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Apple MacBook Pro 15in (2011) review

Tom Morgan
11 Mar 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,849
inc VAT

Stunning performance, amazing new technology and the same great design, but the astronomical price makes the new MacBook Pro for professionals only.

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Specifications

15.4 in 1,440x900 display, 2.5kg, 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2720QM, 4.00GB RAM, 750GB disk, MacOS X 10.6

The MacBook Pro has always been a thing of beauty, combining performance, battery life and portability into one highly desirable, all-aluminium package. It comes as no surprise that the newly refreshed model retains the same stunning design as the previous generation, but underneath it’s a very different beast.

Surprisingly, Apple is among the first manufacturers to release laptops based on the Second Generation Core processor - more commonly known as Sandy Bridge. This makes the new MacBook Pro one of the most powerful laptops currently available, whether you choose the dual-core 13in model we saw last week, or this quad-core 15in version.

Our 15in review sample uses the faster 2.2GHz processor. Although Apple refuses to use Intel’s naming conventions on its spec sheets, it’s identical to the Core i7-2720QM, which can Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz for improved performance in single-threaded applications.

The MacBook was faster than almost every other laptop we’ve seen; in our old multimedia benchmarks, an overall score of 160 is dramatically quicker than our aging quad-core reference desktop test machine. Although we haven’t settled on a reference machine for our new multi-platform benchmarks, it easily outperformed desktop machines that use previous generation Core i5 processors.

Beyond very fast 2D performance, Intel’s latest processors have surprisingly capable integrated graphics - which can handle 1080p High Definition video and even some games. Considering the MacBook Pro is primarily aimed at media professionals, integrated graphics still aren’t ideal for anyone looking to do serious graphics work. Thankfully Apple has added a second dedicated graphics chip, in the form of an AMD HD 6750M with 1GB of memory. As well as being better suited to applications such as Adobe's Creative Suite, the card is more than capable of playing games; it produced a very smooth 57fps in our Call of Duty test and remained playable even at the native 1,440x900 resolution.

Apple MacBook Pro 15in (2011) ports

Perhaps even more impressive are the potential transfer speeds using the new Thunderbolt standard. Capable of up to 10GB/s data transfers, Thunderbolt uses the mini DisplayPort connectors already present on every MacBook Pro. Although there are currently no Thunderbolt compatible products available, Apple’s demos were undeniably some of the fastest transfers we’ve ever seen. It took less than 15 seconds to copy a 6GB file from a pre-production Promise RAID array equipped with Thunderbolt. The technology also allows devices to daisy-chain each other; Apple demonstrated this by streaming four 1080p video files simultaneously, playing them back on an external monitor plugged into the second mini DisplayPort on the RAID array.

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