For years now, owning an Apple-made computer has marked you out as someone who "thinks different", as the company's branding and advertising would have it.

But things have changed drastically in recent months. The company has started using Intel chips inside its computers, replacing the IBM/Motorola PowerPC chips it had used for years previously.

Now the first Intelpowered Apple laptop, the MacBook Pro, has been released and what everyone wants to know is - is it any better than its predecessors?

The answer is: mostly, yes. But it is not without its problems.

One reason Apple decided to switch chips was to make faster machines, and in this respect the MacBook Pro is certainly a success. Far zippier than its rivals, it churns through complex computing tasks much quicker than its forerunner, the PowerBook G4.

This is partly because of the new Intel chip, but also because on the more expensive MacBook Pro models, the chip is what's called a "Core Duo", which means its brain has been split into two halves, each capable of running commands simultaneously. With twice the thinking power, the computer runs much faster than before.

It's not just complex tasks that have been speeded up. Everyday things, like using the Finder (the Mac file manager, similar to Windows Explorer) and scrolling through hundreds of photos, are much faster too.

Unfortunately, the MacBook Pro suffers two annoying problems as well.

One is an irritating hiss or whine that can be heard from underneath the keyboard.

Various online forums (such as Macintouch have been discussing the reason for it, and the consensus is that it could well be one of the processor's dual brains with nothing to do. Lacking any meaningful task to keep it occupied, it whines until the computer is given a more processing-intensive job, at which point it disappears.

Whether this is the true cause of the problem or not, the whine is annoying when you can hear it and relatively easy to get rid of temporarily.

Another problem is heat. All computers generate heat but some are hotter than others. Laptops designers are always trying to come up with ways to dissipate the heat produced by the machine without making it too hot to put on the user's lap.

Unfortunately the Mac-Book Pro gets incredibly hot, even when used for fairly basic tasks like browsing the web and sending email. I found it too hot to use on my

lap, even for a short period of time. For those people who buy a laptop to use while travelling, when finding a desk to work at can be difficult, this makes the MacBook Pro a less attractive option.

Should you buy one? Only if you have to have an Intelpowered Apple laptop right now. Otherwise, it might be sensible to wait a few months, even a year if you can manage with your existing machine, by which time there will be newer machines and hopefully some of these teething problems will have been sorted out.