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Review: The 15-in. MacBook Pro soars to new heights

Apple has made a really good laptop even better

By Tom Yager
July 7, 2009 01:34 PM ET

InfoWorld - When I reviewed Apple's prior "unibody" 15-inch MacBook Pro, I gave it high marks. For the money, there is no better-built notebook. With its rigid one-piece machined aluminum frame, glossy LED-backlit display, flat backlit keyboard, huge multitouch trackpad, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and 8X slot-loading, dual-layer DVD burner, the unibody MacBook Pro defined the state of the art in design, construction, and manufacturing.

Now Apple is building on that peerless platform with higher performance, an upgraded display, longer battery life, and a lower price.

The latest 15-in. MacBook Pro, introduced in June, costs less than the model that preceded it, and yet it puts competing commercial high-end notebooks back at the starting line. The new machine's specifications are more 64-bit-friendly in anticipation of the Snow Leopard OS, due in September, and they reflect updated offerings from Apple's component suppliers. Core 2 Duo CPU speed now tops out at 3.06GHz. Using 4GB DIMMs, the new MacBook Pro accommodates 8GB of RAM. Recent introductions of larger and faster notebook hard drives are reflected in configure-to-order options for the 15-in. model, including 7,200-rpm drives that close the notebook/desktop performance gap.

[ Mac OS X Snow Leopard is due in September. Find out what businesses can expect from Apple's new OS. ]

As you read, keep in mind that the machine I'm describing doesn't fit in the mainstream 15-inch PC notebook class, a strictly two-year service group typified by painted-on key legends, breakable tray-loading DVD drives, and slow integrated graphics. The MacBook Pro is a five-year machine, by design and by track record. If you choose to replace a 15-inch MacBook Pro in two years, you'll be able to sell it for most of what you paid for it.

A true hybrid

Much of what's new about the 15-in. MacBook Pro is inherited from Apple's supply chain, but Apple also made a few carefully targeted changes to MacBook Pro's core design. The nonremovable rechargeable battery, an idea hatched with iPod, has found its way to Apple's commercial mainstay. Apple claims that by making the battery a non-user-serviceable component, it was able to use battery technology that lasts for up to five years, a thousand charge cycles, before losing significant capacity. This claim will take five years to prove, but it is conceivable, with deep knowledge of battery characteristics burned into the notebook's intelligent charge management circuitry.

Apple claims extended battery running time, too, of up to seven hours per charge with Wi-Fi operational. As a frequent flier and worker away from my desk, this was music to my ears -- but could seven hours truly be possible on an Intel desktop replacement-grade notebook? After the MacBook Pro's first full charge, the battery gauge estimated more than 10 hours of runtime. You can't blame an untrained gauge for showing some gung-ho optimism.

Reprinted with permission from InfoWorld. Story copyright 2012 InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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