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Apple MacBook Pro 13in (2011) review

Verdict

It gets very hot and noisy when pushed hard, but there’s little else to criticise on this magnificent piece of hardware

Review Date: 10 Mar 2011

Reviewed By: David Bayon

Price when reviewed: £1,083 (£1,300 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Of the three new models, it’s the MacBook Pro 13in that’s sure to elicit most interest from the Apple-curious mainstream. That’s partly due to its beautiful design – now with much faster components inside – but it’s just as likely to be down to its price. Starting at £999 inc VAT, it’s at least approaching affordability.

It’s a truly remarkable piece of engineering. With a 13.3in glossy screen overlooking a precision-hewn aluminium body, it’s the tightest, most impressive of the three new MacBook Pros, and the one on which the keyboard and touchpad feel perfectly sized. The keys are a joy to type on, as ever, and that large, responsive touchpad features the usual range of gestures that work perfectly even in Windows.

Apple MacBook Pro 13in (2011)

The ports are limited, as we’ve come to expect, but there’s just about enough here for the travelling worker. Two USB 2 ports sit on the left flank, next to FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet and an SDXC card reader, and they’re all joined by the new and as-yet-untested Thunderbolt port. You’ll be limited to hooking up your DisplayPort monitor until peripherals arrive.

We’re a little disappointed to find the screen resolution is still at 1,280 x 800, with not even a single upgrade option. That said, the quality is just glorious: with our colorimeter we measured a maximum brightness of 312cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 650:1, with an average Delta E rating of just 3.6 – about as colour-accurate as we’ve seen from any laptop display. Blacks are deep, whites are sparkling and vibrant tones leap out from every video and image.

The screen is superb, but what’s inside impresses even more. We have on test the dearer of the two 13in specifications, available for £1,299, and it packs quite a punch. It has a dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-2620M and 4GB of DDR3, which powered it to an overall score of 0.70 in our new benchmarks. To put that in perspective, this 13in laptop is only around 20% slower than the top-end quad-core MacBook Pro 17in.

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User comments

No Crysis mention?

I find it a bit odd that you talk about the Crysis speed on the 17 inch but don't mention it at all on this review. Was the score any good?

By TimoGunt on 10 Mar 2011

My mistake I was skipping through it and missed the Crysis thing.

By TimoGunt on 10 Mar 2011

Windows?

I understand the new Macbooks support only Windows 7 via Boot Camp (not XP or Vista). Does Windows 7 work without any problems, and what's the battery life like?

By valeofyork on 10 Mar 2011

Windows 7 runs fine. Only weak point is the battery - it gave us around 4hrs 30mins of browsing time in Windows, as opposed to the 10hrs in OS X. Drivers.

By DavidBayon on 10 Mar 2011

The £1,300 model is - to my mind at least - a bit of a rip-off in terms of what your extra £300 gets you - 2.7GHz dual core Core i7 rather than 2.3GHz dual core Core i5, 500GB HDD rather than 320GB, and that's it. I love my 2009 13" MBP, and I'm sorely tempted to upgrade to the 2011 model, but I definitely wouldn't be stumping up for the £1,300 model when I'm sure the £1,000 model will be massively capable in its own right.

This is just for my usage - browsing, e-mail, media, word processing, casual gaming and light image editing - but I doubt I'm unusual in that regard. Anyone who wants to do serious image / video editing is likely to want a bigger screen, and anyone wanting additional power for serious gaming will have to look to a model with discrete graphics.

By flyingbadger on 10 Mar 2011

Poor Boot Camp drivers

I have decided to send my one back to Apple not because of the Turbo Boost (which worked on my one) but because of the poor touchpad boot camp drivers for Windows 7. I will be most likely getting a Sony Vaio S series.

By pchealer on 11 Mar 2011

What about the i5?

Hi,

Thinking about purchasing a 13 inch MBP but with the i5 chip. It is quite hard to find information about the i5 as most reviews seem to concentrate on the higher spec which is not worth it for me. Does anyone know if the i5's turbo boost works in the 13 inch MBP? Also, does anyone think that the i7 is worth the extra money for the upgrade?

Thanks

By chipme5 on 11 Mar 2011

What about the i5?

Hi,

Thinking about purchasing a 13 inch MBP but with the i5 chip. It is quite hard to find information about the i5 as most reviews seem to concentrate on the higher spec which is not worth it for me. Does anyone know if the i5's turbo boost works in the 13 inch MBP? Also, does anyone think that the i7 is worth the extra money for the upgrade?

Thanks

By chipme5 on 11 Mar 2011

Battery life in Windows

Does anyone know what kind of battery life you would get in Windows 7 just browsing and typing in word as well?

Thanks

By chipme5 on 11 Mar 2011

Updated

Review now updated, we'd lean towards the Core i5 version - the saving is just too great to ignore now we've seen the temperature issues on the dearer model.

FYI, battery life in Windows was around 4-5hrs. Turbo Boost on the i5 works.

Regards

By DavidBayon on 11 Mar 2011

Not a workstation but an everyday laptop

Better off with an iPad then. I really find PCPro's ideas of value. Yes Apple's customers don't really care about price but then you might as well put Recommended beside every review, if the score is tailored to the target audience.

By windywoo on 11 Mar 2011

PCPro's idea of value strange of course

No edit button :(

By windywoo on 11 Mar 2011

@windywoo

Just because its a bit more expensive than comparable PC laptops does not mean that it should not be recommended. People are often happy to pay a bit more for the design, build quality and the customer support that you get with Apple.

By chipme5 on 11 Mar 2011

Rubbish for Windows7

I don't recommend anyone buys this just to run Windows 7 the boot camp drivers are rubbish don't expect the touch pad to work you have been warned!

By pchealer on 11 Mar 2011

Running Windows

I've just had a thought. With the Turbo Boost not kicking in under Windows (on BootCamp) in the faster model, does this same problem exhibit itself if you're running Windows under either Parallels or vmWare Fusion? If not, what's the performance hit when running Windows under either emulator?

By mrmmm on 14 Mar 2011

How well does Windows run on this?

I am windows user, that is why I subscribe to PC PRO - because its mainly about Windows computers!

I am not anti-mac. But if I get one of these, and I am considering one, I would like to know: how easy it is to install windows and how well it works?

Can you tell me PC PRO? Please!

By domo247 on 19 Mar 2011

Great PC !!!

Well I'm typing this review on my new Macbook pro 13" with Dual core I7 (2.7GHz).

I've always been a PC/windows user and have never owned an apple product before this (not even an iPod). I've never bought into Mac worship stuff, I've always found their "I'm a Mac - I'm a PC" adverts nauseating. Apple lost that battle several years ago when they adopted Intel/PC architecture, so the new Mac book pro is just a PC in a fancy dress "under the hood".

First thing I did was install Bootcamp and Windows 7 - a painless process that just worked. I like to think it was just coincidence and Steve Jobs died on the same day I was installing it (seriously - sorry Steve).

Everything seems tight, the drivers are stable and I've had not had issues. The touchpad wooks fine - not sure what the issue was according to pchealer's review above.

The reason I went for the PC - sorry Mac (apart from to hang out with the hip and trendy beautiful people in Starbucks) was because of the sheer processing speed of the thing. I am an computer engineer and spend a lot of time compiling hardware designs down to the chip level using a very intensive package which benefits from raw clock speeds and processor power. The Mac replaces a Sony Vaio dual Core I5 2.5 Ghz bought 18 months ago, and in this admittedly not comprehensive benchmark, my designs compiled roughly 50% faster on the Mac - obviously the thing was dynamic overclocking as the fan came on and it got warm but not "hot".

Things I miss on the move are a lack of full keyboard, e.g. Home/insert/paste/page-up & down and screen capture keys and the Del/Backspace key combination. You get a Del key which works like a backspace under windows - you have to hold down the Fn key with Del to get true Delete.

There are no convenient features to turn on or off the Wireless internet for example (no switch or touch button that I can find).

In work I plug in a wireless mouse/keyboard and connect to a HD screen, so these are only issues that affect in "on the move".

If I were to add features, it would be nice to have a USB on the R.H.S so a corded mouse doesn't trail behind the screen, and of course Apple extract more money from you to add converter "Dongles" to drive VGA/DVi/HDMi screens

All in, I'm happy with my new Windows PC !!!

By pauld1024 on 13 Oct 2011

Shame about the price

I love this product, I honestly couldn't live without it. But if like me you were a bit shocked with the price here's a tip on how to get this item for basically a £5 and a little bit of work!

All you need to do is go to www.thefreescene.com and sign up for the gala bingo or any offer you like.

Its all been proven by BBC Newsnight, CNN and Channel 5's Gadget Show. This is how I got mine

I hope this helps someone!

By Clairerowland on 6 Nov 2011

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