By Neil Bennett | on January 18, 2007
Price When Reviewed: 1148 . 1445
Pros: Fast dual-core processor. Small. Light, Elegant design. Great price.
Cons: Still held back by non-native applications from Adobe, Autodesk and others. Fewer screen and hard drive elements than we’d like.
Apple’s current upgrade cycle sees new computers appearing two-to-three months after the release of new Intel chips, so it’s no surprise to see the MacBook Pro gaining a dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo processor.
Dual-core processors feature two chips in one shell – allowing more than one task to be worked on at once. Workstations are currently moving from dual-core to quad-core chips – so expect to see quad-core Mac Pros in January if the company’s release cycle continues at its present rate. This is unlikely to happen with laptops for a long time due to the power drain of four cores.
We saw a large boost in this MacBook Pro’s performance over its single core predecessor. In Cinebench, which runs natively on Intel chips, we saw a 25 per cent increase in rendering speed. The new MacBook Pro’s pure chip-based performance was on a par with a PC workstation with an equivalent desktop Core 2 duo chip.
There was also a huge boost in performance for older applications still running in Mac OS X’s Rosetta emulation mode – which may be due to enhancements in the 10.4.8 operating system as much as the new chips. Photoshop ran almost twice as fast on the Core 2 Duo MacBook compared to its Core Duo predecessor, and After Effects performance was up by 65 per cent. It’s still 50 to 100 per cent slower than an equivalent PC laptop, and there’s still a wide range of major creative tools that are yet to be updated – notably Adobe’s applications.
Hard to compare
Overall, there is no truly equivalent PC laptop. There are few 15-inch models that offer the top-of-the-line T7600 processor – we were forced to use a 17-inch Dell model for comparison – and we’ve yet to see one that’s as small and light (or as elegantly-designed) as the MacBook Pro.
The choice of gloss or traditional screens is good – we prefer gloss – and the resolution of 1,400-x-900 pixels is reasonable. We would have preferred the option of a 1,680-x-1,050-pixel resolution screen though, as most PC vendors offer this. An optional 7,200rpm hard drive would be useful, too.
The previous MacBook Pro had the same ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics chip as this model, but the Core 2 Duo model shows much greater real-time 3D performance. The older unit was rumoured to have its graphics power turned down to boost battery life – and its performance against PC laptops with the same chip bore this out. The new model’s Cinebench score is more what we’d expect from this chip.
Designers, motion-graphics artists and 3D animators will probably want to wait until their applications are upgraded before purchasing, but Final Cut Pro-based video editors or QuarkXPress-based designers who don’t use Photoshop much should snap this up.