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Apple MacBook Pro review

Verdict

Still one of the best examples of laptop design in the market, but there are compromises.

Review Date: 20 Jul 2007

Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson

Price when reviewed: (£1,299 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

When today's laptops start to appear in museums in a few decades' time, Apple's range is guaranteed a place, with the MacBook Pro a case in point.

We first saw the MacBook Pro over a year ago (web ID: 84908), and the exterior has changed little since Apple first adopted Intel's architecture. But Apple has been busy with the internals, with plenty of worthwhile changes that make the MacBook better value.

First is the screen, with LED backlighting. This, at least in theory, means better battery life, although there's no noticeable difference to panel quality. Whites are clean and colours vibrant. And, befitting a machine that will find its way into the hands of professional photographers, the panel is mercifully free of a reflective gloss finish, although you can specify one for no extra charge if you wish.

There's more good news in store with the 120GB of hard disk capacity, which will be a practical size for business users, although those working with significant amounts of media might want to upgrade to 200GB for £94 exc VAT. The front-loading DVD drive offers a handy way of making swift backups to most formats.

Using the beta of Apple's Boot Camp software (web ID: 87378), we installed Windows Vista and ran our usual gamut of performance tests. In terms of battery life, our light-use routine saw a result of 4hrs 7mins, and our intensive test 1hr 15mins. Neither time is spectacular compared to many smaller notebooks, but it does at least represent an improvement on previous MacBook Pros.

The new models are available with either 2.2GHz or 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs, with our review model starring the slower of the two chips. Slower is a relative term, though, and it still fired through our benchmarks, returning a respectable overall result of 1.12. The system also comes with 2GB of RAM, which is a healthy complement for both OS X and Vista.

The CPU may be straight from Intel's Santa Rosa platform, but you won't find a Centrino sticker littering the exterior of this notebook. The wireless adapter is an Atheros model rather than an Intel one, although it's noteworthy for being compliant with the current draft of 802.11n WLAN.

Apple has also dispensed with Intel's onboard graphics, installing an Nvidia 8600M GT chip. Not only does this make the MacBook Pro Apple's first ever DirectX 10-capable laptop (provided you install Windows Vista, that is), but it also makes it a competent gaming machine. Taking on Call of Duty 2, the MacBook Pro managed a very respectable 38fps in our benchmarks, and 13fps in Call of Juarez.

None of this is particularly remarkable in itself, but it's the subtle design touches that truly elevate the MacBook above the crowd. The MagSafe connector remains a geeky talking point and, although we found it rather easy to accidentally pull out, it remains the best way we've seen to prevent the MacBook taking an unexpected expensive trip to the floor. The keyboard has LED backlighting, too, with the light sensor also connected to the screen, so its brightness adjusts depending on the environment you're in.

In fact, the only real problem with the design is heat dissipation. When pushed hard during our benchmarks, the MacBook Pro got very noisy as it tried to push heat away. As a result, the underside of the chassis gets far too hot to use comfortably on a lap.

It isn't the only problem to consider, either. Macs may be able to run Windows these days, but it's still a beta, unsupported feature until the launch of OS X Leopard later this year. And while it represents uniquely good value if you need to run both Windows and OS X, bear in mind that you'll need to buy a full copy of Windows, too. Plus, Apple continues to persist with its single-button mouse pad, proving a major annoyance during Windows use.

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