Apple MacBook Pro 15in (2011) review
Blisteringly quick, beautifully designed and with Thunderbolt technology, but at this huge price we’d expect a full set of features
Apple pulled a bit of a surprise when it launched its 2011 update to the MacBook Pro family. While we all expected Sandy Bridge to make an appearance, rumours also began to surface of Intel’s Light Peak technology playing a part. Light Peak hadn’t previously been seen beyond Intel’s tech labs, yet those rumours turned out to be true: now officially renamed Thunderbolt, it makes its debut in all three MacBook Pros.
That’s a heady combination of technologies in one cutting-edge laptop, and Apple has made sure every model feels as future-proof as possible by choosing some powerful processors. Even the 13in models use dual-core Core i5 and i7 CPUs, while it’s quad-core across the board from 15in upwards, with added support from some high-end discrete AMD graphics chips.
The sample on test here is the dearer of the two MacBook Pro 15in specifications, with a quad-core 2.2GHz Core i7-2720QM and 4GB of DDR3 RAM at its heart. Graphical tasks are handled by Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 3000 chip for light work, and an AMD Radeon HD 6750M for more intensive jobs. That’s all backed up by a 750GB 5,400rpm hard disk and a slot-loading DVD writer.
It’s a fast all-round specification, and it proved as much in our brand-new benchmarks. An overall score of 0.85 (where the reference point of 1.00 is a Core i7-2600K desktop PC) shows just how much power is available from these Sandy Bridge laptop processors, and it managed an impressive 0.80 in the Multitasking segment too.
In our Crysis gaming benchmark, the MacBook Pro raced to an average frame rate of 53fps at the screen’s native 1,440 x 900 and Medium quality settings. Even upping that to High settings still saw an average of 29fps, meaning it’s a very capable gaming laptop.
The physical design of the MacBook Pro hasn’t changed one jot, though. It’s in the same aluminium unibody, with its multitouch touchpad that’s essentially all-button. Whether you stick with Mac OS X or use Boot Camp to get Windows, all the shortcut keys work and the backlit keyboard is a joy to use: comfortable, spacious and with just the right level of key travel.
|Price ex VAT||£1,541|
|Price inc VAT||£1,849|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||3|
|Dimensions||364 x 249 x 24mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i7-2720QM|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,440|
|Resolution screen vertical||900|
|Resolution||1440 x 900|
|Graphics chipset||AMD Radeon HD 6750M|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|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|
|Pointing device type||Multitouch touchpad|
|Speaker location||Either side of keyboard|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||7hr 49min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||107fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Apple Mac OS X|
|OS family||Mac OS X|