Apple’s notebooks get a core upgrade
Apple's latest range of laptops is dominated by the Macbook Pro.
Although the older, plastic-bodied Macbook and lightweight Macbook Air are still available, the Pro is now available in three distinct models, from the relatively cheap to the extremely powerful.
This makes it impossible to review the entire Macbook Pro range at once, so we'll look this 15in model and the cheaper 13in one separately.
The 15in Macbook Pro has three main advantages over the 13in model. As well as, obviously, a larger display, it includes a graphics chip with its own internal memory and a processor from Intel's newer, faster Core i5 range.
We'll start with the processor. Although the Core i5 chip in this Macbook has a slow-ish listed speed of 2.4GHz, it punches above its weight thanks to a newer, smarter design and the ability to increase in speed for a boost when necessary. In our test it was able to convert DVD video to a file suitable for playback on the iPhone at between 60 and 80 frames per second; the 13in model, which uses an older Core 2 Duo chip, performed the same task at around 40 frames per second, so converting a whole DVD will take around 35 minutes on the i5 model or 50 on the Core 2 Duo.
Despite this power, the Macbook Pro managed to run for an impressive period of time on its battery: Apple quotes eight to nine hours, and we managed more than seven in everyday use. This is helped by a graphics system that switches to a less power-hungry chip when the main one's not needed.
The screen has a resolution of 1,440x900 pixels and a glossy finish. It looked great, but we would certainly want to pay the £120 extra to upgrade to the 1,680x1,050 anti-glare version instead. The trackpad was great to use, but Apple's UK keyboard layout is frustrating with a tall, thin Enter key. If buying directly from Apple the US keyboard layout is a no-cost upgrade.
The rest of the Macbook Pro felt as good as you would expect from a £1,500 laptop, with just a few niggling annoyances: Apple insists on using its own Mini Displayport connector instead or HDMI or DVI, there are only two USB ports and no Blu-ray player. It feels as solid as a rock, however, and was very comfortable to use on a lap.
All in all, we consider this model to be the Macbook Pro to buy. It's far more powerful than the 13in model, and the price is good: the current going rate for a similarly specified laptop running Windows is around £1,350, so you're adding £150 for the Macbook's remarkable build quality. Mac beginners with modest needs should consider the cheapest £800 Macbook, but for a powerful Mac laptop this is the one to pick.
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If you're looking for a powerful but portable Mac, this is the one to buy Good points Lots of power; high-resolution display; beautifully solid body; good value Bad points Dubious UK keyboard layout; anti-glare display costs extra
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