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Apple MacBook Pro 15in (MC723B/A) - Performance and Verdict

By Hugo Jobling

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Apple MacBook Pro 15in (MC723B/A)

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Intel’s latest Core series CPUs feature an integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics chip. This isn’t up to more than the most casual gaming, but it does cater for GPU-accelerated video encoding and decoding (with compatible software) and has a low power draw, helping the MacBook Pros achieve their clamed 7-hour battery life. The 13in MacBook Pro is limited to just integrated graphics, but stepping up to the 15in Pro adds a dedicated AMD Radeon HD 6490 with 256MB of GDDR3 memory. As our Xbench results show, Apple isn't kidding when it says these combine to give the new MacBook Pro a notable performance advantage over its predecessor.

The MacBook Pro is able to switch between its Radeon and the Intel graphics on the fly, giving both power saving and performance when each is needed. A further upgrade to the 15in MacBook Pro upgrades the dedicated chip to an AMD HD Radeon 6750, packing a generous 1GB of GDDR3 RAM; the same chip that is standard in the 17in MacBook Pro. Our test system was configured with the latter GPU, which proved perfectly capable of handling modern games, giving good, steady frame rates in games such as Star Craft 2 and Eve Online, with sensible graphics options configured. Considering how loud the fans get when running a game, however, we’d not want to use the MacBook Pro for this task very often.

An area where the MacBook Pro arguably lags behind its competition is the display, which is almost a required upgrade option. The standard 1,440 x 900 pixel resolution is fine but certainly not class leading, and we'd be inclined to stump up the £80 needed to get a 1,680 x 1,050 pixel resolution upgrade. The other potentialy major problem is the glossy coating, which proved very annoying – touch typists will find themselves staring into their own eyes a lot. This can also be rectified via an upgrade but this time it'll set you back a massive £120 for the 1,680 x 1,050 anti-glare display. When it comes to colours and viewing angles, the standard 1,440 model holds up well with a bright, punchy and easy to view display.

On the plus side, the screen is the only aspect of the MacBook Pro you might feel the need to upgrade. Even the starter 15in model is very well equipped and should serve you fine. We happen to have reviewed the 2.2GHz version, which holds less appeal due to its higher starting price but it certainly packs a lot in. The Core i7 processor is coupled with 4GB of RAM and either a 750GB 5400rpm hard drive (500GB in the 2.0GHz model). There’s a zero cost option to switch this for a 500GB 7200rpm drive, if performance is more important to you than capacity, and a range of SSD options is available if you’re feeling particularly flush. Maintaining its reputation for extortionate upgrades, Apple charges £160 for 8GB of RAM and a massive £200 to swap out the standard 2.2GHz CPU for a 2.3GHz unit; unsurprisingly we’d advise against considering the latter at all, and recommend you perform RAM upgrades yourself.

Verdict

If you can afford the admittedly high asking price, the MacBook Pro has a lot to offer. In terms of hardware, it's on par with any equivalent PC based laptop and adds in its own unique feature in the shape of ThunderBolt. The key point, though, is that still nothing else comes close to its beautifully designed and constructed chassis.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

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

Sullivan McIntyre

March 4, 2011, 7:10 pm

"An addition we’re not particularly enthralled with, but which might be of interest to some buyers is the new FaceTime HD camera. As the name suggests, this constitutes a 720p sensor, in the same place as every previous MacBook Pro had its standard definition one. A small mercy is that new MacBook Pros come with FaceTime installed, saving you the £0.99 cost owners of older Macs are subject to. Suffice to say that this works, and looks good, but that we’re not inclined to use it."

What's this about? Not 'enthralled' with; what's wrong with it? Do you not like laptop webcams generally, that specific one, or just the fact they call it FaceTime? How does it actually perform? Is there something that is not better about it; this seems like a perfectly good upgrade to me. I'd look forward to using it with Skype. That paragraph seems a little odd.

Andy 10

March 4, 2011, 10:03 pm

"it's on par with any equivalent PC based laptop"

Does it mean Windows based laptop?

Hans Gruber

March 5, 2011, 12:42 am

FaceTime pre-installed at no extra cost!

Saving a whopping 99p from an overall spend that's going to be pretty close to £2K by the time you've properly configured it? Are you kiddin' us? :/

BOFH UK

March 5, 2011, 2:31 am

Just a quick one on pricing before the inevitable tidal wave of complaints: yes, it's expensive. Yes, you can get more bang for your buck in performance terms elsewhere. No, just because YOU wouldn't pay that much doesn't mean that the design, OS, user experience etc isn't worth it to somebody else. Just something to bear in mind...

Anyway, very nice update from Apple and the performance figures are superb. What will really be interesting is if / when they stick Sandy Bridge into the Mac Mini line, that could end up being a stealthy powerhouse if they do it right.

Gk.pm

March 5, 2011, 5:20 am

@BOFH UK
Yep, a Mac Mini with Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt will be great!

Ironduke

March 5, 2011, 12:28 pm

its a pitty the mac mini will get the horrible intel gfx

kaworu1986

March 7, 2011, 6:58 pm

How ergonomic is the high res option? I am about to buy one of these bad boys myself and am wondering if text will be too small to read comfortably at 1680x1050 on a 15 incher.

Gk.pm

March 7, 2011, 10:32 pm

@kaworu1986
If text becomes too small you can just use the expand gesture in the touchpad in many applications to increase text size, or just temporarily zoom via the Universal zoom ctrl+wheel forward combination.
I would go for higher res every time :-)

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