With its all-silver finish and embossed logo on the lid, the MacBook Pro maintains the Apple laptop lineage, despite the Intel heart that beats within. Externally it looks like an evolution rather than a radical redesign and, once again, the build quality puts other laptops to shame.
It wouldn’t be an Apple if there weren’t some cool hardware innovations and there are two worth noting. First and most obvious, despite its tiny size, is the iSight video camera built into the top of the screen surround — use it to videoconference with iChat, or shoot straight into iMovie. The only drawback is that a few lines of screen resolution have been poached to provide for the camera, and the loss is oddly noticeable on the 15.4-inch widescreen. That said, the screen itself is a delight with a maximum resolution of 1,440 x 900 pixels and 32-bit colour.
Perhaps more valuable in the long run, considering the investment this laptop represents, is the new MagSafe power adapter. Instead of using a plug, this adapter connects magnetically to the computer with a satisfying ‘clunk’. That means that if you or anyone else kicks your power cord, the power adapter — and not your computer — harmlessly hits the deck.
Internally, the news is all good. The Intel processor is a Core Duo model running at 2GHz and this is combined with 2MB of L2 cache, a healthy 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM and a bus hurtling along at 667MHz. Gamers are also looked after with the brand-new ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card with 256MB of dedicated video RAM. Storage duties are handled by a generous 100GB SATA hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm. Completing the package is the slot-loading DVD+/-RW SuperDrive.Connections are comprehensive but the MacBook Pro is resolutely modern. There is a DVI port, for instance, and a DVI-to-VGA adapter is provided, but the S-video port is gone. Similarly you get a PCI ExpressCard/34 slot along with a more typical FireWire 400 port and two USB 2.0 ports. The FireWire 800 port from the last PowerBook, however, is also gone. Rounding out the connections is the welcome addition of optical digital audio input and output.
Networking is handled via gigabit ethernet and wireless connectivity comes courtesy of built-in 802.11g AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0.
In use, the MacBook Pro looks and feels just like any other Mac running OSX Tiger. It also benefits from the addition of the Front Row software and remote to give you a big graphic interface and easy access to your music, photos, iMovies and DVDs. This is eminently practical for a laptop, and with the new optical digital audio out, the MacBook is a rival for any standalone DVD player when connected to a big display and a home theatre amp. DVDs also look terrific onscreen with uniformly smooth playback, rich colour and good brightness and contrast — but as you might expect, the speakers are nothing to write home about. Games are also handled extremely well, with what looks like a very high frame rate.
Productivity wise, the MacBook seems awesomely fast in applications like Word, Excel and PhotoShop. However, it is worth noting that many applications (like PhotoShop) must be interpreted through Apple’s Rosetta translation technology, because they are not what Apple calls “universal applications” written to run on both the new Intel and the old PowerPC processors. New versions will be universal and will run faster, but anyone using current applications that need to run in real-time should be aware that Rosetta will slow them down. One last fish-hook is that Apple’s own Pro applications (like Final Cut Pro) are not supported by Rosetta and you’ll need to upgrade to universal versions. An upgrade from Final Cut Pro 5 to Final Cut Studio (universal), for instance, will cost you $199.
Like Apple laptops before it, the MacBook Pro does run warm and battery life is only average, but overall it is a serious and welcome step up from the G4.
|MacBook Pro 15-inch
RRP incl GST: $4,959
Innovative, beautifully built and blazingly fast, the MacBook Pro is a worthy successor to the G4 PowerBook, but the price and the issue of universal software may make you think twice.