Following on the heels of the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro and replacing the 17-inch PowerBook G4, the 17-inch MacBook Pro delivers many of the same beloved features as its little sibling, such as a scrolling track pad, the Sudden Motion Sensor and an excellent software package, and adds a huge, bright 17-inch display that's great for graphics work.
Better still, our fully loaded test configuration powered through most of CNET Labs' performance tests, exhibiting only a few of the growing pains encountered by other Intel-based Apple laptops and desktops, such as the iMac Core Duo. Of course, such performance doesn't come cheap -- the 17-inch MacBook Pro's default configuration costs £1,899 (upgrades on our review unit brought the price up further still). But for graphics professionals and other Mac users who have money to spare, the 17-inch MacBook Pro is a dream.
With the MacBook Pro, Apple hasn't radically redesigned the PowerBook form factor, it has just made a few refinements to it. Measuring 391 by 264 by 25mm (WHD), the sleek, aluminium MacBook Pro looks very similar to the 17-inch PowerBook G4 it replaces. At 3.1Kg, the 17-inch MacBook Pro is a fraction lighter than its predecessor and the lightest laptop of its size on the market. With its AC adaptor, which like other Apple laptops connects magnetically to the case, the MacBook Pro weighs 3.6Kg. For the sake of comparison, the Dell Inspiron E1705 weighs 3.7Kg, while the Toshiba Qosmio G35 weighs 4.6Kg.
Underneath the lid, the MacBook Pro extends the tradition of the PowerBook's minimalist design. The MacBook Pro has just a power button, a big keyboard framed by stereo speakers, a very large touch pad with a single mouse button, and a handy built-in iSight camera that sits above the display.
Though the keys are a bit shallow, they're comfortable to type on, and we love the keyboard's backlighting feature, which adjusts to changes in ambient light levels. We don't like that the keyboard is located 137mm back from the laptop's front edge; we wish it were centred to encourage a more ergonomic typing position. The touch pad lets you scroll through long documents, Web pages and spreadsheets by dragging two fingers down or across the pad, a terrific feature that's unique to Apple laptops. Arguably the 17-inch MacBook Pro's most stunning feature is its display -- the large widescreen display features a fine 1,680x1,050 native resolution.
The 17-inch MacBook Pro offers a decent selection of ports and connections, though it comes up a bit short of what you'll find on a similarly sized PC laptop, including the Inspiron E1705. That said, the MacBook Pro features three USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 ports, an ExpressCard slot and a DVI port (VGA with included adaptor) for connecting to an external monitor. It's also equipped with Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (enhanced data rate), and you can access the Internet via 802.11g Wi-Fi radio and Gigabit Ethernet.
As with the PowerBook, the MacBook Pro features a slot-loading SuperDrive that plays and burns DVDs and CDs. One new extra is the Apple remote that controls the included Front Row multimedia player -- we wish, though, that the MacBook had a storage slot for it. Unlike most PC laptops, the MacBook Pro lacks a built-in media reader for flash memory cards, and there's no S-Video output or built-in modem -- both of which the PowerBook had.
The MacBook Pro ships with Mac OS X Tiger, highlights of which include the incredibly cool Spotlight search utility and the customisable Dashboard, a collection of handy desktop tools. Also included is the robust iLife '06 software suite, Front Row media centre software, and a handful of other applications. In addition, the beta of Boot Camp lets you turn the MacBook into a dual-boot machine that runs full versions of Mac OS X and Windows XP (though you need to purchase a full version of Windows separately).