The Bottom Line
Jan 2 2012 - Apple's silent refresh of the Apple MacBook Pro 17 added a few spec increases that help keep the system at high levels of performance. It gets a slightly faster quad core processor and AMD graphics processor. Everything else remains the same which means that it still has the thinnest profile and lightest weight of 17-inch laptops as well as some of the best battery life. It still has the same flaws as the version it replaces though including the lack of USB 3.0, a SD card slot and just 4GB of memory compared to most similarly priced laptops featuring twice as much. Still, it is hard to top Apple's design in terms of functionality or style.
- Thinnest And Lightest 17-inch Laptop
- Excellent Performance
- Very Long Battery Life
- Fewer USB Ports And No Flash Memory Slot
- Could Really Use More Than 4GB RAM
- Intel Core i7-2760QM Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 750GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- 17" WUXGA (1920x1200) LED Backlit Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- AMD Radeon HD 6770M Graphics With 1GB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Three USB 2.0, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt, ExpressCard/34
- 15.5" x 10.5" x 1" @ 6.6 lbs.
- Mac OSX 10.7, iLife
Review - Apple Fall 2011 MacBook Pro 17
Jan 2 2012 - Back in the fall of 2011, Apple silently refreshed their Spring 2011 MacBook Pro 17. For the most part, the system remains unchanged. Externally, it looks identical to the version that was first introduced back in 2009. The solid aluminum chassis still stands out for its durability and overall design that has been imitated by many other companies.
The first change made to the MacBook Pro 17 was the processor. It was upgraded from the quad core Intel Core i7-2720QM to the Intel Core i7-2760QM. Essentially, this is a slightly bump in the overall speed of the processor but it has the same basic feature set. This should help benefit those that are using their system for intensive computing tasks such as desktop video editing. For those using the laptop for more mundane tasks, there won't be any real noticeable benefit. It would have been nice to see Apple increase the memory from the 4GB of DDR3 memory to something a bit more fitting a system priced at $2500. Most Windows based systems at half this price are offering double that amount.
The other change is the graphics system. The past AMD Radeon HD 6750M has been upgraded to the AMD Radeon HD 6770M. For the most part, this won't have a huge impact for many users. The increased speed will benefit those that run tasks that actually will utilize the 3D acceleration features. Since most people don't get a MacBook Pro for gaming, it will be more beneficial to those using it to accelerate video, BitCoin mining or accelerating applications like Photoshop. It still retains the feature where it will switch automatically between the integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 that is built into the Core i7 processor and the AMD Radeon graphics when an application requires it.
The final change is the release of the Mac OS X 10.7 or Lion operating system. Many of the changes to the operating system are cosmetic and can be enabled or disabled depending on if you want it to function more like past versions. Of these changes, the LaunchPad function that makes the desktop work more like an iOS based device like an iPad is the most interesting if not controversial change.
The remaining features all are the same as past versions. This does include the new Thunderbolt port which is an electrical only variant of the Light Peak interface codeveloped with Intel. It functions as both a mini-DisplayPort port and a high speed interface for external devices such as storage. The FireWire 800 port is a bit dated now but still can be used for external storage. It would have been nice to see an upgrade to the USB 3.0 for at least one of the ports but this will most likely have to wait till the next major revision.
Storage features remain unchanged as well. The hard drive is a large 750GB capacity but runs are the slightly mundane 5400rpm spin rate. It is possible to have a custom built model with a solid state drive installed but the cost is just way too much for an already quite expensive system. A dual layer DVD burner is there for those that still use physical media to load programs or watch movies. The biggest disappointment is the lack of a SDXC slot that is found in the smaller MacBook Pro models. Instead, an ExpressCard slot is provided that has less relevance for consumers than it did several years ago.
Battery life for the MacBook Pro 17 is still incredible thanks to its large internal lithium polymer battery pack with its 95 WHr capacity rating. Apple still keeps the seven hour running time claim even with the slightly improved graphics and processor. In DVD playback tests, it still exceeds over five hours of playback time which is far longer than the majority of 17-inch laptops on the market. More traditional usage should be able to yield up to the full running time that Apple claims.
One benefit that I haven't mentioned though is the pricing. The price remains unchanged which is nice for those that want the added performance. The better part though is that it has caused the price of the past Spring 2011 version of the MacBook Pro 17 to drop several hundred dollars. This makes the entry to a 17-inch Apple laptop a bit more affordable for those that don't necessarily need the slight boosts made in this revision.