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Review: Apple's new 'unibody' MacBook Pro has both beauty and brains

Carved from a single block of aluminum, it's a solid update in more ways than one

October 21, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Steve Jobs doesn't like seams.

I know this because the 15-in. MacBook Pro sitting in front of me is largely devoid of the seams common to earlier aluminum MacBook Pros. In fact, the main chassis around which this newest of Apple's laptops is built is carved out of a solid block of aluminum using a new process that, according to Apple officials, creates lighter, stronger, more environmentally friendly machines.

(Apple also revamped its consumer-oriented MacBook line, offering two new models that use the same aluminum-carving process and offer some features that were heretofore only available on the Pro models. We'll have a formal review of the top-of-the-line MacBook soon.)

Who cares whether your laptop is built using some fancy new process? You should. Laptops are meant to be carted around, tossed into briefcases, picked up, put down, thrown in the back seat, used on the couch. The advantages for mobile computing inherent in this new "unibody" process show in the new MacBook Pro.

Actually, it is felt more than seen. Typing on the keyboard has the feel of pressing down on keys that have been mounted on a square of solid metal. This is true even with the switch to the "chiclet" keys that until now have shown up only on the MacBook and MacBook Air. And I've never used a more solid-feeling laptop -- or keyboard -- in all my years of using Macs. Apple calls it "pure typing bliss." That's not just market-speak. It's true.

What's new

The new MacBook Pro on the left, the older model on the right. Note the seamless construction of the new model.
The new MacBook Pro on the left, the older model on the right. Note the seamless construction of the new model. Click to view larger image.

The keyboard isn't the only change. There's a new, glass-coated trackpad (slick!) that's 39% larger than the old one and does away with the clicker button completely. The stunningly bright 15.4-in. LED screen (sharp!) sports a shiny, piano-black bezel. A new magnetic latch has replaced the annoying release button.

The peripheral ports have been relocated so that they all run along the left side of the MacBook Pro, with the optical drive now located to the right. There's also a different video out port -- the new industry-standard Mini DisplayPort. All of the ports are more deeply inset than before.

There is also a notable update of the hardware under the hood. The MacBook Pro has a new Intel Core 2 Duo processor (you get either a 2.4-GHz or 2.53-GHz chip, depending on which MacBook Pro you buy), two new Nvidia graphics processors, a faster 1,066-MHz front-side bus and multiple hard drive options, including a 128GB solid-state drive. And for those who like to track Mac OS X build versions, this one's running 10.5.5 build 9F2114.



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