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Unlike the 13.3in MacBook, which only saw the arrival of an LED-backlit display this generation, Apple's MacBook Pro range has benefited from such an upgrade since June 2007. Sadly our 15.4in example wasn't that great. While colour accuracy, vibrancy and black levels left little to be desired, such efforts were let down by uneven backlighting, with a couple of very distinct 'pools' of light visible in the lower centre of the display.
These became especially pronounced off-plane, although in fairness that's not a major problem for a laptop screen which will generally be used by one person the majority of the time. What is a fair criticism, though, is the disappointing resolution offered by Apple. That 1,680 x 1,050 isn't the default offering on a 15.4in system likely to be bought by users doing a lot of graphics work seems mad. That there is no upgrade option at all seems near-unforgivable to my mind. Thank goodness the 17in Pro will almost certainly offer a 1,920 x 1,200 panel option.
As ever Apple's pricing for the spec given includes what I like to call a "better OS tax" but others might label a "style over substance subsidy." And don't even look at the upgrade list. Apple seems to think that it's okay to charge full price for the new part when upgrading over and above the base spec, but while keeping the old part for itself. If you think you'll need more memory in your Apple notebook, buy it separately - it will be cheaper than an upgrade, and you can sell the old module as well.
Still, for the mugs interested, upgrade options include moving from a 2.4GHz CPU to a 2.53GHz or 2.8GHz option, upping the hard drive from 250GB to 320GB or (for the reckless) an SSD and bolstering the default 2GB of DDR3 RAM to 4GB. The only upgrade worth letting Apple charge for is the CPU, as the other improvements can be done easily by the end user at a much reduced cost.
Ultimately the 15.4in MacBook Pro's biggest issue is the MacBook. Aside from the addition of a dedicated GPU and, obviously, a bigger chassis and screen, I can't think of anything offered by the Pro which, if I were spending my own money, would persuade me to pick it over the cheaper smaller alternative. Surely the difference would be much better spent on a decent external monitor, if resolution is a particular issue, or component upgrades.
Considered by itself the late-2008 MacBook Pro is simply a disappointing, but just about acceptable upgrade from its predecessor. However, when taking the newly-updated MacBook into account, it becomes hard to recommend the larger, significantly more expensive system over its smaller sibling. Apple has in effect beaten itself out of its own market.
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