Review: MacBook Pro Is A Solid Win For Apple - InformationWeek

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Review: MacBook Pro Is A Solid Win For Apple

When testing the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, the most frequent question was "What's not to like?" The answer: Not much.

Other Features
One of the causes of the most griping about the first generation of MacBook Pro laptops was the missing FireWire 800 port. Video professionals and other users who depend on the fastest available external drives were mystified by the loss of a feature that had been available in Apple's previous PowerBook line, and which was included in the 17-inch MacBook Pro, but not the 15-inch model.

So for those who need FireWire, it's back -- along with a full set of I/O ports: Gigabit Ethernet, three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400, audio line-in and headphone-out (analog or optical digital audio), an ExpressCard/34 slot (the successor to the PC Card), and DVI-out (a VGA adapter is included, but you''ll have to buy an S-Video connector if you need one).

Video professionals and other users who were mystified by the loss of the FireWire's back .

The MacBook Pro trackpad supports scrolling, a feature I've become addicted to, and the keyboard is illuminated with a sensor to automatically set the level of lighting, as well as the screen brightness, according to current ambient light conditions. The built-in iSight video camera allows impromptu videoconferencing using Apple's included iChat AV software. The included infrared Apple Remote and Front Row system makes the MacBook Pro into a great presentations machine.

The slick MagSafe magnetic power adapter available since the first MacBook Pro does indeed protect laptop and charger from the effects of a sudden tug on the cable, and Apple now has a MagSafe power adapter available for those flying in seats with power ports. Battery life is adequate, but not great, comparable to other laptops in its class. Rundown tests with various mixes of battery-intensive tasks, such as DVD playback or very heavy wireless and drive use, fell in the 2.5 to 3 hour range. Less demanding tasks, such as general word-processing and e-mail, could eke out more than four hours of use.

Road warriors may wish to note that, as with the previous MacBook Pro, there is no built-in modem. While not quite as controversial as Apple's decision years ago to ditch the floppy drive, if you (like me) still need to use one of those old-fashioned dial-up connections from time to time, you can purchase a tiny USB modem from Apple for $49.

A Powerful Performer
In benchmark testing, the new MacBook Pro proved to a powerful performer, solidly in the top tier of its class across a variety of tests. Overall performance ranged from two to eight times as fast as the 1-Ghz G4 PowerBook reference platform, and in many of the tests it came in at roughly 50% as fast as the blazingly-fast high-end dual-3-Ghz processor Mac Pro desktop.

For instance, the MacBook Pro chewed through the MP3 rip/encode test in 5 minutes, 13 seconds as opposed to 7 minutes, 2 seconds for the PowerBook and 3 minutes, 13 seconds for the Mac Pro, while it came through the audio file format conversion test at 1 minute, 55 seconds, versus 9 minutes, 29 seconds for the G4 and 1 minute, 21 seconds for the Mac Pro.

Word processing, file loading, and scrolling tests came in at similar ratios, and the Photoshop filter tests showed the MacBook Pro coming in somewhat ahead of the G4, and about half the speed of the Mac Pro desktop. The obvious reason for the minimal performance gains over the older G4 in Photoshop is that Adobe's products aren't yet available in a Universal version (Intel-native) for Macs, so it ran under Apple's Rosetta enabler. When I put the MacBook Pro through the same tests under Windows XP SP2 using Apple's Boot Camp, speed more than doubled across the board, giving a preview of what can be expected when a Universal version of the Adobe suite is out.

Testing using Apple's Universal versions of Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and Aperture all showed the MacBook Pro to be a blazing mobile performer, handling just about anything I could throw at it at a speed that was consistently impressive for any laptop. Xbench benchmarks showed the MacBook Pro to be roughly three times as fast overall as our G4 reference platform, and 60% as fast as the Mac Pro, while tests using Cinebench 9.5 generally maintained similar ratios.

The list price for the MacBook Pro as tested (2.33-GHz, 2-Gbytes RAM, 160-Gbyte hard drive) is $2,599, certainly not by any means the cheapest laptop on the market -- but arguably one of the best values, if you need the power and capability this high-performer can offer. For an inexpensive, lightweight travel companion, the 13-inch MacBook (also using the Intel Core 2 Duo) or any of a number of ultra-portable Windows laptops may be worth a look. But for a true full-featured desktop replacement, you can't get much better than this.

MacBook Pro
Apple Computer
Price: $2,599

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