The MacBook Pro was introduced earlier this year with Intel's Core Duo processor, and now Apple's high-end laptop gets a boost to Intel's latest-and-greatest processor, the Core 2 Duo.
Other than the updated CPU, the rest of the MacBook Pro remains largely the same, with appreciated bumps to the memory and the hard drive. There are two 15-inch versions that use either a 2.16GHz or a 2.33GHz CPU, as well as a 17-inch version with the 2.33GHz chip.
Apple supplied us with the 2.33GHz 15-inch model, which has a base price of £1,699. Our review unit features memory and hard drive upgrades, which bring the price to £2,149. While the performance gains aren't game-changing, anyone who recently purchased a Core Duo MacBook Pro is doubtlessly gnashing their teeth right now. This move to Core 2 Duo removes one of the last objections some buyers felt about paying out for a Mac laptop.
The sleek, aluminium MacBook Pro is the same size and shape as its predecessor, and it clearly stands out from the white/black plastic look of iPods, iMacs, MacBooks and other more consumer-oriented Apple products. The MacBook Pro feels lighter than the aluminium casing makes it look, but at 2.5kg (2.9kg with the AC adaptor), it's at the upper end of the weight scale for a laptop you'd want to carry around every day. The dimensions remain as slim as the previous model's, at 358mm by 25mm by 244mm.
Apple's minimalist school of design is well represented in the MacBook Pro. Opening the lid, you'll find only a power button, a full-size keyboard, stereo speakers, a sizable touchpad with a single mouse button and a built-in iSight camera that sits above the display. We're still big fans of the keyboard's backlighting feature and the two-finger touchpad scroll -- run two fingers down the touchpad and it scrolls like a mouse wheel.
The MacBook Pro supplies you with two USB 2.0 ports, both FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 ports (previous models had only FireWire 400), and a slot-loading SuperDrive DVD burner. While a media card reader has become a familiar feature of Windows laptops, you won't find one here. The Airport Extreme 802.11a/b/g wireless card and the built-in Bluetooth keep you connected.
The 15.4-inch display has a native resolution of 1,440x900 pixels, which isn't the highest resolution we've seen in a laptop of this size. It does, however, offer a nice balance of screen real estate and readability, especially when reading Web-based text. Video output is offered via a DVI port on the side, and a DVI-to-VGA cable is included in the box.
Compared to the 15-inch Core Duo MacBook Pro, with its 60GB hard drive and 512MB of RAM, the new model brings important upgrades in addition to the Core 2 Duo processor, starting with 2GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive. Our system was upgraded to 3GB of RAM, instead of the default 2GB -- a £380 option -- and it had a larger 160GB hard drive, which added another £70 to the price.
Apple has claimed performance boosts of up to 39 per cent over the Core Duo MacBook Pro models. We ran several applications on the new Core 2 Duo version and found a notable boost in performance. In iTunes, the Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro was 32 per cent faster than a 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro. It was also significantly faster than a comparable Core 2 Duo Windows laptop, the HP Pavilion dv6000t, in iTunes -- although we should note that iTunes was built by Apple and we'd expect it to run better on Apple hardware.
Gaming is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Macs, much less Mac laptops. Having said this, we were able to get a very playable frame rate of 42fps in Quake 4, thanks to the ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU, which was also found in Core Duo MacBook Pros.
Many popular PC games can be played on this hardware with the help of Boot Camp -- the utility that allows users to run a partitioned installation of Windows XP on their Intel Macs.