Apple’s most expensive notebook, this 17-inch MacBook Pro, offers similar specs to the high-end 15-inch model. but bigger screen (obviously), three USB ports instead of two and an ExpressCard/34 slot instead of an SDXC reader, but the two notebooks are otherwise identical. Both benefit from a huge leap in performance over the equivalent model from the last generation of MacBook Pros.
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch: Processor
Under-the-hood technological advances give the new MacBook Pro a significant real-world performance increase. Its new Sandy Bridge, second-generation Core-series processor benefits from a new micro-architecture. The processor, cache, memory controller and graphics engine are integrated on a single chip, so data gets moved around faster and more efficiently.
Hyper Threading allows two threads to run on each of the processor’s four cores, so it can deal with up to eight jobs at once. This means applications written with multicore processors in mind run more quickly and smoothly, and the MacBook Pro performs more efficiently when you’ve several applications running at once. You spend more time getting on with whatever it is you’re doing, and less time watching the rainbow-coloured beach ball spin as you wait for your computer to actually do it.
Another great processor feature is Turbo Boost 2.0. This gives the machine an extra burst of speed when running processor-intensive tasks. As long as the CPU is operating within specified temperature, current and power limits, Turbo Boost 2.0 lets it run faster than the base operating frequency for a short period of time. Giving you that extra power just when you need it again helps you get on with your tasks, and spend less time waiting for the computer to catch up.
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch Graphics
The new 17-inch MacBook Pro has Intel HD 3000 Graphics built into the processor. This is more than enough for most day-to-day computing tasks and is easy on the battery too, but when more power is needed, graphical processing switches to the discrete GPU, an AMD Radeon HD 6750M.
As a result, you get great graphics, but also an excellent battery life. In our tests, the 17-inch MacBook Pro ran Doom 3 at 171.5 frames a second using its highest graphical settings, and Call of Duty 4 at 84.3 frames a second, which is more than enough for even the most discerning joystick jockey.
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch Battery
Naturally, playing games all day depletes the battery faster than web surfing and emailing, so keep that power cord handy. It’s got a magnetic MagSafe connector that pulls away if the cable is tugged, so it won’t drag the notebook off your lap or desk. You can mains-power a MacBook Pro anywhere where there’s a socket.
Apple says the battery gives seven hours on a full charge, which on paper is down from the eight to nine hours claimed for the previous model. But this apparent reduction is due to a more realistic testing regime based on WiFi internet rather than a genuine drop in battery power. In our own tests, we ran the BBC iPlayer’s live feed at full screen for five hours, 35 minutes, which is extremely commendable.
Other notable features include a: 720p webcam, backlit keyboard and excellent glossy screen with great viewing angles. Intel’s Thunderbolt data port makes its debut on the early 2011 MacBook Pros. This versatile input/output technology can carry a higher-than-HD video signal, eight channels of audio and can transfer a full length 1080p movie in 30 seconds. The MacBook Pro’s unibody construction is strong but light, and its stereo speakers are acceptable for day-to-day computing, but for high-end multimedia needs, you really need to plug in something better.
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch verdict
Apple’s early 2011 MacBook Pro isn’t perfect. It could use a Blu-ray drive, or even a faster DVD drive, and at £2,099 it’s far from cheap (though not outrageously priced, given its undoubted quality). Even so, it's not for the casual user, instead will appeal to the high-demands professional who needs to take his or her work out of the office; perhaps a graphic designer, web builder or video editor. Or indeed anyone who wants – and can afford – the most powerful notebook Mac on the market.
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch price: £2099
Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch launch date: Out now, link Apple