Aside from those previously mentioned, and the £400 price difference between the base models, there is but one other difference between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro; the latter’s dedicated nVidia GeForce 9600M graphics chip. This comes with either 256MB in the base spec Pro or 512MB of RAM in models upgraded with faster CPUs. Given the lack of (power-hungry) games worth playing on Mac OS and the relatively low resolution of the screen, getting more graphics RAM is not a compelling reason to plump for an upgrade. The MacBook Pro simply isn’t a gaming notebook.
Saying that, the GeForce 9600M does offer a tangible performance gain over the onboard, integrated 9400M. While it is easily possible to get playable framerates in games such as Spore and Call of Duty 4 on both chips, the 9600M allows higher detail settings to be applied before any slowdown is noticed.
Neither chip is going to blow anyone away, but knowing it’s possible to relax with a game or two when all that professional stuff gets too much will no doubt reassure anyone having just splashed out over £1,500 on a Pro.
Of particular note here is that by using an nVidia chipset Apple is able to boast nVidia’s Hybrid SLI technology. This allows the system to switch between either the battery-friendly integrated graphics or the more powerful chip at the click of a mouse. Currently this requires a logout, but my sources at nVidia assure me this is an operating system limitation and as such could be fixed in the future.
Ideally the full fat version of Hybrid SLI will ultimately be supported, enabling not only seamless switching between integrated and dedicated GPUs, but also allowing for both to run together, providing even more graphics horsepower than a single chip can muster.
Sure the already poor battery life of the MacBook Pro would take a hit in performance mode, but you’re unlikely to be using it too much when away from mains power. Our 2.53GHz model with 4GB of DDR3 managed a reasonable four hours of general use with the backlight set to 70 per cent, which I considered perfectly readable, and Wi-Fi enabled, using the 9600M and a pretty respectable four and a half hours with the integrated 9400M. More sparing use might get that up towards the claimed five hours, but that’s hardly important in what is, after all, a machine that’s not intended to be truly portable.