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Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch (Core i5)

Jayesh Shinde 2010-05-25
87 Very Good
Price: Rs 1,36,900

Full Review

Apple gave its MacBook lineup a revamp last month. As a result, the new 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro has a Core i5 processor, better hardware, and offers improved performance than ever before. If you can afford it, it's a very good candidate for a desktop replacement laptop for home.

Design
The first thing that draws your attention to the 17-inch MacBook Pro -- or any MacBook for that matter -- is its design and looks. The MacBook Pro continues to sport a unibody enclosure made out of a single block of aluminum. And it is hard to find flaws in the 17-inch MacBook Pro's exterior -- it is seamless, every curve is smooth, and every finger-stroke reveals an elegant, premium surface. The all-aluminum enclosure also gives the MacBook Pro 17-inch superb rigidity in terms of build quality and enhances overall durability of the laptop. A magnetic latch below the touchpad keeps the screen secured while the MacBook Pro is closed. The laptop's onboard speakers are thoughtfully placed on either side of the keyboard. Like the Apple MacBook Air, the unibody enclosure of the MacBook Pro is a hallmark of excellent product design.

The Core i5 Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch, with a built-in battery, weighs 2.99-kg and is less than an inch thick -- both very remarkable for a full-fledged, 17-inch desktop replacement laptop. It is a thing of beauty, the MacBook Pro, and continues to be in a class of its own.

Usability

Apple has equipped the 17-inch MacBook Pro with enough firepower to make a decent desktop replacement laptop for home.

Somewhat like the 27-inch Apple iMac, one of the biggest highlights of the MacBook Pro is its 17-inch LED-backlit glossy display. It has an extensive desktop real-estate, supporting a screen resolution of 1920x1200 pixels -- something even Mainstream 22-inch LCD Monitors can't match. The greater screen space on the 17-inch MacBook Pro accomodates more browser tabs, spreadsheet columns, etc., compared to mainstream laptops, and generally lets you view more. Compared to most laptops we've reviewed, the Apple MacBook Pro's screen has very good viewing angles, with just a hint of color shift at the extreme. The screen is extremely well lit, is nice and bright, and displays rich, vivid colors. Reading text extensively is good but the screen is especially fantastic for watching movies. Our only gripe? We wish the screen wasn't as glossy -- at times it feels like staring into a mirror. But this is again something you learn to ignore once you spend more time on the MacBook Pro.

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The keyboard and touchpad are as good as ever on the new 17-inch MacBook Pro Core i5. The chiclet-styled keys are very well laid out on the precision-cut keyboard webbing. They are great to type on and offer optimum feedback, no complaints whatsoever. The keyboard is backlit, and depending on the ambient light, it automatically adjusts its brightness -- it comes in handy if ever you have to type in the dark. We also like the keyboard's placement, which is very close to the screen, thereby giving ample palmrest below to park your wrists comfortably. The one-piece glass multitouch trackpad (touchpad) has a nice silky texture and no buttons -- you can click anywhere and everywhere on its surface. The trackpad supports multitouch -- pinch to zoom, swipe, flick, rotate, etc. -- and also two-finger inertial scrolling, which detects finger momentum to replicate a more natural browsing experience on the desktop. The trackpad is extremely sensitive and the best amongst laptops that support gesture-enabled touchpads.

Hardware Specs
The new Core i5 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro has better hardware building blocks than its predecessors. It runs on an Intel Core i5-540M 2.53-GHz processor with HyperThreading and TurboBoost support, comes with 4GB of DDR3 RAM (1066MHz), 500GB (5400rpm) hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce GT330M graphics card -- specs bettered only by the 13-inch Sony VAIO Z Series. The current 17-inch MacBook Pro's hardware is better than the 13-inch MacBook Pro we reviewed earlier, and even other 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros that Apple sells online -- barring one 15-inch version which can be bumped up to a Core i7 2.66-GHz processor.

There's plenty of connectivity options on the Core i5 Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch laptop. You get three USB ports, a FireWire 800 port, Line-in, Line-out, and an ExpressCard slot on the left edge. Not only this, the MacBook Pro also supports Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11n, and Bluetooth 2.1 wireless connectivity standards. There's also a Mini DisplayPort recessed on the left edge to connect an external monitor or projector to the MacBook Pro -- it can also output audio (like an HDMI port). An iSight webcam is placed on the top screen bezel of the laptop's screen, and it's great for video chats. On the right edge of the MacBook Pro's chassis resides a slot-loading DVD drive (SuperDrive).

The Core i5 MacBook Pro 17-inch comes with Apple Mac OSX 10.6.3 Snow Leopard operating system. Other improvements to the MacBook Pro consists of improved onboard battery capacity and switchable graphics -- the laptop intelligently decides between onboard Intel HD graphics and Nvidia GeForce GT330M depending upon the graphics-intensity of the task. It utiltizes onboard Intel HD graphics while you're browsing the Web or working on productivity suites, but while gaming the laptop switches to the Nvidia GeForce GT330M automatically -- you don't have to hit any keys to do this.

A minor disappointment -- the Core i5 Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch laptop doesn't come with an SD Card slot, which is featured on the 13 and 15-inch versions of MacBook Pros. But apart from that, Apple has equipped the 17-inch MacBook Pro with enough firepower to make a decent desktop replacement laptop for home.

Performance
Equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, and Nvidia GeForce GT330M graphics, it is no surprise the 17-inch MacBook Pro does so well throughout our synthetic benchmarks -- which we ran by installing 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate through Bootcamp. Its WorldBench 6 score of 109 is one of the highest we've seen on a laptop -- similarly, PC Mark 05, PC Mark Vantage, and Cinebench scores are all high and right up there with the very best laptops. You can multitask with day-to-day tasks with ease and both processor and memory-intensive tasks are handled well on the Apple MacBook Pro 17-inch. The MacBook Pro's 3D Mark 06 score of 6028 is close to the 6222 achieved on Sony VAIO Z's superior Nvidia GeForce GT335M. Casual gaming is pretty good on the MacBook Pro -- FarCry 2 at High settings, 1360x768 res, 2xAA, gave 30.4 fps.

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The 17-inch screen and very good onboard speakers help deliver an excellent audio-visual experience, especially while watching movies. Both 720p and 1080p HD videos played very well on the Core i5 MacBook Pro, and the glossy screen does an excellent job of displaying vivid cinematic visuals. The two speakers placed on either side of the keyboard are great for personal use or in a small room. The unibody all-aluminum enclosure of the MacBook Pro 17-inch is prone to heating, but not to uncomfortable levels.

Battery life
On my Saturday spent surfing the Web on the Macbook Pro, highlight of which was playing Pac-Man on Google's homepage, the laptop gave impressive battery life. On Windows 7 it clocked 2 hours in our synthetic benchmarks at high performance preset, full-screen brightness -- this is much better than most mainstream laptops' battery life. On 50-percent screen brightness and volume, no keyboard backlight, Bluetooth turned off, I managed to extract 6 hours 12 minutes while just browsing the Web over Wi-Fi on OSX -- this included quite a bit of YouTubing. This is very good -- better than the previous 17-inch MacBook Pro -- but falls short of Apple's claim of 8 to 9 hours of battery life on the Core i5 MacBook Pro 17-inch.

The left edge has a battery indicator -- press a button to illuminate a row of lights to know how much charge is remaining, and it's pretty accurate.

Bottom Line

The new Core i5 MacBook Pro 17-inch, Apple's top-of-the-line laptop is packed with better hardware than ever before, enabling it to scale new performance milestones. It has excellent design and build quality, sports a large, high-quality screen, and offers very good performance. The new improved Core i5 Apple MacBook Pro is actually cheaper than the previous 17-inch version. The new MacBook Pro 17-inch sells for Rs. 1,36,900 -- effectively restricting it to a premium audience. If you're in that target audience, and whether you want a very good home laptop or you favor larger laptops on the go, the new 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro is the one to buy.

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