Apple MacBook Pro 15 review

27 Apr 2010

Apple finally upgrades to Core i7, but the design isn't perfect and Windows users will find battery life short

Price when reviewed 
1,799
4

The allure of the MacBook Pro is simple. With power enough to please performance die-hards, and the poise to please fashionistas, Apple's flagship laptop was always destined to impress. But, with previous models still chugging along on Core 2 processors, many will have been holding off for this inevitable Core i7 upgrade.

Read our review of the 2011 Apple MacBook Pro 13, Apple MacBook Pro 15 and Apple MacBook Pro 17 laptops here

The price is still enough to put a lump in anyone's throat, but the outlay rewards with the usual Apple delights. The major news is that the slick aluminium chassis is now joined by some up-to-date internals - but, although it's definitely fast, it isn't quite as fast as you might expect.

Intel's Core i7-620M is teamed with 4GB of DDR3 memory, propelling it to a fine 1.75 in our benchmarks, but it's still a whisker behind two other recent i7 converts - the Sony VAIO Z11on 1.80 and the Lenovo ThinkPad T510 on 1.91. The 5,400rpm hard disk shares some of the blame; at this price, a 7,200rpm disk would seem more appropriate.

Apple MacBook Pro 15 rear view

More interestingly, in a first for Apple, graphical duties are handled by dual GPUs comprising the on-CPU Intel HD graphics and Nvidia's discrete GeForce GT 330M chipset. The burlier chipset of the pair, the GeForce GT 330M, fired through Crysis at 1,280 x 1,024 and Medium detail with a borderline playable average of 26fps. Intel's HD graphics, meanwhile, proved man enough for HD video playback.

The duo works wonders in Apple's OS X Snow Leopard, with Intel's HD graphics taking the reins most of the time and the Nvidia chipset automatically stepping in when more graphical muscle is required. Unfortunately, it's a great trick that you'll only appreciate in OS X. It's painfully absent when running Windows.

Boot Camp works as simply as ever for Windows installation, but the Nvidia chipset takes a serious toll on battery life. The Intel HD chip is efficient, and allowed the MacBook Pro 15 to idle for 8hrs 15mins in OS X; by contrast, with the hungrier Nvidia chip permanently engaged, it managed only 3hrs 35mins in Windows. Push the MacBook Pro 15 hard and you'll be dashing to the mains after just 1hr 25mins.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,531
Price inc VAT £1,799
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 3
Performance 6

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 364 x 249 x 24mm (WDH)
Weight 2.540kg
Travelling weight 3.0kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-620M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55 Express
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,440
Resolution screen vertical 900
Resolution 1440 x 900
Graphics chipset Nvidia GT 330M
Graphics card RAM 512MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 466GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset SigmaTel HD Audio
Speaker location Either side of keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 35min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 25min
Overall application benchmark score 1.75
Office application benchmark score 1.36
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.94
Encoding application benchmark score 1.70
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.99
3D performance (crysis) low settings 75fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Mac OS X Snow Leopard
OS family Mac OS X
Recovery method Recovery disc
Software supplied Apple iWork, Final Cut Express 4, Aperture 3, FileMaker 11, Logic Express 9, Bento 3