Apple MacBook Pro 15in (2011) review

2 Mar 2011

Blisteringly quick, beautifully designed and with Thunderbolt technology, but at this huge price we’d expect a full set of features

Price when reviewed: 
1,849(£1541 exc VAT)

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.

Apple MacBook Pro 15in (2011)

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.

Physical specifications

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

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-2720QM
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 AMD Radeon HD 6750M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1


Capacity 750GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0


Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
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
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 1
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 Multitouch touchpad
Speaker location Either side of keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
Fingerprint reader no

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
Software supplied iLife