Sunday, September 09, 2007

Apple MacBook Pro 15" with Intel Santa Rosa Review

Overview & Introduction

We'll be taking a look at Apple's MacBook Pro, to be specific the most recently updated model as of June 5th, 2007. The MacBook Pro line is aimed at the professional market, including those who do heavy amounts of video and photo editing. The MacBook Pro is best described as a mid-size desktop replacement, or performance laptop.


Apple MacBook Pro (view large image)

Before I go to far I should say this is not only my first laptop review, but also my first Mac computer. Thus, this review will be geared more toward people considering the MacBook Pro as an alternative option to a Windows based laptop, including some things that would seem trivial to the veteran Mac owner.

MacBook Pro machine specs as purchased

  • Screen: 15.4" LED Backlit Screen @ 1440 x 900 Native Resolution
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 CPU at 2.2ghz (4MB Shared L2 Cache)
  • Memory: 2GB DDR2 PC2-5300 667mhz RAM
  • Hard Drive: 120GB HDD @ 5400RPM (Fujitsu)
  • Graphics: Nvidia 8600M GT with 128MB VRAM GPU
  • Optical Drive: Slot-loading 8x SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVDRW/CD-RW)
  • Wireless: Apple Airport Extreme Wireless B/G/N
  • Built-in Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • Mac OS X 10.4.9 (Tiger)
  • Dimensions & Weight:
    • 14.1" x 9.6" x 1.0" (35.7cm x 24.3cm 2.59cm)
    • 5.4lbs (2.45kg)
  • Cost: $1,999 USD ($1,799 with Education Discount)


Everything in the box: you get the power cord and adapter, two OS discs, one remote control and an instruction manual (view large image)

Reasons for Purchasing

Few other laptops can compete with the sexiness of the MacBook Pro's looks. Designed for the professional market, it's considered a premium product for the power user. It offers dedicated graphics and the most recent mobile processor platform. The most recent MacBook Pro update to the Intel Santa Rosa platform narrowed the price gap between similar spec PC's closer than I've seen before, and drove me to take the challenge to be a "switcher". Other laptops that I felt were in a similar market were the ASUS G1S, Compals HEL-80, and HP Pavilion dv6500t series.

I purchased my Macbook Pro at an Apple Retail Store in Nashville, TN at the education discount of $1799 -- a great $200 dollar discount for students and teachers.

Build & Design

The MacBook Pro (hereafter abbreviated as MBP) keeps the same gorgeous design as its predecessors, using an aircraft grade anodized aluminum chassis that provides a sturdy build to the laptop, as well as a sleek, refined and sexy look.


(view large image)

With the lid closed the MBP has a side width of only one-inch. Opening the lid reveals the gigantic one button track-pad, along with the full size back-lit keyboard, and power buttons, all keeping with the shiny silver look of the outside. On the front
placed right beside the latch release is a slot-loading Super Drive, adding even more to the sex appeal of not having the usual tray based drive. The laptop chassis has almost no flex to it, even around the port buttons. The screen's hinges are thick and firm, pushing back on the screen from the front shows no visible wobble. Giving a strong push and tap on the back of the screen's enclosure doesn't ripple the LCD either, this is impressive and demonstrates a strong lid cover. The case feels extremely sturdy, and doesn't have any signs of give.


Thinner than three CDs stacked (view large image)

I was a little hesitant at first about the MBP's girth, as I originally wanted a much smaller laptop. Weighing in at 5.4lb's, the MBP isn't so bad on the muscles, but it's not a lightweight by any means (relative to some thin and lights). The general size is as expected from a 15" laptop. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that will move constantly with it, and wants it to go unnoticed. But if you're like me and carry a messenger bag around with all your hi-tech toys, the MBP is fine. It's easy to use in your lap, and carrying it around doesn't feel awkward.

Screen

A big improvement for this generation of the MacBook Pro over the last is the introduction of the LED back-lit screen. LED back-lighting is touted to provide a more evenly lit screen with sharper images and colors without sacrificing battery life. All these I find to be true, the screen is without a doubt the best i've ever seen on a laptop, and better than a lot of desktop monitors I use. With the brightness up to full, even in the most well lit rooms, solid whites are almost blinding, which allows you to turn down the brightness and use less battery. In dark rooms, it's so bright that it illuminates the keyboard, making it unecessary to use the keyboard lighting! I selected the Matte style screen as opposed to a reflective glossy scree. I'm pleased with that decision, the screen is so crisp it makes up for the lack of the higher saturation from the glossy. One other perk is the ambient light sensor, which will adjust the screen's brightness according to the lighting in the room.


Showing the excellent dark levels in the screen (view large image)


Color and detail are rich and full (view large image)


Very impressive viewing angles from the side (view large image)


Vertical angles are better than I expected as well (view large image)


An example of Apple's iSight built-in camera, impressive quality I thought, very pleased (view large image)

Speakers

You can't expect too much from laptops in the audio category, small spaces don't make for great speakers. The MBP manages to do fairly decently, having plenty of volume, and a clean sound. The optical mini-jack out is a real plus though, allowing you to hook directly up to your surround sound systems that support optical for a great media experience.

Performance

The processor in the model of the MBP I have is Intel's Core 2 Duo T7500, with a speed of 2.2GHz on two cores, a front-side bus speed of 800MHz, and 4MB's of L2 cache shared across both cores. This MacBook Pro has an updated GPU in the form of Nvidia's brand new 8600m GT, our particular version supporting 128MB's of dedicated VRAM. This version is slightly underpowered compared to the next model up in the MBP series, which has 256MB's of VRAM. Our hard drive is a Fujitsu 120GB drive, spinning at 5400RPM's. The stock amount of RAM included is 2GB's of DDR2 PC5300 clocked at 667MHz.

Following are some benchmarks taken within Mac OS X:

Xbench

  • Results - 105.39
  • CPU Test - 111.33
  • GCD Loop - 245.5212.94 Mops/sec
  • Floating Point Basic - 123.122.93 Gflop/sec
  • vecLib FFT - 87.222.88 Gflop/sec
  • Floating Point Library - 81.5214.19 Mops/sec
  • Thread Test - 218.56
  • Computation - 199.974.05 Mops/sec, 4 threads
  • Lock Contention - 240.9710.37 Mlocks/sec, 4 threads
  • Memory Test - 142.76
  • System - 132.69
  • Allocate - 122.58450.15 Kalloc/sec
  • Fill - 133.816506.33 MB/sec
  • Copy - 143.302959.91 MB/sec
  • Stream - 154.49
  • Copy - 145.493004.99 MB/sec
  • Scale - 144.832992.06 MB/sec
  • Add - 165.513525.80 MB/sec
  • Triad - 164.713523.45 MB/sec
  • Quartz Graphics Test - 143.33
  • Line - 139.829.31 Klines/sec [50% alpha]
  • Rectangle - 171.1351.09 Krects/sec [50% alpha]
  • Circle - 163.1213.30 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha]
  • Bezier - 149.573.77 Kbeziers/sec [50% alpha]
  • Text - 110.216.89 Kchars/sec
  • OpenGL Graphics Test - 124.93
  • Spinning Squares - 124.93158.48 frames/sec
  • User Interface Test - 328.92
  • Elements - 328.921.51 Krefresh/sec
  • Disk Test - 35.93
  • Sequential - 54.27
  • Uncached Write - 58.5135.93 MB/sec [4K blocks]
  • Uncached Write - 57.2132.37 MB/sec [256K blocks]
  • Uncached Read - 41.9612.28 MB/sec [4K blocks]
  • Uncached Read - 65.3632.85 MB/sec [256K blocks]
  • Random - 26.85
  • Uncached Write - 9.651.02 MB/sec [4K blocks]
  • Uncached Write - 57.9418.55 MB/sec [256K blocks]
  • Uncached Read - 61.640.44 MB/sec [4K blocks]
  • Uncached Read - 84.2015.62 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Cinebench

Cinebench is a good rendering benchmark tool based on the powerful 3D software, CINEMA 4D. Its rendering tasks can stress up to sixteen multiprocessors on the same computer. It is a free benchmarking tool, and can be found here: http://www.cinebench.com. The basic CPU test provided the following results, you can see the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo was able to easily outperform the T61 and T60:

TestApple MacBook Pro 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7500ThinkPad T60 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz Intel T7200ThinkPad T61 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz Intel T7300
Single Core rendering mode367 CB-CPU points327 CB-CPU points331 CB-CPU points
Dual Core rendering mode 688 CB-CPU points592 CB-CPU points616 CB-CPU points

I personally don't own a copy of a Windows disc, so couldn't run benchmarks within Boot Camp running Vista, but forum member stgben who also just purchased a MacBook Pro -- but with a 2.40GHz processor and the NVidia 8600M 256MB card, was able to run some benchmarks within Vista 32-bit:

Super Pi Comparison Results

Super Pi forces the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy and gives an overall impression of how fast the processor is:

NotebookTime
Apple MacBook Pro (2.40GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7700)53s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300)1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)1m 34s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52)2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400)59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)1m 02s
Toshiba A100 (2.0GHz Core Duo)1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)1m 29s
HP dv5000z (2.0GHz Sempron 3300+)2m 02s

PCMark05 is a synthetic benchmark that tests overall system performance.

Comparison table for PCMark05

NotebookPCMark05 Score
Apple MacBook Pro (2.40GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7700, NVidia 8600M 256MB)5,536 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300, Intel X3100)4,084 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (Intel 1.73GHz T5300 + GMA 950)2,981 PCMarks
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270)2,420 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite A135 (Core Duo T2250, Intel GMA 950)3,027 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)2,994 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)5,597 PCMarks
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)2,732 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)3,646 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo)3,427 PCMarks

3DMark06 Comparison Results:

3DMark06 tests the graphics capabilities of a system.

Notebook 3DMark 06 Results
Apple MacBook Pro (2.40GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7700, NVidia 8600M 256MB)4,674 3D Marks
Asus G1S (Core 2 Duo T7500 2.20GHz, NVidia 8600M)3,816 3D Marks
Asus G1J (Core 2 Duo, 2.0GHz, NVIDIA 7700)2,389 3D Marks
HP nc8430 (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)1,745 3D Marks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)1,528 3D Marks
Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M)3,926 3D Marks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX)4,085 3D Marks
Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB)1,654 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)4,744 3D Marks

Windows Vista Experience Index


(view large image)

Impressive scores for the MacBook Pro, in Windows or OS X!

Battery

Battery Life on high powered laptops is usually quite dismal, but the MacBook Pro makes some leaps to change that. The new Santa Rosa platform, NVidia graphics chip, and LED backlighting all are touted as being better on the battery. With full brightness, and my usual array of applications going (iTunes, Firefox, Adium, Mail, etc.), I was able to see about 3-hours of battery life, which is okay. Cutting back the screen brightness to half resulted in about 4 hours of battery life. These numbers are achieved when you set OS X to run on "Better Battery Life" operation. Luckily, for the long battery life lovers out there (like myself), there are options for 3rd party extended life battery's.


You can see there's a battery meter on the physical battery as well (view large image)

Heat & Noise

Another situation where powerful laptops usually see a downfall is in generating a lot of heat. The HDD on the MBP can get pretty hot to the touch when under a heavy load such as a 30 gigabyte file transfer, but other than that the case remained mostly cool, only picking up a good bit of warmth when I did my benchmarking. It wasn't enough to have me take it off my lap though. The average temperature after 2.5 hours use on battery while drafting this review with iTunes, Firefox, and installing a couple of packages is below:


Noise levels were almost non-existent on the MBP, you only get a short hum when first booting. I was even suprised to see no increase in noise when benchmarking, this is a very quiet machine.

Keyboard & Touchpad


(view large image)

The MBP has a full size keyboard, and a jumbo size touchpad with, in true Mac fashion, a single large button. The keyboard has a soft feel to it, but still gives excellent feedback when pushing keys. The single massive button touchpad took some time for me to get used to, I am now used to using the "double finger click" though, a technique in which the usual right click can be done by putting two fingers on the touch-pad and tapping. Scrolling can also be done with two fingers, just place them on the touch pad and pull down, up, right or left. The only real issue I've had is Apple's swapping of the Function and Control keys on the bottom-left. The F1-F10 keys are mapped to do various functions such as adjusting the brightness of the screen, volume, numlock, DVI-out control, and managing the keyboard backlights. On the end beside the F12 is a easy eject key for the slot-loading drive.


(view large image)

Input & Output Ports

The MBP comes swith a wide array of ports. Let's look :


Left side ports (view large image)

On the left hand side we find Apple's MagSafe power adapter, one of the two USB2.0 ports, optical audio in & out ports, and Express Card slot. Quarter Not included.


Right side ports (view large image)

And on the right, a Kensington Notebook Lock hole, the second USB2.0 port, Firewire 400, Firewire 800, Gigabit Ethernet RJ45, and DVI out.

Wireless & Bluetooth

Apple has built-in Airport Extreme to this MBP, featuring wireless connectivity to 802.11 b/g/n networks. The signal strength and range it acquires is excellent, picking up networks I didn't even know were near my house, along with my own. Bluetooth is also built-in, but I have yet to find a use for it, but probably will find a mouse for it in the next few days to continue to keep the limited USB ports free.

Operating System & Bundled Software

The MBP comes preloaded with Apple's latest version of OS X, Tiger (10.4.9). I must say, it's a welcome feeling to see something new. OS X is very responsive, and a much easier adjustment than I originally thought. Other software included is Apple's iLife suite, bringing alot of great software to you for free. Some of these include iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes, iCal, GarageBand and many many more.

Packaged with your MBP are 2 OS X installation discs, and a manual.

Customer Support

Being early in my switch to the Mac OS and using Apple hardware, I've yet to to use any Customer Support. Included with the MBP was 90 days of toll free service by phone, and a 1 year standard warranty covering basic hardware issues. The extended warranty, known as AppleCare, runs an extra $340 dollars, but extends your coverage and telephone service by 3 years. You do however, have an entire year to purchase the AppleCare, something I will consider in the next few months.

Source: Notebookreview


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