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Apple MacBook Pro 17in (2011) review

Verdict

Powerful, long-lasting and with a wonderful 1,920 x 1,200 screen, but the price remains unpalatable

Review Date: 3 Mar 2011

Reviewed By: David Bayon

Price when reviewed: £1,749 (£2,099 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

We’ve already reviewed the new Apple MacBook Pro 15in, and the 17in model shares much of the same DNA. There’s just one pre-configured specification available, with the same Sandy Bridge processor and AMD graphics as its smaller sibling, and it also gets the new Intel Thunderbolt port ready for ultra-fast peripherals to arrive.

The biggest difference is the screen, and what a screen it is. It’s one of the few laptops we’ve seen recently with a traditional 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, and it positively beams with quality. Measuring our sample with a colorimeter, we found a huge maximum luminance of 342cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 760:1. As for colour accuracy, a Delta E score of 5.6 is good for a laptop, although slightly less accurate than the screen on the 15in model.

Apple MacBook Pro 17in (2011)

That display is powered by both an Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated chip and AMD’s Radeon HD 6750M graphics, and it’s suitably fast for such a big machine. It handled Crysis with ease, managing 52fps in our 1,600 x 900 test at Medium settings; upping that to native resolution saw the frame rate stay playable at 35fps, so you should be able to play the latest games in most of their glory. The GPU helps hugely with photo and video editing, too.

That’s shown by the MacBook Pro 17in’s performance in our all-new Real World Benchmarks. A 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2720QM and 4GB of DDR3 RAM combined for an overall score of 0.84, with a higher 0.88 in the Media segment, which uses Photoshop CS5, Sony Vegas and iTunes. It’s no faster than the 15in version, unsurprising given the identical core components, but the extra screen size makes it a very enticing prospect.

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User comments

Your MacBook reviews are excellent. Lots of respect for picking out it's good points and bad. It was well rounded

By TimoGunt on 4 Mar 2011

The lack of an SD card slot makes it a big (and surprising) fail as far as I'm concerned, especially when it's smaller sisters have the necessary slot.

By PaulOckenden on 4 Mar 2011

It cost slightly more than its previous incarnation and (apart from Thunderbolt) the spec is on par with other manufacturers. Nothing really exciting about it. With an HD capable display it's a shame Apple refuses to embrace Blu-Ray.

By Duggie on 4 Mar 2011

They don't want Blu-Ray. You download movies from iTunes.
Blu-Ray players are cheap these day but it's still fairly rare to find a laptop or a desktop with one in.
I don't think Blu-Ray will ever really take off. There's still no PC game that requires a Blu-Ray player to install

By TimoGunt on 4 Mar 2011

bias

Don't get me wrong, I hate Apple's walled garden as much as the next guy, but comparing this review to the one for the A list "Executive Laptop" Winner the Sony Vaio Z13 I simply cannot see how you arrived at 4 stars overall for this and the 15 incher, and 5 stars for the Vaio. I realise it is a slightly different market segment - these Macbooks aren't ultra-portables - but they are basically in the same top-end branded laptop world of bling, and in every area other than portability the Macbook beats the vaio hands-down: grunt-per-buck, battery life, screen quality, ergonomics.

And there just isn't that, forgive me, whingeing tone about price in the Vaio review. The tone there is more "it's expensive, but you get what you pay for and it's awesome, and anyway it's aimed at cool rich people so who cares". why not the same for the Apple?

Show me how I am wrong, Bayon, I beseech you.

By gavmeister on 5 Mar 2011

perhaps

"it's aimed at cool rich people so who cares" is a bit harsh. how about "there are no compromises, it is the ultimate laptop, so who cares"

By gavmeister on 5 Mar 2011

Feedback

Jeez, one review I'm in Apple's pocket, the next I'm not being nice enough to them - I can't win! ;)

Just kidding, thanks for the feedback. A few points...

Firstly, the Sony was reviewed back in March 2010, when that kind of power was harder to come by in a laptop. With Sandy Bridge you'll see all sorts of laptops routinely fitting in that top performance bracket. These MacBooks are astonishingly fast, that's why they get 6 stars for performance, but don't be surprised if you see a Z14 update very soon.

Secondly, the Sony is a 13in ultraportable - you're paying a premium for the miniaturisation, just as you are with the brilliant MacBook Air, which is why both of those reviews were a bit more forgiving on value. Packing the same power (and, I should add, not necessarily more features) into a 17in chassis, just doesn't justify that price in my opinion.

Lastly, my conclusion does say that this is a quite brilliant laptop. There will always be people out there who just want the best and are willing to pay for it, and they won't regret buying one. But for the majority of people it is too expensive for what you're actually getting - a big 17in laptop. There are lots of those out there, and this spec could be had for a lot less with a different logo on it.

Probably won't be back on here till Monday morning, but I'll try to answer any more questions then if you have any!

Best regards
David

By DavidBayon on 5 Mar 2011

thank you

yeah me too, I mean what kind of loser would be browsing tech websites all weekend? *coughs nervously* My excuse is I am studying for an exam and therefore this is entirely understandable procrastination.

All annoyingly good points, except the Z13 review on the A list is dated Oct 2010...?

My main gripe is the more subtle difference in tone. It just seems you are more forgiving of Sony's crazy prices than Apple's, but to be fair Sasha did the Sony review so perhaps he's just massively wedged.

Surely if a laptop is "quite brilliant" it deserves 5 stars whatever the price, which is precisely the conclusion of the Sony review.

I know you aren't Which, but Which always puts Apple top of their recommended laptops list.

Anyway must go, I've got a load of ...er, girls... coming round to er... play Twister?... and for dinner of course. Yeah, a dinner and Twister party, so must finish my revision. bye!

By gavmeister on 5 Mar 2011

Now this is more like it

This is more like it from apple, full HD capable and even bigger, which i think is needed for mac os due to its looks. very nice specs, no info on (at least on spec page) frequency of processor, specs on GPU, but i guess they will be very nice. hard drive is the bottleneck as usual, where is the SSD apple.
Now in terms of blu ray i disagree with everybody who says that it is needed in our day and age. Blu-ray is the past, apple knows is. their hd library on itunes is very good, and with movies in HD coming soon to UK and already available in US, there is no point for Apple to include hardware devices alongside their "own" products, i.e. digital downloads.

By mobilegnet on 5 Mar 2011

That's cheap...

...compared to my Dell M6500 workstation...

:-)

By Lazy_Gun on 5 Mar 2011

imagine

actually buying the dog's dinner that is the "Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G" which sits proudly in the Enthusiast Laptop A list alternative spot when you could have this for the same price. Mental.

By gavmeister on 5 Mar 2011

as for blu-ray

I don't get why laptops have any disc device these days. Imagine the saving in weight and depth to be gained from binning them *looks fondly at his X60s*. For urgent business scenarios, use a USB stick.

By gavmeister on 5 Mar 2011

@ mobilegnet

That's true, HD movies are available from iTunes. If I had a couple of hours free I could spend them downloading the HD movie I wanted to watch and watch it at another time.

By Duggie on 5 Mar 2011

@Duggie

Don't know what connection you have, but with the move to higher speed internet, namely 50mbps from VM and 40mbps BT, i am able to download full HD with DD 5.1 movie in around 10-15 minutes, which is not long at all. in the next few year, (i hope by 2012) most people in UK would have at least the 30mbps connection (around 35-40 minutes for download of 8 gig film...

By mobilegnet on 5 Mar 2011

Why would you want to use a laptop to watch a movie anyway? I have a blu-ray player but it doesn't need to be in my pc

By TimoGunt on 7 Mar 2011

Link to 15" Macbook Pro review

Just to say that the link at the beginning of the review links to something else...

By muso_ed on 7 Mar 2011

@muso_ed: Now fixed, thanks.

By DavidBayon on 7 Mar 2011

Go buy it in the States

If you look at the current exchange rate, you'll see that in fact you can get either this Mac or the 15" version for almost £500 cheaper. Even if you do declare it (and pay the 20% VAT), it's still a LOT cheaper than buying it over here.

Why do Apple (and in fact all the manufacturers) quote prices of $1=£1 (approx)? It just isn't fair! :^(

By mrmmm on 7 Mar 2011

@mrmmm

ok there are no import dutires, but as well as VAT don't forget shipping, lack of a £ sign, power adapter, and lack of warranty.

By gavmeister on 7 Mar 2011

@gavmeister

Sure, but even if you add on VAT you're still saving at least £200.

OK the lack of the £ sign is annoying (but I rarely use it personally). The power supply should be global, so apart from a plug converter, it should work. And finally, if I'm splashing that much out on a laptop, I'd go for the 3-year AppleCare warranty which is a global warranty.

By mrmmm on 7 Mar 2011

@mrmmm

shipping?

By gavmeister on 8 Mar 2011

@gavmeister

If you want it shipped, there are companies which specialise in giving you an address in the States that you can ship to, which then gets rerouted over here (not entirely sure what they legal status of that is, however).

Personally for what you're saving and seeing as it's an expensive laptop, book yourself a holiday over there and go buy it in person. Simple!

By mrmmm on 9 Mar 2011

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