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Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Laptop
There are three variants of the MacBook Pro, with different hardware, 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch, out of which the 13-inch variants don’t feature the new Core series of CPUs but the other two variants do. We have with us the Apple MacBook Pro A1286, which is a Core i5 variant and though it’s the cheapest of the latest 15 and 17-inch models, it still is quite expensive. Let’s find out why.
Design, build quality and ergonomics
In terms of design, the rock-solid aluminum body and its build quality and the overall aesthetics have not changed much, but there’s a slight change in the ergonomics and ports. The most prominent difference is the sealed battery, which is a good thing, because it has allowed increasing the size of the battery as the unevenly shaped battery pack can curve around other hardware inside the unit. But if you’re thinking that this helps in slimming down the machine, this unit is no slimmer than the previous models.
Other noticeable changes are; the presence of an Indian two-pin plug, as opposed to the previous American ones, the presence of an SD card slot and only two USB ports. This is the first MacBook we've reviewed with an SD card slot, but, this slot comes at the cost of one USB port.
You not only lose a USB port, but, since the ports are too close to each other, the moment you plug in a thick flash drive, you'll block the other port too. Also, the express card slot is absent, but again that's not something all of us use. Other features, like the large all-glass multi-touch track pad, sharp edges (always been a downside) and the overall enclosure is the same.
A common complaint even with previous MacBook Pros was that the machine heats up quite a bit and, this one does too. Well, there's no denying that the laptop does heat up more than normal, infact we tried benchmarking it while on the lap and kept it on the desk midway. On the other hand, since it's a desktop replacement, the heating bit should not bother many people. Besides, the metal body is designed to dissipate heat effectively by transferring it quicker.
In terms of features, it’s mainly the hardware that has changed from the previous versions. Previously, all Apple notebooks featured Intel CPUs on Nvidia chipsets, particularly the GPU-powered Ion chipsets, and some 15-inch and 17-inch ones even had secondary discrete GPUs, which boosted the performance even further.
Also, earlier when the previous Core series of processors were used, the memory controller was on the North Bridge of the motherboard chipset. Now, memory controllers are integrated into the CPUs such as the new Core i5 and i7 processors. Since, Nvidia is not licensed to make chipsets for any Intel CPU which has a built in memory controller, they have to use Intel chipsets, which have comparatively inferior onboard graphics. Now, since Apple could not kill the feature of toggling between onboard and discrete graphics, what they've done is that, they've integrated a separate discrete Nvidia GPU on the motherboard alongside the onboard Intel GPU.
The 13-inch models have stuck with previous Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs, mainly because even if they go with an Intel GPU but with an Intel Core i5 processor, the power consumption will increase, hence draining battery resources. But, with Intel coming up with more powerful and energy-efficient CPUs, it’s a matter of time before we can get smaller MacBooks Pro laptops with refreshed hardware.
Previously, if you wanted to toggle between GPUs, you had to log out and log back in. But, now this happens in real time. The machine detects your work load and switch on/off the discrete graphics. This might sound familiar, because Nvidia offers a similar technology called Opitimus, but this is different.
Looking at the hardware and aesthetics, now the MacBook will not only be known for being good-looking but also for its performance and the number-crunching power it offers. Check out the hardware specs and you’ll notice that the machine is a proper mainstream desktop replacement with most of the features and enough power to run even some demanding applications. But, there is a downside; the hard drive space might not be sufficient. Built around the Intel HM55 chipset, this MacBook Pro is powered by one of Intel’s new mainstream Core series CPUs, the Core i5 520M, which is a dual-core (4 threads) processor and has 3 MB L3 cache. There’s 4 GB RAM and merely a 320 GB hard drive. The machine has two GPUs, one is the Intel onboard GPU and the second one is the discrete Nvidia GeForce GT330M. The 15.4-inch (LED-backlit) glossy screen has a native resolution of 1440 x 900, which is not so great. Nonetheless, the option of a 1680 x 1050 screen variant is available. Apart from an SD card slot, 2 USB ports, audio jacks and FireWire, there’s a mini-display port. To connect to an external display, you’ll need the optional connector (which costs approximately US$30).
Finally, the unit bundles the MagSafe power adapter (with a different plug), a display-cleaning cloth and resource DVDs. It is preloaded with the Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard, and includes applications like iTunes Time Machinem, Xcode and such.
We ran standard benchmarks along with a couple of games, and we compared the scores of this machine with a laptop powered by a dual-core Core i7 CPU, the Sony Vaio-Z117 (Rs 1,59,900) . Yes, the feather-weight monster. The Sony Vaio Z, which we tested a few days ago, has 8 GB RAM, a more powerful CPU, same GPU, and is much costlier than this machine. It was interesting to see how it was putting up a tough fight.
So, if you opt for a dual-core Core i7 variant of this machine, perhaps this is how much the difference in performance will be more or less. Check out the CPU and GPU scores, there isn’t a huge difference. For instance, even in gaming, Crysis is playable at 30 fps even in the mainstream mode. Also, it’s worth mentioning that owing to ample room for the built-in speakers, the sound is awesome. So, gaming at medium resolution and settings and watching movies are truly a treat.
On a side note, don’t even bother comparing the hard drive performance across these two machines, because the Sony Vaio Z was using multiple SSDs, whereas this machine uses a standard hard drive. All-in-all, it’s a great mainstream desktop replacement with killer-looks-as usual.
The 15-inch MacBook Pros range from Rs 1,09,900 to about Rs 1,29,900. This paticular model costs Rs 1,09,900. Finally, the 17-inch MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i5 CPU is priced at Rs 1,36,900.
Now, there are laptops that feature better core hardware at this price, but, keep in mind that this is a MacBook Pro, and the style statement, design, aesthetics are usually given priority over performance. So if you’re looking for ‘any other laptop’ which performs better, you will find laptops that offer better value for money. We’d say that it’s an excellent upgrade for existing MacBook users, despite the high price. But again, keep in mind that you’re paying almost solely for the performance jump.
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 364 x 24 x 249 mm
- Weight: 2.54 Kg
- Processor: Intel Core i5 520M, 2.40 GHz
- Memory: 4 GB DDR3
- Hard disk: 320 GB
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GT330M
- Screen size: 15.4-inch
- Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth.