With all the talk of the fourth generation iPhone leaks and the much-vaunted iPad, it's easy to forget about Apple's MacBook Pro range. It's understandable really as the range hasn't seen a cosmetic update since the aluminium unibody chassis was introduced, but that hasn't stopped Apple from improving the range in its recent update.
This year's MacBook Pro refresh is notable for two things: 1) the introduction of Intel's barnstorming Core i5 and Core i7 processors; and 2) the ability to switch between the dedicated graphics and Intel's more frugal integrated graphics. It's a potentially powerful mixture, combining close to desktop levels of system performance with battery life claims of around eight to nine hours.
It helps, of course, that the MacBook Pro design still knows no equal a good two years after its release. Like all things, it's possible to find fault if you try hard enough, but even now when a MacBook Pro arrives in the office it draws envious glances. Even the best imitations, such as the HP Envy 15, struggle to hold a candle to the elegance and engineering quality on show here.
No amount of "elegance and engineering quality" will help you encode an HD video though, which is where the hardware refresh comes in. Our particular model is the entry-level 15-inch spec (MC371B/A), which features a dual-core Intel Core i5 running at 2.4GHz, 4GB DDR3 RAM and a 320GB hard drive. Dedicated graphics is supplied by a 256MB Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, which pumps images to the 15.4in, 1,440 x 900 pixel LED backlit display.
This is an okay spec, but considering you'll be paying in the region of £1,500 it's difficult not to feel just a little hard done-by. We reckon the 1,680 x 1,050 pixel display option, which is an additional £80, ought to be the standard. A larger and faster hard drive would be nice, as well; instead you must pay £120 extra just to get a 7,200rpm, 500GB drive. Just 256MB of video memory will prove a limitation if playing games, too.
Such disappointments seem to be a regular feature of any Apple product review, which is one of the reasons (one of many) why the company divides opinion so much. As ever it comes down to how much value you place on the peripheral elements, such as the design, usability and refinement, which are generally missing from rival Windows vendors.