Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch review 2011

Full review: Improved processor ultra-fast Thunderbolt transfer

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The Apple MacBook Pro range gets a welcome power boost for 2011, thanks to the quadcore i7 chip and Turbo Boost 2 on board

Apple updates its MacBook Pro range every year, but 2011 brings more than a minor refresh. The entire range moves over to Intel’s Sandy Bridge Core i7 processors and its new Thunderbolt high-speed connection makes its debut. The 15-inch and 17-inch models also get shiny new AMD graphics processors to boot.

This 15-incher includes a quadcore, 2.2GHz Core i7, with the processor and graphics on a single chip. Hyper Threading enables the Pro to move quickly between tasks, and multi-core applications will run quicker too.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch: Gaming

The MacBook Pro’s graphics have also enjoyed an overhaul. The integrated Intel HD 3000 is much more powerful than its predecessor, with Turbo Boost 2 giving a burst of extra power when you’re running processor-intensive application such as HD video editing or gaming.

Things really kick off, however, when you’re running graphically-demanding apps and games. That’s when an AMD Radeon HD 6750M takes over, giving much faster performance. Doom 3 runs 42 per cent faster than on the last equivalent Pro model; Call of Duty 4 at a very respectable 84.3 frames a second.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch: Thunderbolt

The theme of speed and almost excessive power continues with the addition of a Thunderbolt port. This allows data transfer at up to 10Gbps in both directions so a full-length HD movie can be transferred in about 30 seconds, and an album’s worth of 320kbps MP3s in about the time it takes to say “Paul Weller”. Compatible peripherals are thin on the ground at the moment but the potential is mouth-watering. It also doubles as a Mini DisplayPort video output.

Apple’s screen remains as good as ever, though it does suffer in bright sunlight. The anti-glare version adds an extra £120 to the price. Battery is impressive, running the BBC iPlayer’s live feed of the News Channel at full-screen over Wi-Fi for four hours, 45 minutes – excellent for a constant wireless connection.

Less significant but still good to know: the notebook’s built-in webcam has been upgraded to 720p, allowing FaceTime video chat in hi-def, over Wi-Fi. The SD card reader can now handle high-capacity SCXC cards.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch: Verdict

With better processors, more powerful graphics and Thunderbolt now nestled in Apple’s unibody design, there’s never been a better time to buy a MacBook Pro, though of course it’s by no means a must-have.

In short, many will find the Pro over-powered and over-priced for their needs. But those who demand truly high-end portable performance – designers, video editors, photographers, musicians, hardcore gamers, inveterate show-offs – and want it all in a compact and stylish casing, will love the Pro.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch launch date: Out now from Apple

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch price: £1549, this model £1,849

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Specifications:

  • OS: Mac OS 10.6: Snow Leopard
  • Sceen: 15-inch, 1440x900
  • Processor: 2.0Ghz or 2.2Ghz quadcore Intel i7
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000, with 256MB AMD Radeon HD 6490M or 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6750M
  • Memory: 4GB (2x2GB)
  • Storage: 500GB/750GB
  • Optical drive: Yes
  • Battery claimed: Seven hours
  • Connections: FireWire 800, 2xUSB 2.0, Thunderbolt, SDXC card reader, Audio in, Audio out, N WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1
  • Dimensions/Weight: 364x249x24mm/2.54kg