Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Apple MacBook Pro

NEW DELHI: This time around, Apple has taken its entire MacBook Pro lineup through a major revamp in terms of internal components.

The latest second generation Intel Core processors have been added along with 1333Mhz DDR3 RAM instead of the usual 1066Mhz. The graphics have been changed to ATI on the 15-inch and 17-inch models instead of Nvidia.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro features the usual aluminum unibody enclosure, a comfortable full size backlit keyboard and a large multi-touch trackpad that makes life easy. The 13.3-inch LED widescreen display has a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels with vivid colours and superb viewing angles.

The edge-to-edge high gloss reflective glass display is still a pain to use in sunlight though - the only solution is to turn the brightness all the way up. Probably the only visible change in the new MacBook Pro is the inclusion of Apple's new Thunderbolt port.

Thunderbolt is the result of a collaboration between Apple and Intel - it allows for fast two-channel transfers with speeds up to 10 Gbps. Based on PCi-express and Display Port, this single port can work as a high-speed data transfer connector as well as a video out port.

Currently, there are no accessories available in India to utilize this technology, but cables and drives are expected to arrive soon.

Our review unit had a 2.7Ghz Core i7 processor with 4GB DDR3 RAM, 500GB hard drive and Intel HD 3000 graphics. Compared to the last generation MacBook Pro that came with Nvidia 320M graphics, the use of Intel HD 3000 graphics on the current generation MacBook Pro seemed a bit bizarre.

However, in synthetic software benchmarks, our 13-inch MacBook Pro outperformed the last generation 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.66Ghz Core i7 processor in all areas except the graphics tests. A quick comparison of scores in online databases reveals that the HD3000 graphics actually perform at par with the Nvidia GT320 graphics in most cases.

Running OS X Snow Leopard, the MacBook pro comes with a FaceTime camera with the application pre-installed that works brilliantly. For last generation MacBook users, Facetime has to be installed separately for $0.99.

The sound from the speakers did feel a tad bit low compared to the 15-inch MacBook Pro - it was just enough for use in a small, quiet room.

With constant Wi-Fi connectivity, multiple browsers, office document editing, music playback and occasional data transfer, the notebook gave us an average battery backup of just over 6 hours.

Apple claims a battery backup of up to 7 hours, so this performance is satisfactory. Although, the last generation 13-inch MacBook Pro easily lasted 8 hours on a charge, so a 2-hour drop in battery backup is a bit of a let down.

The hardware revamp makes the 13-inch a much more powerful notebook and the performance shows that it is one of the best notebooks money can buy. The primary issue is that the MacBook Pro still costs well over Rs 80,000 and at the same price, you can get a much more powerful notebook with a larger display, USB 3.0, more RAM and a Blu-Ray combo drive from manufacturers like Dell or HP.