Apple MacBook Pro

The greenest MacBook yet.

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Apple MacBook Pro
  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Design, aluminium enclosure, backlit keyboard, dual graphics setup, glass trackpad with multi-touch, green/energy efficient

Cons

  • Touchpad has spots with poor response, poor viewing angles, glossy display can be distracting, hard drive only 5400rpm, graphics switch requires log-out

Bottom Line

Apple’s greenest notebook ever is also one of its best. The MacBook Pro is overpriced, but you certainly get a powerful and exquisitely designed machine for your hard-earned cash. It’s not perfect, but using it is a largely positive experience on the whole.

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Boasting what Apple describes as a “precision aluminium unibody enclosure”, the latest MacBook Pro is crafted from a single block of aluminium. Apple’s beast also has an ultra-thin 15in display, dual NVIDIA graphics cards and a glass multi-touch track pad.

You can tell this is an Apple notebook when the first aspect we delve into is its design. Aesthetically, the new MacBook Pro is a very different machine from previous MacBooks. It immediately feels much stronger and sturdier and Apple claims the unibody enclosure is the reason why. Whereas most notebook chassis are assembled from multiple pieces, the new MacBooks are machined from a single block of aluminium, making them more durable than their predecessors. The result is a machine that feels capable of taking its fair share of bumps and bruises, though the aluminium surface is a fingerprint magnet.

The MacBook Pro has taken some of its style from the latest iMacs, utilising an identical silver and gloss black colour scheme. The 15.4in display is surrounded by a glossy black bezel and despite being incredibly thin, it’s one of the sturdiest notebooks displays we’ve ever seen, exhibiting minimal flex when twisted. Further contributing to the sturdy feel is the glass enclosure. The MacBook Pro screen is LED-backlit, which makes it more power efficient as LED technology uses up to 30 per cent less power than conventional LCD screens. It’s also mercury-free and recyclable, making it environmentally friendly. The glossy display will divide opinion — under florescent office lighting it can be a distraction, and viewing it from even a slight angle results in a harsh yellow colour shift.

The keyboard is superb, with well-spaced keys that provide excellent tactility. It’s also illuminated and works in conjunction with the auto brightness feature of the display. A row of F-keys above the keyboard provides access to functions including brightness, Expose, Dashboard and media playback controls. The trackpad has also been upgraded and it now features the same multi-touch technology first utilised on the MacBook Air.

In a further design enhancement, the touchpad is made from etched glass and doesn’t feature any buttons — it recognises left and right clicks depending on the position of your fingers. Like the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro’s touchpad recognises various gestures including tapping, swiping and clicking with one or multiple fingers, but its much larger size means it’s easier to use. There are a couple of spots that seem difficult to press, though.

Under the hood, the MacBook Pro’s biggest change is that it now comes with two graphics chips — a 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9600M and a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 9400M. The first is an integrated chip while the latter has its own memory. Unfortunately, to switch the graphics card you have to delve into the system preferences menu and select either better battery life or higher performance in the energy saver menu. This also requires you to log out, so it’s not as simple as just flicking a switch.

Our review unit was powered by a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU with a 3MB L2 cache. The MacBook Pro boasts 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 250GB capacity hard disk drive and a double-layer, slot-loading super drive, in addition to 802.11n/b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. One complaint is that the 5400RPM hard drive is quite slow when compared to many new notebooks. You can upgrade this hard drive to the same capacity with a 7200RPM speed, but it will set you back an extra $80. This doesn’t sound like much when you are spending over $3K, but on a notebook in this premium price category it should be a standard feature.

Unfortunately, ports are fairly sparse — you only get two USB ports, so a USB hub would be a sensible investment. The USB ports are quite close together as well, so you may have trouble fitting two large USB devices simultaneously. Apple has also switched from DVI to DisplayPort, but it is a mini-DisplayPort connection and therefore requires a dongle to connect most current displays.

Rounding out the ports are a FireWire 800 port, headphone and line-out jacks, a Gigabit Ethernet port and an ExpressCard/34 slot; a Kensington cable lock slot adds a touch of security. Apple has made upgrading components including the hard drive and memory easy — simply flick the switch underneath the unit to remove the battery cover, then undo the screws.

Battery life is rated at up to five hours. As expected, we experienced less battery life during our DVD run-down test, managing to run the machine for around three hours before it powered off.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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