MacBook Pro 17" Review (Early Santa Rosa, 4GB, 160GB 7200rpm, Hi-Res Display)

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  1. circa86

    circa86 Notebook Virtuoso NBR Reviewer

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    MacBook Pro 17” Review

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    Say Hello to the Apple MacBook Pro!

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    Overview and Introduction:
    This is a review for the Early Santa Rosa 17&#8221; MacBook Pro by Apple Inc. This is a machine built as a type of workstation replacement and truly mean for on the go production. The most powerful notebook computer Apple has ever produced, and has recently been updated to perform even better. Here are the specific specs for the model being reviewed:

    Processor and Memory:
    &#8226; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4MB on-chip shared L2 cache
    &#8226; 2GB (Tw0 SO-DIMMs) of PC2-5300 (667MHz) DDR2 Memory; two SO-DIMM slots support up to 4GB
    &#8226; 800MHz frontside bus

    Storage:
    &#8226; 160GB 7200RPM HD (My machine uses a Seagate 7200.2 HDD)
    &#8226; Slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

    Input/Output Ports:
    &#8226; 3 USB 2.0 Ports
    &#8226; 1 Fire wire 400 Port
    &#8226; 1 Fire wire 800 Port
    &#8226; ExpressCard/34 Slot
    &#8226; Kensington Lock Slot

    Battery/Power:
    &#8226; 68-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery (with integrated charge indicator LEDs)
    &#8226; 85W MagSafe Power Adapter with cable management system
    &#8226; MagSafe power adapter port

    Communications:

    &#8226; Built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi wireless networking (based on an IEEE 802.11n draft specification); IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible2
    &#8226; Built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
    &#8226; Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector)

    Audio:
    &#8226; Combined optical digital input/audio line in (minijack)
    &#8226; Combined optical digital output/headphone out (minijack)
    &#8226; Built-in stereo speakers
    &#8226; Internal omni directional microphone (located under left speaker grille

    Display:
    &#8226; 17&#8221; 1920x1200 TFT Widescreen Display (With Optional Glossy Coating)
    &#8226; Ambient Light Sensor (to adjust display brightness)

    Video and graphics support:

    &#8226; NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor with dual-link DVI support and 256MB of GDDR3 SDRAM
    &#8226; Dual display and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colors
    &#8226; Dual-Link DVI output port
    &#8226; VGA output using included DVI to VGA adapter
    &#8226; Built-in iSight camera

    Input Devices:

    &#8226; Built-in full-size keyboard with 78 (U.S.) or 79 (ISO) keys, including 12 function keys, 4 arrow keys (inverted &#8220;T&#8221; arrangement), and embedded numeric keypad
    &#8226; Backlit keyboard with ambient light sensors for automatic adjustment of keyboard illumination and screen brightness
    &#8226; Large Solid-state scrolling trackpad for precise cursor control; supports two-finger scrolling, tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities
    &#8226; Apple Remote

    Software:
    &#8226; Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger (Now Using OS X 10.5.3 Leopard)
    &#8226; iLife &#8216;08

    Reasons for Buying:

    I was looking for a machine that could be a powerful and portable workstation replacement. I am an animation student, so I am constantly in the process of creating many things, from films, illustrations, web based work, photography, design, and even sound based work. I use an extremely wide range of programs every day and needed a powerful machine that could handle the load and still be somewhat portable and extremely usable for everyday use.

    One large influence was the Apple name alone, I have used Apple computers for many years, as well as PC&#8217;s with much love for both platforms, and finally decided I would like to own my own Mac after seeing the latest update to the hardware as well as the OS. My only real issue was whether or not I needed a MBP, Mac Pro, or one of the latest iMacs. My girlfriend has a MacBook, which she uses for everyday use; I have a Fujitsu N6210 which has been a wonderful workhorse machine for all of my projects, so it was a tough debate whether or not I really wanted to purchase another notebook computer.

    The decision was made for me however, when I realized my school (Kansas City Art Institute), an Apple supplied school, was offering great discounts on all MBP models, as our school has a fairly specific laptop program. A laptop was not necessary, but a good price on a 17&#8221; MBP is all I was looking for to make up my mind. Another selling point for me, was the inclusion of a high quality built in camera and mic, as I need a means of communications with friends and family worldwide, as well as partners on projects. So having a nice mic and camera built in make much simpler and user friendly than any other solution.

    There are other machines out there with the same basic hardware specs for less money, but none even get close to offering everything the MacBook Pro does.

    Where and how Purchased:

    This machine was purchased through Apple&#8217;s Online Education Store, using a discount system set up by my school. Which allowed me to get my MBP for about $2800 with the specs listed, including the Apple Care Plan, as well as a free 2nd Gen iPod Nano 4GB, through mail in rebate, and a free printer/rebate was available as well. I would have purchased it at my local Apple store, as I live very close to one, but they did not have a High Resolution Glossy Screen Model at the time.

    Included in the box:

    -MacBook Pro 17&#8221;
    -OS X Install DVD&#8217;s (which also function as bootable system utility disks)
    -Printed and Electronic Documentation
    -DVI to VGA adapter
    -Magsafe Power Adapter with grounded extension cable
    -Remote Control

    (Everyone knows what the packaging looks like already so I will leave those photos out, you can check out nearly all other MacBook Pro reviews to see images of the packaging)

    Build and Design:

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    Apple truly stands alone in this department, although some may not like their designs, but they are putting more thought into this aspect than any other computer manufacturer out there. Apple has a formula that they follow and have for quite some time. Even if it is not popular at the time, they produce the kind of products that they want to use and believe in. I must say, that it is hard for me to disagree with this philosophy. Although the MacBook Pro follows the same model as the now somewhat old G4 PowerBooks, it truly remains superb. Instead of going for a complete redesign, they simply made small developments on the chassis, improving small sections slowly over time. What started as a design simply looking for complete simplicity has evolved into something that still follows that original theory, but has small advancements that make it more and more efficient.

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    It is a very sturdy feeling aluminum chassis, with a large base hinge for the screen, that keeps the screen as low as possible to the machine keeping the size down considerably. This is the absolute smallest 17&#8221; Notebook available, and still packs all if not more features than any other on the market. No rippling can be seen when pressing on the screen lid, as it is a very sturdy construction. No part of the chassis feels weak at all, and it is very even. The battery is mounted very securely and does not move at all mounted to the machine.

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    The keyboard and touchpad almost feel like they are sculpted into the system itself, and things like a slot loading optical drive just add to the sleek and simple design that Apple has developed. Although Apple has been using this design for many years now, it somehow still feels just as fresh as when they first implemented it, and that is most likely due to its continued evolution over time.

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    One thing that is often brought up with the design of these machines is the hard to use screen latch button. I cannot say that is the easiest solution, and the design might benefit by moving to a magnetic closure system similar to the MacBook, but I have never really thought of it as any sort of major interruption in using the MacBook Pro, but a better solution could probably be developed that would require less moving parts that was just as secure.

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    The only thing I can mention as a negative in terms of build and design is that due to its aluminum construction, it is more susceptible to getting dents and dings, but in the care of anyone who treats a laptop properly and is somewhat careful with their expensive purchase, they will be absolutely fine. There is a large amount of cases specifically made to fit this machine, and most work extremely well at protecting these machines. Also, I have seen a few MacBook Pro&#8217;s take viscous drops and hits, and although the casing may have shown some scars, there internals were still safe and secure.

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    Screen:

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    I have been using Fujitsu 17&#8221; Notebooks mainly up to this point, so I am used to a 1440x900 Resolution 17&#8221; screen. I have used many other laptops as well that use the normal 1680x1080 screen size. When I heard Apple started including a high-resolution 1920x1200 screen on their 17&#8221; Notebooks, I went down to the Apple store to check them out for myself. And that is the end of it. This is the most beautiful 17&#8221; Notebook screen I have ever seen, and it is all to do with the resolution. The screen is very bright, and the large number of adjustment levels are excellent, not to mention not really ever needing to adjust the brightness due to the ambient light sensor. On a machine running OS X, 1920x1200 is absolutely gorgeous, people that complain about how OS X renders text would never even realize there is anti-aliasing, the pixel density is absolutely phenomenal. The amount of screen space one gains moving up to this high of resolution is also very substantial, and although normal size text can get quite small, every program that I use is based on a system of near resolution independence anyway, and the OS X interface is perfectly useable and clear all at normal factory settings. The Pro&#8217;s of a high resolution screen so easily out way any complaints someone might have, with all honesty. In both of the major OS&#8217;s, OS X and Vista, nearly all aspects involving text readability are easily adjustable.

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    Also, I am an animator/film maker, so being able to produce and view a full 1080p film at native resolution on my laptop is incredible. I also use many programs that are just begging for as much screen real estate as possible.

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    There is very little to complain about with this screen, it is absolutely the first thing anyone mentions when first seeing the computer, I work in a studio where basically everyone uses MacBook Pro&#8217;s and all of them are very jealous of this beautiful display. The viewing angles and brightness levels are perfectly adequate for an LCD panel, while Apple&#8217;s own Apple Cinema Display is slightly brighter and has nearly infinite viewing angles, the Macbook Pro&#8217;s screen is perfectly adequate and when used in conjunction with an Cinema Display, as color remains true across both screens in my experience, with no adjustment of either.

    Here is the screen from multiple angles:

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    Speakers:

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    I was definitely not expecting anything phenomenal out of these speakers, as the MBP only uses two speakers, one on each side of the keyboard, or so I originally thought. I am used to hearing the Fujitsu N6210 speakers (a mini 2.1 setup, if you can call it that, two small speakers and a tiny sub) so I figured that machine would offer better quality audio playback.

    But luckily, I was greatly surprised by the speakers of the MacBook Pro, many of my fellow students and friends use the 15.4&#8221; MBP and one of there biggest complaints is lack of volume from the built in speakers. Hey tend to sound quite tinny and lack any type of punch.

    On the 17&#8221; model, that is definitely not the case, 17&#8221; MacBook Pro&#8217;s actually have 2 small speakers on each side of the keyboard, 4 total, so the speakers may infact be identical to the ones used on a 15&#8221; model, just more of them. Either way, these speakers absolutely blow the 15&#8221; models out of the water, and completely hold their own if not perform better than the Fujitsu speaker system with separate subwoofer. They get quite loud at full volume, easily loud enough for a single user working on the machine, or even a few people sitting around the machine watching and listening to each other&#8217;s latest work. Even only being two speakers on each side of the keyboard, you actually get just as much impact on a baseline than the Fujitsu speakers with sub can produce. Also, there is absolutely no distortion from these speakers even at absolutely full volume.

    Like everyone always says, of course these speakers don&#8217;t compare to a nice set of external speakers or a home theatre or studio setup, but as far as laptop speakers go, this could quite easily be some of the best I have ever heard.

    And if the built in speakers are not enough, there is a quality digital audio out for connection to a high end home theatre system or high quality headphones, and the quality of signal coming out of the machine is very satisfactory. There is a little bit of noise in some headphones with the machine a full volume, but that is something that few people will ever need to be doing.


    Communication Devices:

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    Built in iSight camera.

    One of the nicest things about this machine is how easy it allows you to communicate with others in many different ways. It is not just about having a built in camera and microphone either, the way it implements them in the OS and Applications is really what makes them shine. Anyone can easily be up and running communicating with full video and audio with absolutely no setup.

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    The video quality is also quite fantastic and perfect for its original intended purpose, taking snapshots, and as a video communication device. As an animator, I can use the camera to take reference photos of myself or just even use it as a mirror to look at any specific expression, I may even start building an image library of different expressions and poses to keep as reference for myself.

    The built in mic, which is located under the left speaker grill, also does an excellent job. I use this mic in many different ways and I have been perfectly happy in each use, whether it is recording a lecture in a class (using Word&#8217;s notebook mode), recording quick audio for a project, talking with friends, or just simply playing around. Even in a large room I am able to pick up my teacher&#8217;s voice over the sound of projectors, my own typing, and the ambience of the room.

    As someone who deals with audio all the time and records in a studio, I have been extremely impressed by the quality of sound this mic is able to capture.

    Processor and Performance:

    My previous Fujitsu N6210 (which I still use) is equipped with a Pentium M 1.86ghz processor, and ATi X600 with 128mb memory with 2GB of RAM and 80gb 4200rpm HDD, so the jump up to a Core 2 Duo at 2.4ghz and an Nvidia 8600GT-M with 256mb memory and 4GB of RAM with 160GB 7200rpm HDD is a very nice improvement. Everyday I work on projects and use software that can easily push hardware to its edge, so any small increase in performance is very noticeable for me. The biggest issue I deal with in the projects that I work on is render time, it plays a large part in what can and cannot be done. As an example, I recently worked on a project that would have taken about 5 hours to render only using my MBP, however, my school has a very nice network render queue set up that allows me to connect to a specific server, and utilize every computer in my studio building to work on rendering a sequence, each computer jumping ahead to the next frames, so utilizing about 15 G5&#8217;s, a Mac Pro, and about 16 Core Duo iMacs, plus my own MBP, we cut the render time down to about 30 mins. (Just wanted to let you know the amount of processing power required for this type of stuff.) Since both of these machines are infact notebooks, they are not necessarily made to be all out rendering and processing machines but the MBP definitely fits the bill while the Fujitsu easily falls behind. The 2.4ghz C2D is easily comparable if not entirely more efficient than Dual G5 processors in this situation, it can accomplish about the same amount using much less power, and then I can take it home with me and work on things there. As a portable rendering machine, it is quite impressive. In everyday use, it is indeed very impressive but for most users there would probably not be a hugely noticeable difference between the two machines. While I can easily see a large difference as I work with the type of media and software that makes it very apparent, someone surfing around on Firefox or Safari, and doing basic tasks like making home movies, doing basic photo editing, etc. would still be perfectly fine using the Fujitsu machine. On another note however, I am glad to see consumer level hardware being pushed to a point that encourages the average user to be doing more creative things with the hardware, as well as actually having readily available software to do so.

    Intel has made such large leaps and bounds from the launch of the Core Duo to the present, and they have done it in the proper way, not just doing whatever it takes to increase the clock speed, which is an entirely secondary aspect of processor performance, they did what really mattered and created something that is entirely reliant on efficiency. Every single Core 2 Duo processor available today uses this same methodology and it clearly shows, I am very happy to see this in this type of industry, many other companies have a lot to learn and I am glad to see Apple understood this as well and made the wise decision to use this type of technology in their machines. The jump in performance their machines have made in the past 2 years or so (consider the last model of 17&#8221; PowerBook, compared to this latest Core 2 Duo 17&#8221; MacBook Pro) is absolutely phenomenal, for the same price, you are now getting what was then workstation level performance. And while Intel deserves a large amount of credit for this, it is also noteworthy to credit Apple and all of the other software developers for OS X, for making sure that the software efficiently utilizes what the hardware has to offer.

    The latest 8600GT mobile GPU from Nvidia also performs extremely well, especially considering that in this case it is driving a 1920x1200 display, it has performed very well in some fairly demanding games (under Vista 32-bit) as well as real-time 3D performance in programs like Maya 2008, and After Effects CS3, among others, running under OS X. I can easily say this GPU has nearly 5-6 times the performance of the X600 in my Fujitsu, and is easily my choice over any GPU offered in any other Apple machine configuration at the time (except for a workstation card like the Nvidia Quadro, and possibly the 1900xt 512mb offered in Mac Pro systems).

    Than are many other aspects I would like to touch on that are performance related but I think it is about time to get to the different benchmarks and why they are important, in terms of everyday use, from a gaming standpoint, as well as for the main market of this system, high end content creation.

    Benchmarks:

    Let&#8217;s take a look at some different performance benchmarks under Windows Vista 32-bit and some real world usage situations under Apple&#8217;s latest OS X Leopard 10.5.1.

    At first, I was not planning on installing Windows to perform these specific benchmarks, but I got a break from school and a copy of Vista so I decided to go ahead and perform the regular benchmarks that are usually performed on this site, as well as test out some of my favorite games with the new Nvidia GPU and WUXGA screen. I have also performed the normal tests you will see on nearly all NBR reviews, measuring HDD and specific CPU speeds.

    HDTune:

    The first one I will mention are the results received from HDTune&#8217;s benchmark. My MBP uses a Seagate 7200.2 160GB 7200rpm HDD and here are the results from HDTune:

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    SuperPi:

    The next test is SuperPi, and the results are quite good as are expected from the 2.4ghz Core 2 Duo. Definitely on par with other machines with similar specs, and very impressive as this is the smallest lightest 17&#8221; notebook computer available. Not much more I can say about these results, but always good to see these different benchmarks to see the actual improvement in performance over your last machine.

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    Futuremark Benchmarks:

    Now the benchmarks many have been waiting for, 3dmark and Pcmark, I performed tests with 3dmark05, 3dmark06, and Pcmark06, each performed with the original GPU drivers provided with bootcamp from the Leopard install disk, as well as with the latest Nvidia drivers provided on Apple&#8217;s website. I have no desire to run these benchmarks under over clock situations, as I am perfectly happy with the current performance of the 8600GTm, as mentioned earlier, I am interested in testing the performance of the machine to compare it to my last. It is always good to see that the machine you decided to get is a definite improvement over the last one you owned. I must note that since I am using Vista 32-bit, not all 4gb of RAM is utilized. Anyway, here are the different Futuremark results using the original supplied drivers with Bootcamp:

    3dmark05:

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    3dmark06:

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    Pcmark06:

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    Very respectable results indeed, and a massive improvement over the 1660 or so that my older ATi X600 scored on 3dmark05, I honestly couldn&#8217;t be happier with these results. As I already mentioned, I decided to update to the latest Nvidia drivers provided by Apple, and run the tests again o see if there is any performance gain using the 167.44 drivers. (it is quite possible that other drivers are available that perform even better under Vista.

    3dmark05:

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    3dmark06:

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    A clear gain can be seen in both tests, one that is definitely worth while, and I have had absolutely no issues with these drivers, a clear performance boost could also be seen in the Source games that I play, like Team Fortress 2, Portal, and the latest HL2 installments.

    PCmark06:

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    Also a clear increase in performance, quite clearly due to the newer drivers.

    How much of an increase these newer drivers can provide in real world and project usage is somewhat irrelevant for me, as I do all of that in OS X, but there may be some software I will use Windows for in the future to accomplish certain things on projects.

    I would like to provide full fledged gaming results for those who are interested, but I am not a hardcore gamer by any means, I do however, play some games that are fairly intensive and provide a good overview as to what this machine is capable of. As I mentioned, the only games I really play and have installed on this machine for this review are Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2: Episode II, and Portal, all games running on the Source engine, one that has been continuously updated overtime. Since this machine has a high-resolution 1920x1200 display, this engine provides an excellent test for fairly high end gaming.

    All Source based games are set up to automatically detect and choose the best basic settings for your machine, in terms of texture quality settings etc. and on this machine it has chosen high settings all around with full HDR utilization, something my older machine definitely could not handle, not even at 1440x900, this machine can handle them quite well at 1920x1200.

    For me, real world performance really means rendering performance, that is usually one of the biggest factors when it comes to finishing a project on time. Applications like Maya can easily push nearly any machine to extremely high CPU usage levels and will keep it there until the job is done. It becomes very clear how any slight performance increase can become a great benefit to the user and can completely control their workflow. Even if you have a multi-thousand processor render farm, it is possible to push it to its limits with even a single frame. I didn&#8217;t feel that benchmarks would be very helpful to someone making a decision, as Maya is optimized quite well on the operating systems it is able to run on (do keep in mind that it actually utilizes 64bit architecture) and can quite easily get the most out of whatever you can throw at it. With that in mind, this MacBook Pro is an excellent portable workstation that can easily outpace most of the G5 systems, and perform just as well as any equivalent PC, and possibly better in the sense that it is utilizing a 64bit structure.

    Keyboard and Touch pad:

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    MacBook Pro keyboard.

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    MacBook Pro trackpad.

    I will start by saying that I absolutely love laptop style keyboards over the old style of desktop keyboard, I love the short stroke keys and always have. The keyboard on the Fujitsu N6210 has always been excellent, just the right amount of stroke, and keys spaced apart just the right amount. The MBP keyboard easily holds its own against any other keyboard I have used. Spacing is very adequate, and keystroke is just perfect, you get great feedback from the keys as you type and the keys react to light and harder typists without a problem. I was somewhat spoiled with the full size N6210 keyboard with full NumPad, but I really must say, the larger speaker size is definitely a better compromise. The only reason I like to have a num pad in the first place is for the pro apps that I use, where quick input saves tons of time. For that reason I have purchased Apple&#8217;s newest thin keyboard, which is absolutely excellent. The new button layout is excellent, and I am glad to see Apple has now adopted it on the newest MacBooks, having the Expose and Dashboard shortcuts above the left hand side makes much more sense, as that is the side that is used most with Key Commands. Also, the new iTunes controls are an amazing addition and work perfectly well with audio and video Applications. I never could have imagined how useful it would be to be able to control iTunes no matter what Application I was currently using. One drawback is that it does not draw enough power for some devices, like iPods, and some flash drives/portable HDDs. But anything that is self-powered like a desktop external HDD, works perfectly.

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    Newest Apple Wired Keyboard.

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    I am just going to throw this next part out here and see if anyone is willing to challenge this statement: &#8220;Apple touch pads are the most efficient and well designed touch pads ever created.&#8221; Anyone trying to challenge that simply has not used one enough in my opinion. The 17&#8221; MBP touchpad is the largest I have seen on any notebook computer (only the MacBook Air's is larger), matches the screen size ratio perfectly, and sits perfectly flush with the palm rest surface, it actually seems as it is a part of the aluminum surface, with just enough of an edge to easily be able to feel where you are at on the surface. I always thought it was more efficient to just have a second touchpad button for a right click input. Finally using a MacBook Pro for a prolonged period of time (I have been using them in one form or another since they were originally released) I understand completely why Apple has decided to stick to their guns. While it was frustrating on the PowerBooks, on MBP touchpad, with the new two finger input functions, it just becomes second nature to single click and right click. Some people don&#8217;t like it but I like to have my touchpad set up with &#8220;Tapping&#8221; enabled, this way, if I want to right click all I need to do is tap down a second finger for a right click. As an example: I always use my middle finger on the touchpad, with my index finger on the single button. I can easily tap down my ring finger to right click and set it down to quickly drag with the two finger scroll. This works equally well for right and left-handed people. It is quite large, so some may think this would get in the way of typing very easily, as I originally thought it would, but I have never even thought about that being an issue after using it for an extended period of time. I can&#8217;t really see that being an issue for anyone, unless you have some very strange typing habits.

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    As another little addition to this section, I would also like to mention the other input devices I use on a daily basis. I also have a Wacom Intuos 3 6x11 Tablet, and Apple Wired Might Mouse (the latest model), which I use with this machine everyday. The Mighty Mouse was a purchase I decided to make after using one for extended periods of time doing some basic work at a photo studio. Many people complain about there usability and reliability but I really love using the mighty mouse. I decided to get a wired one because of its lightweight and absolute reliability, never have to worry about something interfering with the connectivity, and open USB ports aren&#8217;t really a problem for me, as this machine regularly gets moved around. I think the main reason I like using this mouse is its similarity with the MBP touchpad. The entire mouse works as one large button, which is quite odd at first for most users. To right click, since the top surface of the mouse is Touch Sensitive, you must lift your index finger (or Primary Click finger) and click on the right side of the mouse, which is somewhat similar to how the Touchpad works, the actual act of doing something else with your hand to right click actually seems more efficient for me, and I find it works perfectly for the type of work that I do. The scroll wheel is also extremely useful for multiple applications. The scrolling works perfectly in all applications, and the wheel also functions as a very easy to use middle click button, which I need for many different programs, and was one of the main reasons I decided to get another mouse to go along with my Wacom Tablet. That said the Intuos 3 does come with a very good mouse that is self powered by the Tablet itself and uses the tablet as a tracking surface, and it all honesty works very well, I just found that having a separate mouse was much easier to have in a bag at all times. But because I do use the Wacom basically every day, I would like to comment on its usefulness in a Mac environment. First of all, I have never had any issues what so ever with drivers acting up, which I have in Windows XP, never anything major, but I have had to reinstall the XP drivers more than once. Never in OS X, also, once the drivers are installed, a Wacom Tab is added right into the System Preferences window, allowing very quick access to make changes to the settings, which is very important for many projects. I can&#8217;t say enough good things about every Wacom Tablet I have ever used, so its usability on a whole may be the topic of another review.

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    MacBook Pro backlit keyboard.

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    Here is a setup using a new Apple keyboard and Apple&#8217;s Mighty Mouse.

    Input and Output Ports:

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    The Front Panel. On the front we have the Remote Control Sensor, Latch button with power LED, and Slot-loading Superdrive.

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    The Back Panel. On the back we just have the rear vents, which have been opened up more compared to the Powerbooks and original MacBook Pro.

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    The Left Panel. On the left we have the MagSafe Port, 2 USB 2.0 Ports, Digital Audio Input, Digital Audio Out, and an ExpressCard 34 slot.

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    The Right Panel. On the right we have a Lock Slot, 1 USB 2.0 Port, 1 FW400 Port, 1 FW800 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, and a DVI port.

    The ports included are a very important part of any notebook computer, as the ports chosen completely control how exactly you use the machine. Looking at many reviews of recent Apple notebook computers, it is very common to see &#8220;Not Enough USB ports&#8221; listed under the con section. More and more people are starting to realize that these machine do in fact come with a much more efficient and still widely used ports. This machine has 3 USB2.0 ports, one FW400, and one FW800 port, that is a total of 5 ports, where most 17&#8221; machines might have a total of 4 or 5 USB2.0 ports. Trust me, Apple&#8217;s is a much better compromise. I would imagine most people purchasing a 17&#8221; MacBook Pro are purchasing it as a type of workstation replacement, as that is what it really is best at. In this situation having a FW800 port becomes absolutely necessary, and sacrificing it for another USB2.0 port would be blasphemy. Not only is a FW800 (and FW400) a much faster way to transfer files from one machine to another, or from an external HDD, it is also and incredibly fast way to network multiple machines together. Fast enough in fact that working with a file from another persons computer actually becomes possible. For users working in the film/video industry, FW800 is basically a necessity for a portable machine, as it allows them to work with very large format video directly from an External HDD without problems, as it can handle very large data rates that video demands. I can understand why more USB2.0 ports might be longed for if this was not Apple Hardware, but I cannot see this as an issue at all when other more efficient ports are included, and even more so when there are basically no External FW800 HDD&#8217;s that don&#8217;t also include a USB2.0 port for total compatibility. I say bring on the FireWire! As for the rest of the ports, the right side of the machine has, a dual-link DVI output, Ethernet, FW800, FW400, 1 USB2.0, and a Kensington Lock slot, which could definitely get in the way of a mouse if used on the right side of the machine (but if a lock is used, I would imagine the computer is usually stationary. On the left side we have the MagSafe port, 2 USB 2.0, Digital input and output for audio, and an ExpressCard34 slot. The MagSafe power adapter port is a fantastic idea and is implemented very well; it does what it is meant to do without ever really getting in the way of anything. And quite honestly it really helps in the &#8220;Quality&#8221; dept. I don&#8217;t know if that makes much sense, but it really helps the MBP reek of quality. One small issue I do have with the MBP ports is a slight noise when using headphones on the Audio Out port. The noise only occurs when headphones are plugged in and there is no sound being outputted to the headphones. For example: right after you stopped playback of audio or a video, you may hear some slight noise, which will quickly disappear after a short amount of time. This may only be apparent on certain types of headphones, and is honestly not been a major issue for me, as it rarely occurs and it only occurs with no output. I have used the MBP to output audio to some very nice high-end speakers and could not be happier with the sound produced. Also it is hard to complain about the audio ports when you have the ability to output audio directly to a high end Amplifier, using all digital connections. This goes for Audio input as well.

    As far as the layout goes, I really can&#8217;t find anything to complain about, while I was somewhat used to having most ports going out the back on my Fujitsu, I can&#8217;t say that having them all on the side has interfered with my work in any way, if not made it easier. The DVI and Ethernet ports are in a smart location near the back to not get in the way of any of the other ports that are likely to be used more often. I think it would have made more sense to put the Lock slot near the back but I would imagine it has a sturdier mounting point in its current location. I believe the main reason having all ports on the side works well in this particular case is the forward facing Optical Drive.

    [​IMG]
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    Belkin Media Card Reader ExpressCard.

    Recently I have purchased a Belkin ExpressCard34 Media Card reader, that reads SD, XD, and Memory Stick cards, which runs about $29 at an Apple Retail Store, and is completely Plug and Play for this particular system. I use it often with the 1gb Memory Stick Pro Duo (with normal Memory Stick adapter) and it is extremely fast, the memory stick is mounted almost instantaneously. I was very glad to see this work as well as it does because my Sony T-1 camera must be connected to its dock to transfer pictures via USB. So this is a much more elegant and portable solution. Also, the reader does not stick out of the machine at all, when it is plugged into the slot, it looks as if the card reader is actually built into the machine. I believe having it plugged in may actually use some battery power though, so I only use it when I need it.

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    Card Reader fully inserted.

    Wireless:

    This version of the MBP uses the latest Wireless card from Intel, which utilizes the latest and quickest &#8220;N&#8221; designation. Like many other features of the MBP, this has never been a hindrance what so ever. The best way to find a &#8220;Con&#8221; is to determine whether or not it is something that keeps coming up. I have never once thought, I wish this wireless card worked better as this one, etc. The range is excellent, there are no connectivity issues, and I use it often to exchange files with friends in my studio, and even as a way to work together on projects. At home I use Apple&#8217;s Airport Extreme Base Station, and a Wireless connection is theoretically quicker while using the MBP due to the lack of gigabit Ethernet on my early model AEBS. But with a wireless signal that is never dropped and an extremely fast connection, I can&#8217;t really complain.

    This is the first notebook I have owned with built in Bluetooth, and while I must say it is a nice feature to have, I have never really had much of an opportunity to utilize it, and usually have it turned off to save battery life. The small amount I have played around with it however, such as syncing a phone and testing a Bluetooth mouse it has worked flawlessly.

    Battery:

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    MacBook Pro Battery.

    I have never bought a 17&#8221; notebook computer with any expectation of good battery life. I was used to a Fujitsu that had a max battery life of about 2hrs in the right situation. Intel and Apple have been very hard at work in the past few years! The 17&#8221; MBP easily averages 3.5 to 4 hours of battery life on a full charge, doing basic tasks, and utilizing the ambient light sensor for screen brightness adjustment. This has honestly opened up an entire new world for me and is without question one of my favorite things about this machine. I honestly don&#8217;t often do very intense work while on battery, but for the times I have needed to, it has really been a lifesaver. My most common use of the battery with this machine has been using it to take notes in Art History classes. I use the notebook feature of Office 04, which means I often record a full Hour and 20 mins. of Audio, while also typing notes. I have not yet attempted to push the battery to its absolute limits because honestly, it lasts long enough that I would probably just get bored and move onto testing something else.

    [​IMG]
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    Another great part about the MBP battery is the LED power level indicator on the bottom of the machine, which can be used at any time to check the remaining battery power, even when the battery is removed from the machine or the machine is powered down. Not a feature that I use often but definitely something that does come in handy now and then. And going back to the whole &#8220;quality&#8221; thing, this is just another little feature that helps this machine continue to reek, reek of quality.

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    Heat and Noise:

    Metal is a material that is extremely quick to heat up. The MacBook Pro is made of metal, processors, HDDs, GPU&#8217;s and basically all things electric, produce heat, sometimes quite a lot of heat. The MacBook Pro heats up quite quickly. Heat as been somewhat of an issue for Apple&#8217;s notebooks since they started using aluminum casing, however, it is an extremely logical compromise, and I can&#8217;t say that I find the heat of this machine to ever be a major issue.

    For instance, lets take a look at a normal work flow for me:

    Open up the machine in the morning, the entire chassis is at room temperature, meaning it could be quite cool when opening it up, which is a good thing. I work with the machine for a while, doing basic tasks like checking email, typing, listening to music, or watching a video, etc. I am using the machine on my lap, so I can notice that the machine is starting to get hotter, as any computer would. I don&#8217;t feel that it is getting to hot to comfortably use in my lap, it is only to hot because the heat is emitting from the bottom surface, it is not due to too much heat coming from the keyboard or top surface of the machine. Suddenly I have a great idea for a project I am working on, so I open up After Effects and start playing around with the idea, I hear the fans begin to ramp up in speed and the machine begins to get hot enough that it becomes somewhat uncomfortable to work with on my lap, as well as being dangerous to my future family ^_^ so I set it back up on my desk to work with it like I normally would while working on a project. As soon as I am done with the project, I close the programs I was using and go get something to eat, drink, or whatever, by the time I get back, the machine has already cooled back down to its idle level, and if closed or put to sleep, it will quickly go back to being room temperature.

    I have used every instance of MBP, and I must say that the earliest model did stay considerably hot, this model is definitely improved quite a lot. While most of the older models that I used seemed to always be very hot, this latest model only seems to really get uncomfortably hot to use on your lap when doing intense work. Which is a perfectly logical compromise. The 2nd revision of the MBP&#8217;s included a redesign of the rear vents, making it much more open allowing much more air to escape through these rear vents. The surfaces of the machine that heat up are the bottom surface, below the CPU, GPU, and sometimes the battery and HDD (below and left of the touchpad), these bottom surfaces can get quite hot under the right circumstances as mentioned above, but like I already mentioned, it is under circumstances that the machine wouldn&#8217;t often be used. On the top surface, the areas that can get hot are directly above the keyboard, the keyboard area itself never gets excessively hot as the two fans do a good job of expelling hot air at the back of the machine.

    It really is good to see Apple making a nice step forward with reducing heat on these machines, and their willingness to use a material that is much more efficient at keeping the actual internals cool and running well. The entire machine acts as a type of heat sink, which results in well cooled hardware, and a very quiet machine as the fans only need to ramp up when the machine is given intense tasks.

    With that said, the noise factor of this machine is quite amazing as well. The only noise that this machine makes are the normal sounds you would expect from a computer, just muted significantly. Under normal use, fan noise is basically non-existent, as I sit hear and type this review, I could honestly not even tell you if the fans are running. When an intense load is put on the machine, the fans do spin up very quickly to keep the machine within its operating range, but are still very quiet relative to the power of the machine.

    The only other noise that exists is noise coming from the optical drive, which has gotten noticeably quieter from the PowerBook days. Like many already know, these slot loading optical drives can be slightly louder than a normal tray loading drive, but I honestly can&#8217;t say this Matsu****a drive is any louder than the Matsu****a tray loading drive in my Fujitsu. I have seen that some have mentioned that the drive was quite loud while playing a DVD, loud enough to become a nuisance, but I must say that I cannot agree. This drive doesn&#8217;t seem any louder than other laptop drives I have heard, and the speakers in this machine easily overpower the noise generated by the optical drive. HDD noise is basically non-existent with this machine as well, my MBP has a Seagate 7200.2 160GB HDD, and I don&#8217;t think I have ever heard any noise coming from that area at all. My Fujitsu&#8217;s HDD made enough noise to know when it was being accessed, that is not the case at all on this MBP.

    This is kind of silly thing to mention but I became aware of it so I might as well mention it. The keyboard on this machine is something that makes it quite significantly quieter than many other notebook computers or computers in general.


    Operating System and Software:

    Honestly what can I say that hasn&#8217;t already been said? OS X is a truly fantastic Operating system, and it only got better with Leopard. It is hard to complain when the OS is already rock solid in terms of performance and usability. Like I mentioned earlier, there isn&#8217;t anything that really gets in the way of the work I am trying to produce and that is about all I can ask for in an operating system.

    All of the included software is absolutely useful, the only Trial software included is Aperture, iWork, Office 04, and a free 60 day offer for .Mac, all which are perfectly useful and are worth a look for anyone really. When you start up a machine in OS X you will not have any random software pop up unless you invoke it yourself.

    Another nice included bit of software and hardware is the implementation of Front Row, as a very elegant Media playback solution, that has a very beautiful interface and easy to use remote control that works very well.

    All of the other included software I truly find useful, I never found myself having to go through the system to delete all the junk I would never use, which is often the case with other systems. Things like Photobooth, iTunes, and the rest of Apple&#8217;s own included software, is truly a joy to use. While I rarely use Applications in the iLife suite (due to being familiar with all of their Professional level equivalents) I cannot say anything negative about them, because it offers all users the ability to produce and create and gives them a wide open window and shows them how useful and fulfilling creating things with a computer can be. It also teaches all users the basic fundamentals of all of more advanced Pro Level software that they may move on to using at some point.

    One thing a lot of Windows users, including myself, say as a negative about OS X is the lack of free third party software, but not only is there just as much available, it is much easier to find, basically all of it is available on Apple.com, it is usually much better quality as well.

    The whole OS X experience is a truly positive one, any issues most people have are quickly quelled as they continue to use the system.

    Customer Support:

    As far as customer service goes, I haven&#8217;t had a better or similar experience to what I have had with Apple. I live very close to an Apple store, so I honestly could set up an appointment, and walk a few blocks to get help at the Genius bar. Honestly though, I know what I am doing when it comes to this stuff, and use the internet as a vast and endless information resource, so the only time I really need to contact Apple customer support is if I have a Hardware issue. The power brick I received with my machine made some very subtle strange noises, which a Genius at the Apple store had never heard before, and it was replaced without question. I have had many experiences with other people going to the Apple store with hardware issues, and while most have been accepted and replaced without question, I know some people that haven&#8217;t had a very good experience with the Apple &#8220;Geniuses&#8221;, but it is all about your local store really. I know many of the employees at my local Apple store, so I don&#8217;t have any problems really. Also, if one does have issues with their local Apple store employees, they can call Apple Customer Care and get very good results as well. The overall experience is quite fantastic and readily available. One major benefit of Apple being a U.S. based company for U.S. residents.

    In all honesty though, I don&#8217;t think any other computer company offers a better customer support solution, no matter what country you live in, unless it is one that Apple doesn&#8217;t officially sell computers in.

    Conclusion:

    As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I was in search of a powerful workstation replacement, I was even considering purchasing a workstation system, since I already had a laptop, and for the price range I was looking at I could get a very powerful system indeed. After doing a lot of research and really thinking about what would benefit me the most, I chose the MacBook Pro. Do I regret my decision? Absolutely. . . ^_^ Not. There is no system available that I would rather have right now to fit my needs. Sure there are other systems out there that would be more powerful than this laptop that I would love to own, but only to accompany my current system. Not only am I glad to own my first Apple computer, I am glad to own a computer that does everything I need it to do without hesitation. I will say that there might be other systems out there that suit others needs better than this one. But for me specifically there isn&#8217;t even another one out there that I can imagine owning over this one.

    What Do I wish Apple would change?

    I could say that this is a difficult question, as I am extremely satisfied with the system as is, but I am a creative individual so of course I can come up with things I would like to see in the future. None of these are really major complaints, just ideas that I believe would improve an already fantastic system.

    The first thing that I imagine is already coming up on the Radar is a switch to the new keyboard layout similar to the newest MacBooks and the new Apple keyboard, that adds the playback control, and moves shortcut buttons to the top left, in all honest it is just a much more efficient layout and I am pleased to see Apple including it on the latest MacBook iteration, I would imagine this will be addressed on the next MacBook Pro (It has been). Also, I would love to see them come up with a design for the 17&#8221; that included a full size Number Pad while still remaining just as sleek and elegant.

    The other main change I would really like to see, is a MacBook Pro constructed with a solid carbon fiber chassis, or at least a Carbon Fiber Lower section of the Chassis, as it would not only make the chassis even stronger, it may combat the machine to user heat transfer that occurs under heavy loads, haha. While this may be wishful thinking, if I were in charge, I would definitely insist on a MacBook Pro of all carbon fiber construction, all the way down to the keyboard keys. It is kind of hard to complain though, as Apple is already offering something only available by them, a completely Aluminum Chassis.

    Included in my glorious Carbon Fiber MacBook Pro would be an even simpler magnetic latch system, updated keyboard layout, a Blu-Ray Optical drive, a Solid State Drive, HDMI output along with the included DVI and an LED backlight for the display. All of the latter things, are quite possibly coming in the near future however.

    Pros:
    &#8226; Beautiful High Resolution Display with no dead pixels and even backlight
    &#8226; Excellent build quality and design that has evolved over the years
    &#8226; Great connectivity (wireless reception) and communication devices built in
    &#8226; Loud and distortion free speakers that can fill a room with sound
    &#8226; Fantastic Operating System and Included Software
    &#8226; Efficient and Easy to use Keyboard and Touchpad
    &#8226; The only 17&#8221; Notebook to include FW800
    &#8226; Front mounted Slot Loading optical Drive, going along with a well design port layout
    &#8226; Included Remote control that can be used in multiple ways
    &#8226; Dual Link DVI output
    &#8226; Excellent Battery Life

    Cons:
    &#8226; Has not yet switched to new Apple keyboard layout (on the latest models, they have now updated the keyboard layout, good job Apple)
    &#8226; No update to LED backlight for 17&#8221; models (fixed this problem too, sucks for me, great for everyone else ^_^)
    &#8226; Apple should make more users aware of all the included features of the machine
    &#8226; No Carbon Fiber Case ^_^

    Here are a few more photos of the MacBook Pro:

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    -Andrew Hake 2008
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2015
  2. Vedya

    Vedya There Is No Substitute...

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    WOW.............

    very nice review, this should totally make it into the 1st page.
     
  3. CeeNote

    CeeNote Notebook Virtuoso

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    awesome review!! +rep
     
  4. circa86

    circa86 Notebook Virtuoso NBR Reviewer

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    yes, yes it should, email the admins, haha.
     
  5. talin

    talin Notebook Prophet

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    Nice review, very well done! :yes:
     
  6. MICHAELSD01

    MICHAELSD01 Apple/Alienware Master

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    Really nice review and great pictures! I've always wanted a MBP, and your review makes me want one even more, I just wish Apple would put an 8800M GTX or a 9800M GTX in there!
     
  7. dingbat

    dingbat Notebook Evangelist

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    I can say nothing but WOW..

    GREAT WORK ...
     
  8. nahiyan13

    nahiyan13 Notebook Evangelist

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    +rep.

    All I can say is 'Great Review'.
     
  9. jjahshik32

    jjahshik32 Notebook Deity

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    17" 2.4Ghz non led 1920x1200 is a fine machine, I had it last year before selling it.. but I"m completely in love with the 2.6Ghz 17" hi res mbp with the led backlight at 1920x1200.. is just so bright, vivid and clean!!
     
  10. Agent001

    Agent001 Notebook Enthusiast

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    This is an awesome review, so many pictures. This should be on the 1st page :D
     
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