.
Two FireWire 400 ports, a PC card slot, two battery bays, extended desktop on an external monitor, DVD playback, TV out with the included adapter, excellent AirPort range, beautiful design...the PBG3 makes a great second computer in several ways exceeding more recent Macs.
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#12 User is offline   drmbb 

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 01:47 PM

Not to belabour the point, but I was just helping someone set up their new black macbook the other day, and noticed this bit of info in the User's Manual under the "Using your MacBook" section:
Quote:

When youre using your MacBook or charging the battery, it is normal for the bottom of the case to get warm. For prolonged use, place your MacBook on a flat, stable surface. Do not leave the bottom of your MacBook in contact with your lap or any surface of your body for extended periods. Prolonged contact with your body could cause discomfort and potentially a burn.
The bottom of the MacBook case functions as a cooling surface that transfers heat from inside the computer to the cooler air outside. The bottom of the case is raised slightly to allow airflow that keeps the unit within normal operating temperatures. In addition, warm air is vented from the slots in the back of the case.


I'm assuming the MacBook Pro has a similar warning (likely even my powerbook does, but I don't even know where the user manual for my machine is, and I never looked at when I did).
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