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The configuration we have on test here today is a 2.4GHz machine, specced up with 4GB of memory and a 250GB hard drive. The first thing to note is the memory - whatever you do, avoid purchasing it from Apple directly, which is eye-gougingly expensive. Apple wants £450 to upgrade the RAM from 2GB to 4GB, whereas 4GB can be bought direct from someone like Crucial for barely £120 - and it's a thirty second job to fit it.
So ludicrous upsells aside, there's no doubting that the machine doesn't lack power. First impressions upon use are that it's seriously snappy - with 4GB of RAM, Leopard, the latest version of OSX, absolutely flies. Combined with the GPU acceleration of the OS, there's no hint of lag, opening applications is super fast and you can quite happily open Final Cut, Photoshop, Pages, Safari, Mail, iTunes and a whole bunch of other applications simultaneously and switch between them all without blinking. Many people consider OSX to be the ultimate OS for multi-tasking - with Expose and Spaces making it a cinch - and the latest Pro laptop really packs the hardware to deliver that potential. Now you might argue that it's no faster than a top of the range Windows notebook, which is quite right - but you never really get to unleash that power on Vista in quite the same way.
The screen itself is impressive with its high dot pitch and fantastic brightness - the OS was really designed for this kind of size, and everything looks razor sharp, although the backlighting is a little uneven. The latest 15in MacBook Pro has an LED backlight, but the 17in still has the cathode variety.
However, the physical characteristics are not all good. The keyboard is incredibly spongy, and lacks a really decent 'click' action, which can lead to you mis-typing if you don't really hammer them down. The under-lighting - where each letter lights up in low light to enable you to see what you're typing - is a great feature on paper, but is managed so badly in the operating system it requires a third party software plugin to actually make it work the way you'd expect. The British keyboard also has an absurd 'enter' key which is far too small, and which results in you hitting the key next to it far too often.
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