Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (MC371B/A - April 2010) - Performance & Verdict

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

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.

Verdict

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.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 9
  • Design 10
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Value 6

Drazisaurus

April 29, 2010, 3:46 pm

Question. Does any other laptop manufacturer build firewire into their machines? Is it me or is Apple the only company that really supports this technology? I'd imagine most people don't even know what firewire is....

Keithe6e

April 29, 2010, 3:55 pm

@Drazisarus: Is it me or is Apple the only company that really supports this technology.





Sony support it, but they call it i.Link.

Ben

April 29, 2010, 3:57 pm

Loving the battery life. I know Apple and their batteries is a controversial subject, but the results have been pretty outstanding.

HarryGlass

April 29, 2010, 4:09 pm

I was for the first time considering a Mac after this (late) update. In the end I stuck with a Sony E Series. There's pluses and minuses to them both. The Macbook is lighter, better designed (though that's subjective), has better speakers and to my mind it's main plus ss you say is the great battery life. But the Sony has Blu-Ray (not that I personally need it), higher res screen (full HD), more ports, numeric keypad (plus for some, minus for others depending on your needs) & though battery life isn't so good you can at least swap the battery.





OS wise I'm happy with Windows and would probably stick it on the Macbook had I gotten it, so that wasn't important to me in my consideration.





In the end sure the Macbook is a better machine, but when the Sony is £599-899 and the Macbook is £1499+ I just couldn't justify the price differential.





I just wish Sony had a "premium" 15" machine, their better built laptops (Z series or whatever it is now) are only 13". If they had something with the same specs as the E series, but in a ligher and better chasis for £200-300 more then I'd have gone for that, but £600+ more for the Mac is just silly.

gadgetmania

April 29, 2010, 4:15 pm

@ Drazisaurus: I'm afraid you got to a wrong conclusion. Sony, HP, Dell... Firewire is ubiquitous across the board among most respected laptop manufacturers. My oldest Compaq laptop came with 1391 connection, so does my wife's VAIO... And all my Windows-based desktop computers to date have had a firewire port.

Guest

April 29, 2010, 4:57 pm

@gadgetmania, think you have gone to the other end of the scale. Four laptops in our house (Lenovo, HP, Toshiba and Acer - all less than 5 years old) and none have Firewire on them (and I think you meant IEEE 1394?). My desktop does have one, but I built that myself and I needed Firewire for an old Sony DV Camcorder.

AJ

April 29, 2010, 6:32 pm

Unless I remember wrongly isn't "Firewire" pretty much an Apple trademark ? They called it that and pushed it when there really were no alternatives for high-speed (video) transfer.





Since then though USB2 (or eSATA) pretty much made it pointless and now USB3 (let alone Intels Lightspeed) will make it truly a past standard.





Most of my machines haven't had a IEEE1394 port, but my latest desktop does. I only ever used it for Video-Editing.





On the MacBook Pro .... Wow it's expensive... For doing work buy a Windows based laptop of your choice, for posing in Starbucks window pretending to do work then this is a must have ! I guess the "real" posers will be getting all flustered having to carry both one of these AND an iPad. Stress !!!

Andy C 1

April 29, 2010, 7:28 pm

Good, balanced review. Thanks.





@AJ. Congratulations to you also, for being the fist to knock Apple/Apple buyers. It's almost as tedious as those who respond first to Zero Punctuation. Yes it's expensive. Is there anyone here who is not likely to know that?

Andy C 1

April 29, 2010, 7:29 pm

I beleive FireWire was Apple's tradename, as iLink was/is Sony's, but the offically ratified name is IEEE1394.

savant

April 29, 2010, 7:40 pm

Even though it is known to Apple, why can't they add few millimeters of space between the two USB ports? They are so close that sometimes it is difficult to plug in two peripherals at the same time.

HarryGlass

April 29, 2010, 7:44 pm

@AJ, I think you've nailed it. Think about it, when it's the iPhone, iPod or iPad Apple announce them with a grand fanfare. New processors on their Macbooks finally bringing them into line with the rest of the PC industry; quietly updated on the Apple website with nary a whisper. Pricing, the iPad is competitive (to an extent, many people expected it to be double the price it came in at) whereas the MBPs are silly money. Apples focus is obviously on the iProducts that sell things through iTunes App Store, OSX has become a secondary focus for them. All innovation is going into these new products, the MBP has hardly changed in two years.





Conclusion, as you say, posers will get iPads for Starbucks, few people will bother with the new MBPs nice as they are and if they need a proper PC they'll get something that runs Windows cos Apple realise with Windows 7 they can no longer compete. Well that's perhaps a bit strong, but I wonder if the level of updates to OSX is going to be maintained.

Andy C 1

April 29, 2010, 7:59 pm

@HK Your opinion about Starbucks posers being the only buyers is not borne out in the statistics of the number of these devices shifted.

Keithe6e

April 29, 2010, 8:49 pm

@HK: need a proper PC they'll get something that runs Windows cos Apple realise with Windows 7 they can no longer compete





You do realize Apple Mac will also run Windows 7?


And what exactly do you believe Windows 7 does that leaves MacOSX behind?

HarryGlass

April 29, 2010, 8:51 pm

@Andy: True, millions of people drink cofee at Starbucks, Apple have a long way to go. :-/





Starbucks coffee is watered down and tasteless, their other drinks over-sugared; I'm sure there's an easy Apple joke there but I'm too tired to find it.

Frazoire

April 29, 2010, 8:54 pm

@HK "... if they need a proper PC they'll get something that runs Windows cos Apple realise with Windows 7 they can no longer compete ..."





I nearly spat my cappuccino out when I read that !

Jmac

April 29, 2010, 9:21 pm

@Frazoire - cappuccino? What is this, 1996? Nowadays the cool kids at Starbucks are all about the grande soy decaf orange mocha frappuccino.

HarryGlass

April 29, 2010, 9:48 pm

@John: Nah, that was last year, now they're going to Costa for a Flat White.





@Frazoire: I know that was contentious (I said so) but I can justify it. I'm not saying OSX isn't better for a lot of things but they no longer have the ease of use and "it just works" advantage they had over XP & Vista. There was a time (maybe) when you could justify the cost of an Apple because of OSX, I don't feel that's the case anymore. For most people Windows 7 works great and the pluses/minuses of each system pretty much balance each other out. MS have caught up, there's nowhere for Apple to innovate so they're concentrating on their mobile OS.

Frazoire

April 30, 2010, 12:25 am

@HK, trying hard not to start another MacvPC debate :) I'm sure most people will prefer Windows 7 to OS X, although most have never tried OS X anyway, but there are still plenty of PC->Mac switchers it would seem just look at the recent sales of MBPs so Apple must be doing something right! As someone who has heavily used DOS and every Windows version since 3.1 and MacOS since OS 8.1 for me MacOS still offers the more streamlined experience with fewer problems to navigate along the way.





Each to their own :)

Shadowgeist

April 30, 2010, 1:40 am

Hi!





Can TR confirm if the random wireless disconnection issues have been resolved with these new Macbook Pro's?





There are still many affected Macbook Pro owners who have this issue, and sadly I am one of them.





Can TR tell us if they are they still using the same wireless cards inside these new refreshed Macbook Pro's ?





Your brief review also doesn't mention if inserted SD Cards, now sit flush against the Macbook Pro or do they still stick out like a sore thumb?





Regards





SG

Paul W

April 30, 2010, 1:57 am

@Frazoire - I think there must be a law somewhere that says all Mac related news/reviews tend towards MAC vs PC debates. Anyway, Windows 7 nice though it is, still isn't quite as good as Snow Leopard in my opinion. It's good enough that I've moved back to Windows after 4-5 years of using OS X, but not good enough that I don't still have hankerings for Snow Leopard.





As to why there's not much OS X news from Apple, Snow Leopard is still a young product. Hopefully there's some news of its successor at WWDC, but it's like saying why isn't there much news about Windows 7's follow-up yet? Though, I agree that Apple having its finger in many pies (iPad, iPod, Iphone) has maybe seen them take their eye off OS X for now.

AJ

April 30, 2010, 1:59 pm

It's just lucky for Apple that :-





1) There's an abundance of places for Apple users to pose with their new MacBook.


2) That there are still (even today) millions of people that are happy to pay massive premiums for that Apple badge and design.





Don't get me wrong, I've been known to spend way more money than necessary on a multitude of items. I just struggle with the MacBooks because inside they are effectively identical to other laptops costing not much over half the price. They don't even have the excuse of using different processors anymore.





Finally the non-removable batteries, the RAM that costs £1000 / Mb to upgrade, etc.... Only Apple can get away with this. Anyone else would get slated, but for Apple it seems to be postitively endearing. Apple users actually support the company for making their devices this way. Stockholm syndrome anyone ?





I guess I'm just jealous that I can't sell things for twice their value in nice looking cases. :-(

HarryGlass

April 30, 2010, 3:47 pm

@AJ: While I mostly agree with you, it is a business and they've done amazingly so you have to congratulate them. At least they are not Vertu, while Apple are a bit silly they are unreal.

AJ

April 30, 2010, 4:29 pm

Agreed. Apple are doing very well.





I have an iPhone, love it to bits and am lining myself up for iPhone4 in a couple of months.





I don't hate Apple.

Island Living

April 30, 2010, 11:36 pm

One of the best improvements on the revised Macbook Pro range is that a high-resolution non-glossy screen is now available on both 15 inch and 17 inch models. For every day professional use these screens are much easier on the eyes. A marvellous product.

Ripsnorter

May 1, 2010, 2:14 pm

As a Mac user I am concerned that, wonderful as these new laptops are, price is becoming more of a serious issue, especially for me! I really don't need this kind of processor firepower but a decent screen and keyboard are essential (so no iPad for me). In the past, and now still, people have paid the Apple Premium, but when it comes to design, for example, some of the Sony Vaios, for example, are lovely. I'm hoping Apple is opening up room in the line-up for some laptops below the Macbook Pro's, such as some beefed-up Macbooks, but I doubt that since Steve Jobs (Blessed, be he) has said his future is iPads and gesture control. In fact, I think Apple might even be losing interest in laptops altogether, hence no design changes to these new MacBook Pros.





On a separate note, and maybe this is just me, how can this MacBook Pro get such high TR ratings when the Value is only 6/10? Surely all those high point scores are worth more?

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