The Bottom Line
Nov 7 2011 - Apple's Fall 2011 refresh of the MacBook Pro 15 doesn't really change much of this influential laptop design. It still offers the same solid and stylish aluminum chassis design synonymous with Apple's products. What they have does is bumped up the quad core processor to a faster model and more importantly, updated the graphics processor to be a bit more relevant than the past model. Of course, price still remains on the high side with a base price of $1799 which is well above much of the Windows based competition.
- Excellent and Durable Aluminum Case
- Strong Performance From Quad Core Processor
- Long Battery Life
- Limited Number of USB Ports
- Glossy Display Hard to Use In Certain Light
- Intel Core i7-2670QM Quad Core Moible Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- 15.4-inch WXGA+ (1440x900) LED Backlit Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- AMD Radeon HD 6750M Graphics With 512MB
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 2.0, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt, SDXC Slot
- 14.4" x 9.8" x 1" @ 5.6lbs.
- Mac OS X 10.7
Review - Apple Fall 2011 MacBook Pro 15
Nov 7 2011 - Apple periodically does refreshes of their computer products to keep them up to date with pricing and technologies. The Fall 2011 update takes the same basic solid aluminum MacBook Pro 15 design from several years ago and does a few minor but somewhat significant upgrades to their mid-sized full featured laptop design. The first of these components to be upgraded is the processor. Essentially, it is a speed bump from the Intel Core i7-2630QM 2.0 GHz quad core processors to the 2.2GHz Core i7-2670QM. For the most part, many users will not see any significant difference in the performance but for demanding users that do tasks such as desktop video editing, it can make a difference. It still features just 4GB of DDR3 memory while similarly priced Windows based PCs come with between 6 and 8GB which does impact those doing those heavy tasks mentioned before.
The only other major component difference is the graphics system. The past model used the AMD Radeon HD 6490M graphics processor with a paltry 256MB of memory. This was very disappointing as the graphics processor was on the lower end and the memory was very restrictive for graphics acceleration purposes. Apple has rectified that by upgrading the graphics to the Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor which offers a significant boost in the graphics performance. The memory has also been doubled to 512MB which is extremely welcome. It would have been nice to see it come with at least 1GB of memory as the memory tends to have a greater impact on the overall acceleration in programs like Photoshop compared to the processor itself. Of course, when the graphics aren't needed, it does use a hybrid system that utilizes the Intel HD Graphics 3000 that is built into the Core i7 processor.
Storage remains untouched from the previous version. This means it has a 500GB hard drive that is a bit on the smaller side for the $1799 price tag that the system has. The drive also spins at the slower 5400rpm rate which gives it lower performance than laptops that use the faster spinning 7200rpm class drives. Of course, Apple does offer two paths for adding high speed external storage to the MacBook Pro 15. The first is through the new Thunderbolt port that acts both as a mini-DisplayPort connector as well as the high speed Light Peak interface that was developed with Intel. The other is through the FireWire 800 interface that isn't common except for Apple products. It would have been nice to see the new USB 3.0 standard adopted as well but we will likely have to wait for the next major redesign of the chassis. There is a slot loading dual-layer DVD burner for playback and recording of CD and DVD media.
Battery life remains pretty much unchanged from the Spring 2011 version of the MacBook Pro 15. In DVD playback, the internal 77.5WHr lithium polymer battery achieves over five hours before going into standby mode. This is well beyond what most 15-inch laptops are currently achieving. It may not be as long as past versions but it should still provide close to Apple's claim of over seven hours with more typical usage.
Apple now also ships the Mac OS X 10.7 or Lion version of the operating system with laptops now. For the most part, the changes between this and OS X 10.6 are mostly cosmetic and can be turned off but it does add some features to make it a bit more like the iOS software featured in its popular iPhone and iPad products.
Of course, Apple's MacBook Pro still holds the position as one of the best overall designed and functional laptops on the market. The solid aluminum case design offers a durable, stylish and surprisingly light platform that many companies still try to imitate but fail to quite get that same level of fit and finish.