15.6 in 1,440×900 display, 2.5kg, 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 620 M, 4.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, MacOS X 10.6
Apple’s latest 15in MacBook Pro is the first laptop we’ve tested to use one of Intel’s latest Core i7 processors – in this case a 2.66GHz i7-620M. This new chip only has dual processing cores, while previous Core i7’s were all quad-core, yet another infuriating and confusing twist in Intel’s barmy chip naming strategy.
The switch from four cores to two doesn’t affect performance as much as you might think. Paired with 4GB of RAM, the MacBook scored 105 in our video-encoding test, 135 in our image editing test and an overall score of 103. This is actually a bit faster than a laptop equipped with a quad-core i7-720QM chip.
This is due to the 620 M’s higher clock speeds and the fact that most software still isn’t optimised for extra processor cores. Nevertheless, the MacBook Pro is clearly very fast at running today’s applications although the underside did become uncomfortably warm when doing so.
The MacBook Pro can automatically switch between its two graphics chips. This gives you both the power efficiency of the integrated Intel chip and the graphics performance of the dedicated GeForce GT330M chip as you need them. You’ll need to drop detail levels in graphically intense games, with the GT330M producing a nearly playable frame rate of 27.5fps in Call of Duty 4. It will also prove handy in applications with GPU-acceleration support, such as recent versions of Photoshop.
Unsurprisingly, the auto-switching is only available when running Apple’s MacOS – under Windows the GeForce chip is permanently enabled. Unfortunately the auto-switching kicked in when performing simple tasks such as checking RSS feeds or browsing through photos. Although it is possible to manually pick the GeForce chip, there’s no corresponding option to disable it in favour of the Intel chip to prolong battery life as much as possible. To see which of your applications are enabling the Nvidia chip, you’ll need the third party gfxCardStatus tool from www.codykrieger.com.
At just 2.5kg the MacBook Pro is quite light for a 15in laptop. With graphics auto-switching enabled, the battery lasted an astonishing eight hours and 44 minutes which is brilliant for a 15in laptop. The battery isn’t designed to be user-replaceable, though. Apple claims the battery should have a longer life-span than other batteries and therefore won’t need replacing for longer but we have no way of verifying this. More immediately, you can’t carry a spare with you.
The MacBook Pro has all the elegant design touches we’d expect from Apple. The aluminium chassis looks sleek but feels extremely robust. The comfortable and responsive keyboard can automatically adjust its backlighting depending on how dark your surroundings are. The huge multi-touch touchpad feels smooth and is responsive. Plus there’s the usual magnetically attached power adapter, which disconnects harmlessly if someone trips over it.
We were dazzled by the glossy widescreen display. It’s almost painfully bright with good contrast, vivid and accurate-looking colours and reasonably wide viewing angles. The 1,440×900 pixel resolution is good, and it can be upgraded to 1,680×1,050 for an extra £80. An antiglare finish will cost an extra £40 on top of that. At this price though, we’d expect such options to be included as standard.
Other odd specification choices include the 5,400rpm 500GB hard disk. A larger capacity or faster spindle speed model should be standard at this price. As this is an Apple computer, a built-in Blu-ray drive isn’t an option. Although there’s a FireWire 800 connector and two USB2 ports, USB3 and integrated 3G are missing – plus there’s no ExpressCard slot to easily add them. The Mini DisplayPort can connect to DVI, VGA and HDMI equipped displays, but none of the necessary adapters are included.
|Processor||Intel Core i7 620 M|
|Processor clock speed||2.66GHz|
|Memory slots free||0|
|Sound||Cirrus Logic CS4206A|
|Viewable size||15.6 in|
|Graphics Processor||512MB Nvidia GeForce GT330M|
|Graphics/video ports||Mini DisplayPort|
|Total storage capacity||500GB|
|Optical drive model||Matshita UJ-898|
|Optical drive type||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
Ports and Expansion
|Total Firewire ports||1|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||802.11a/b/g/n|
|PC Card slots||none|
|Supported memory cards||SDHC, MMC|
|Other ports||minijack S/PDIF output|
|Operating system||MacOS X 10.6|
|Operating system restore option||restore disc|
|Software included||Apple iLife 09|
|Warranty||one year customer carry-in|