Apple MacBook Pro 17in (2011) review
Apple laptops have a habit of making a big splash on release, but quickly falling behind the competition in terms of performance due to their yearly refresh cycle. The MacBook Pro might have launched in back in February, but it’s still keeping up with newer laptops from other manufacturers thanks to Intel’s superb Second Generation Core processors.
Like the top-spec version of the smaller 15in MacBook Pro, this 17in model comes equipped with a quad-core i7-2720QM processor running at 2.2GHz. Intel’s Turbo Boost technology can push this up to 3GHz for even more performance; it sped through our multi-platform benchmarks with an overall score of 89. Whether you want to keep OS X or install a copy of Windows, this will be one seriously fast laptop. It comes with 4GB of memory and a 750GB hard disk, but both can be upgraded before you buy if you order on Apple’s website.
3D performance is equally impressive thanks to a dedicated AMD Radeon 6750M graphics card. Unfortunately, our new DirectX 11 Dirt 3 benchmark isn’t compatible with OS X, but our old Call of Duty 4 test produced some impressive results; even with 4x anti-aliasing, it managed a very smooth 56.8fps. With dynamic switching between the dedicated card and Intel’s less power-hungry integrated graphics, the battery lasted an excellent eight hours in our light-use test.
This is all the more impressive when you sit down in front of the 17in Full HD screen, which looks incredibly vivid and bright thanks to an LED backlight. Apple still isn’t using premium IPS LCD panels like it does in its desktop computers, but the high-end TN panel here has excellent viewing angles and there’s an ample amount of screen tilt.
We were happy that Apple hasn’t changed the excellent backlit keyboard, which retains the same large, isolated keys as the previous MacBook Pro. The flat typing position might not suit everyone, but the springy keys provide plenty of tactile feedback. In spite of its size, there’s no separate numeric keypad. Instead the speakers are placed either side of the keyboard tray, so Apple has decided to fit full-size keys and ignore a number pad, which we feel is the right decision. The massive glass touchpad also stays the same, as it’s the perfect size for multi-touch gestures. OS X has some of the best gesture recognition we’ve seen, to the point that we actually prefer using a MacBook with the touchpad rather than a mouse.
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