Measuring the performance of Apple systems is always complicated by the narrower point of reference we have; unlike Windows systems, we only get to test MacBooks once or twice a year. We run a couple of tests to measure system performance, one using the popular synthetic benchmark X-Bench and another encoding HD video using Handbrake.
In X-Bench we can see the Core i5 powered MacBook Pro has a decent advantage over the MacBook Pro 13-inch we reviewed last year, but given the disparity in specs this much is to be expected.
What really highlights the speed of the Core i5 is our HD video encoding test. Here our MacBook Pro review unit chomped through our task, which involves re-encoding an MPEG-4 video, in just 191 seconds (3mins, 11secs). Considering this is just the entry-level option, other choices being a 2.53GHz Core i5 and 2.66GHz Core i7, it's clear the new MacBook Pros should tackle pretty much anything you throw at them.
It's even more impressive when the outstanding battery life is factored in. We tested this by running a DVD on constant loop with the brightness set to 50 per cent, which lasted exactly 400 minutes (6hrs, 40mins). We've known ultra-portable laptops unable to match this result, and our subjective everyday testing showed Apple's eight to nine hour claims aren't that far from the mark.
This is a very important point, too, since it makes the MacBook Pro more than just a powerful, desktop-replacing laptop: it's a powerful, desktop-replacing laptop that you can use all-day without charging. This isn't something many (if any) similar laptops can lay claim to, which adds a great deal of value for anyone who needs that kind of flexibility.
While the cost of the new MacBook Pros makes it unlikely to convert sceptics, die-hard Apple users will appreciate the evolution of this refresh. Both performance and battery life are increased noticeably and Apple's design flair and refinement remain unmatched. If you're overdue an upgrade, or looking at your first foray into Mac ownership, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is a fine option.