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MacBook Pro 15in (2011) Hands-on

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Unchanged design, performance improvements



It may seem odd to praise a company for resting on its laurels, but that's exactly what Apple seems to be doing with the latest range of MacBook Pros and we can't help but admit it's a successful decision. Sticking with the clichés, the updated Pros taken what clearly wasn't broken (namely, the 2010 MacBook Pro) and rather than fixing it, has given it a little spit and polish to try entice those not sufficiently tempted by the previous model.

There are not, therefore, any changes to the physical construction of the MacBook Pro this generation. The same unibody aluminium is present, but that's no bad thing as it not only looks fantastic, but is also extremely durable. In fact, we'd argue that it's still the most 'premium' feeling machine you can currently get your hands on.

Where Apple has improved the MacBook Pro is the internals, ranging from small tweaks such as making the SD card slot an SDXC card port on this model, and the addition of a 720p 'FaceTime HD' camera, to the bigger change of the move to Intel's Sandy Bridge platform. This gives the new MacBook Pros upgraded processors, which boast improvements to Intel's TurboBoost technology as well as integrating a graphics card.

On the 13in MacBook Pro there are only dual-core processors, which exclusively use integrated graphics. On the 15in and 17in models, however, it's quad-core CPUs across the board with a claimed 'up-to 2.2 times' performance improvement. In a quick rendering demonstration, that proved pretty accurate, although we'll wait until we test a system fully ourselves before fully believing Apple.

What we won’t dispute is the dedicated graphics improvement on the 15in and 17in new MacBook Pros. As well as offering GPU-accelerated video encoding and decoding, in addition to performance improvements over the last-generation's nVidia GPUs, these also integrate with Sandy Bridge to provide seamless switching between integrated and dedicated graphics as needed. The upshot is that despite the processing power available, in casual use every system boats enough battery power to last seven hours.

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