Apple MacBook Pro15 Price: $1,799; $2,199
Nearly a year has passed since Apple released its updated 15-inch MacBook Pro, featuring a unibody aluminum construction, SD Card slot, and a longer-lasting lithium ion battery. Now, the Cupertino-based company has incorporated a few important upgrades under the hood to supercharge this elegant machine (starting at $1,799; $2,199 as configured). These enhancements include the long-awaited Intel Core i7 processor, capable of overclocking on the fly, and automatic graphics-switching technology that makes moving from integrated to discrete graphics mode all but invisible to the user. Best of all, even with the jump from Core 2 Duo to Core i7, Apple has managed to deliver all-day battery life. These are collectively welcome improvements, but are they enough to justify the premium? Yup.
Apple MacBook Pro Design:
The 15-inch MacBook Pro sports the same carved-from-a-single-chunk-of-metal unibody design as its brethren, with a sturdy aluminum chassis and rounded edges. The overall look is classy and modern, though it makes upgrading individual components (like the RAM and hard drive) more difficult, as the entire bottom must be unscrewed.
The MacBook Pro has the same dimensions as before (14.4 x 9.8 x 1 inches), but it weighs a slightly heavier 5.6 pounds. While we definitely felt the extra heft while carrying the machine home, it did fit in our messenger bag, which is more than we can say about most 15-inch notebooks. The only system that comes close is the HP Envy 15, which has an equally slim and stylish profile (15.0 x 9.6 x 1 inches) and weighs a lighter 5.2 pounds. Regardless, this notebook will take up your entire tray table if you take it on a flight.
Apple MacBook Pro Heat:
The 15-inch MacBook Pro held up well during our heat test, where we play a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes; the space between the G and H keys remained a balmy 84 degrees Fahrenheit, and the touchpad measured just 71 degrees. However, the back rear bottom of the notebook reached an uncomfortable 104 degrees. Also, after using the system on our lap for an hour and typing this review while watching another Hulu video, the middle of the underside increased to a hot 105 degrees. Moreover, while running the World of Warcraft test, we could hear the fan from 10 feet away. Still, the HP Envy 15 was even hotter, reaching 110 degrees near the vent.
Apple MacBook Pro Keyboard and Touchpad:
Similar to other MacBook Pros, our unit featured a shallow keyboard with black, isolated keys that provided solid feedback when typing URLs and writing documents. The keys are backlit, a feature that can be activated manually or by the ambient light sensor, which will illuminate the keys when typing in low-light situations (such as a darkened plane cabin). While typing in a dark room, the soft glow enabled us to see the keys clearly.
Apple was the first company to introduce mouse buttons integrated into the touchpad itself, and while others have imitated it, Apple’s touchpad still remains the best. Not only is it huge–4.1 x 3 inches–but we never saw the cursor jump around, as with some Dell and HP touchpads, even when using two hands.
Of course, multitouch functionality is built in, and Apple has added an extra feature called inertial scrolling. When you use two fingers to scroll down a document, it keeps scrolling for a bit even after you’ve completed the finger swipe; this makes it easier to scroll though large documents.
Apple MacBook Pro Display and Audio:
As usual, we loved the bright and crisp 15.6-inch display on the MacBook Pro. Its resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels is adequate, though we suspect many photographers and other creative pros will opt for the 1680 x 1050-pixel option. While reflections from the glossy display weren’t overwhelming, it’s also nice to know there’s an antiglare option–though only for the higher resolution display. Still, colors were bright, blacks were deep and dark, and viewing angles were excellent both vertically and horizontally.
Speakers on either side of the keyboard provided very good audio. At full volume, the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feelin’” filled a small room; higher tones were crisp without sounding distorted, and lower notes, such as the bass line in the song, had enough presence without being overwhelming.
Apple MacBook Pro Ports and Webcam:
On the right side of the 15-inch MacBook Pro you’ll find the 8X SuperDrive and Kensington lock slot. Built into the left side are two closely placed USB 2.0 ports, Mini DisplayPort, a FireWire 800 port, the MagSafe power port, and headphone and mic jacks. Conspicuous in its absence: an ExpressCard slot, found on the original 15-inch MacBook Pro (and on the current 17-inch MacBook Pro), which is replaced by an SD Card slot. For the money, we would’ve liked to seen at least one more USB port and HDMI.
The webcam above the display was excellent in a Skype video chat. The other caller said that he could make out objects in the background, as well as the stitching on our all-black sweater. The embedded microphone also picked up our voice well.