The Bottom Line
- Strong Performance
- Long Battery Life
- USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt Ports
- Aging Design Not As Innovative As It Once Was
- Glossy Display Hard To Use In Certain Light
- Intel Core i7-3610QM Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- 15.4" WXGA+ (14400x900) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M Graphics With 512MB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt, SDXC Card Slot
- 14.4" x 9.8" x 1" @ 5.6 lbs.
- Mac OS X 10.7, iLife
Review - Apple 2012 MacBook Pro 15
The major change is the update of the platform from the Intel Sandy Bridge or second generation Core processors to the new Ivy Bridge or third generation processors. For the base $1799 version of the MacBook Pro 15, this is the Core i7-3610QM quad core processor. In terms of performance, it is just slightly faster than the Fall 2011 update of the MacBook Pro 15 with its i7-2670QM processor. Much of this is likely due to the fact that the Ivy Bridge update is more about efficiency changes than in speeds. The base memory also remains unchanged at 4GB but it has been moved to be the faster 1600MHz version. It would have been nice to see it be upgraded to 8GB like what most competing laptops offers at this price point.
Storage features remain completely unchanged in the 2012 version of the MacBook Pro 15. This is disappointing as the standard 500GB hard drive with its 5400rpm spin rate feels uncomfortably slow when compared next to the Retina version with its solid state drive. Sure, this offers more storage but it is below what most of the competition offers and is even slower. This is one aspect that Apple really should have looked at changing in the default offering rather than relying on customized orders. It does retain the DVD burner drive which is becoming less and less important in the computing world. Apple has pretty much phased this out of most of their computers save the iMac. At least the update did move the peripheral ports to the new faster USB 3.0 rather than the aging 2.0 version. The Thunderbolt port is also a bit more useful than when it was first released.
The only other significant change on the MacBook Pro 15 internals is the move from the AMD Radeon graphics processors to the new NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M. This is the first of the new Kepler based mobile processors and offers improved acceleration. Much of this can be attributed to the 512MB of graphics memory instead of the paltry 256MB in the past version. This is still very small level of graphics memory that does impact performance especially in non-3D applications that rely more heavily on the memory than the graphics processor. It would have been nice to see it come with a 1GB version of the GPU like is found in the Retina version. Of course, the graphics have no problem driving the still standard 15.4-inch display that features a 1440x900 resolution that is one quarter that of the new Retina model. This is slightly higher than most 15-inch laptops but for this price range is much lower than the typical 1920x1080 resolution. At least it offers some decent color and viewing angles but does have the very glossy coating that can be problematic outdoors and in certain light.
As with the rest of the chassis, the battery for the 2012 version of the MacBook Pro 15 remains the same with an internal 77.5 WHr capacity battery pack. While previously I measured the running time based on DVD playback if the laptop had one, I have switched over to using just a digital video file playback loop method. Using that test, the 2012 MacBook Pro 15 was able to run for seven hours. This is roughly on par with Apple's claims for seven hours of wireless web usage but that task will likely offer more than that. The disappointing part is that the new thinner and lighter Retina version with its higher capacity battery pack offers two more hours of video playback. The laptop still offers some of the best running times, it has just been eclipsed by Apple's new design.
Finally, we come to the price of $1799 which remains unchanged from past versions. It is certainly much more affordable than the $2199 price for the starting Retina version. On the other hand, Apple dropped the base MacBook Air 13 by $100 making it much more attractive option. They should have done the same with this version of the MacBook Pro 15 as there just isn't enough change from last years model and the competition is offer much more competitive systems for the same or less now.