15-inch MacBook Pro review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: 1105 . 1360

  • Pros: Powerful. Slim and light. Innovative. Long battery life.

  • Cons: Mac OS X 10.5 not available yet. Single button trackpad.

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The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is the first laptop we’ve seen to use Intel’s new version of its Centrino platform, codenamed Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa offers slightly faster processor speeds than the Intel’s previous Centrino – so instead of a choice of 2.16GHz and 2.33GHz chips you can now choose from 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz models. Our review unit features the 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500. The new processors communicate with the rest of the components faster, through a front-side bus (FSB) that been upped from 667MHz to 800MHz.

The end result is more than the minute speed bump that you would expect. The new 2.2GHz model was slower at After Effects video rendering and Cinebench 3D rendering than the 2.33GHz model we looked at in our June issue – but much faster than the 2GHz Sony Vaio FE41Z we looked at in the same group test.

Photoshop image processing was actually slight faster in Photoshop CS3 on the new 2.2GHz MacBook Pro than on the older 2.33GHz unit – possibly due to the faster bus. Both were much faster than the Vaio, which was encumbered with a slow 4,200rpm hard drive.

Also included in Santa Rosa is support for faster booting along with the tentative 802.11n fast wireless spec, which the older MacBook Pro already included.

As well as adding Intel’s new platform, Apple has replaced the aging ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics chip with nVidia’s 8600M GT.

As this is a more powerful graphics chip than its predecessor, the MacBook Pro’s low score in Cinebench is disappointing, yet can be explained by the fact the 8600M GT in our test model has half the graphics RAM (128MB) of the X1600 (256MB).

If you need 3D power, you’ll have to buy the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro, which has an 8600M GT with 256MB RAM. The graphics chip powers a new screen type that’s backlit with LED technology free of mercury. This, says Apple, is more environmentally-friendly as it uses less power overall.

In our battery life test, the new MacBook Pro lasted ten per cent longer than its predecessor – and almost as long as the Sony Vaio, which has a slower processor and hard drive.

Unfortunately, Apple has delayed the next version of Mac OS X until the autumn. Forget OS X 10.5 Leopard’s new flashy graphics, it’s a shame to have to wait for full 64-bit support, which will make the MacBook Pro even more powerful.

Leopard will include the first non-beta version of BootCamp, so it will become safe to run Windows on a
Mac in a production environment.

Our only other complaint with the MacBook Pro – as always – is the lack of a traditional right-click button. There’s a gestural equivalent, but now Mac Pros ship with two-button mice, it’s just being different for the sake of it.

As before, the MacBook Pro includes some unique innovations such as the backlit keyboard and magnetic power cable. The design itself is getting a little dated – it needs an overhaul before the next upgrade – but we’ve no complaints about its small size and low weight.

Most creatives will want to plump for the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro, not the 2.2GHz model we’ve looked at here – but Apple’s new laptop is still the best available for creative pros.

The newer MacBook Pro has a 2.2GHz Intel T7500 processor, 2GB of RAM and an nVidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics chip. The older model has a 2.33GHz Intel T7600 processor, 2GB RAM, and a ATI Mobility Radeon X1600. The Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z has a 2GHz Intel T2600 processor, 2GB RAM and an nVidia GeForce Go 7600 GT. For the Photoshop and After Effects tests, shorter bars are better. For the Cinebench and battery life tests, longer bars are better.


Processor: Intel Core Duo T7500 (2.2GHz)
FSB Speed: 800MHz
RAM (standard/max): 2GB/4GB
Screen: 15-inch
Aspect ratio: Widescreen
X-black style: yes (optional)
Resolution: 1,440-x-900
Graphics chip: nVidia GeForce 8600M GT
Graphics RAM: 128MB

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