Computers & Laptops

New Macbook Pro review: ‘Pro'nounced similarity, ‘Pro'verbial performance

Mahananda Bohidar | Updated on August 17, 2011 Published on April 27, 2011

CHENNAI: 20/04/2011 : The new 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro (2011). Photo: R_Ravindran.   -  The Hindu

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In the world of personal computing, today's technology becomes obsolete tomorrow. And convincing first-timers to become life-timers is a ‘hard-drive' for companies.

Expectations rise even higher when it is a company which has given you a bevy of machines that have managed to, in a way, be identified with a kind of performance and user experience that is unique to the brand. Apple's MacBook has had that effect on its buyers.

Keeping the faith, the new MacBook Pro lineup offers the quintessential Mac experience with the added advantage of a longer battery life, a faster processor, better graphics and the very promising Thunderbolt technology. Let's see how many of these we can tick off the list.

Comforts of the old

While benchmarking the new MacBook Pro, there were times when, for a second or two, we had trouble differentiating the machines based on just their looks.

The new MacBook Pro offers almost no additions in terms of a new design or the look and feel of the notebook, making it similar to two of its previous iterations!

The island-style keyboard remains a delight, with soft keys to type on. The keyboard is also backlit and paired with an ambient light sensor. The familiar flat glass touchpad integrating the touch surface and click button still remains as responsive and lets you play with multi-touch gestures with a certain characteristic smoothness.

Watching the movie ‘2012' on the 13-inch screen was a treat marred by occasions when you could see your own reflection on the black portions of the glossy display. The viewing angles weren't too great when we buffered a couple of 1080p Pixar animations on YouTube, with a bunch of friends sitting down to watch, and had the lights on.

However, the 13-inch display, despite being glossy, reproduces brilliant colours and crisp images, one of those things that you just come to expect from every video-enabled Apple product.

What's new?

With Apple at the head, everyone is going gaga over the revolutionary new Thunderbolt technology that finds its initial implementation in the new line of MacBook Pros.

The mini DisplayPort that the previous gen Pro had now gives up its position on the side of the aluminium unibody to the Thunderbolt I/O port.

The mini DisplayPort was capable of delivering a ‘pure digital signal that can drive up to a 30-inch widescreen display', but the Thunderbolt port holds much more potential since it can serve as a multi-purpose port.

A huge jump from its earlier connecting ports, Apple claims, the Thunderbolt I/O can move data to and from peripherals up to 20 times faster than a USB 2.0 connection and sustain a two-way high-speed PC connection at roughly 10Gbps.

While Intel says that Thunderbolt technology was designed with professional audio and video applications in mind, Apple definitely seems to be targeting people outside this niche too.

Although peripherals supporting Thunderbolt tech are yet to be released – external hard drives, media players, displays - will all have the same connector that will allow users to daisy chain up to six devices at a time.  Apart from this superhero of a connector, you have the usual ports on the MacBook Pro - Gigabit Ethernet, six-pin FireWire, two USB ports, SDXC card reader, audio in/out and the MagSafe power port.

 The new built-in FaceTime HD camera, according to Apple, has three times the resolution of the camera on the previous MacBook Pro, and enables widescreen video calls (more people in the frame… if it is a group chat). PhotoBooth remains the same and continues giving you crisp snaps with little change in the options it offers.

With its aluminium unibody design, we kept an eye out for heating issues. The rear left of the notebook was the area that was likely to get heated up most but thankfully it's didn't get hot enough to start bothering us.

I've got the power!

Powering the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is Intel's new Core technology, which has integrated the processor, graphics engine and memory controller into a single chip.

The unit that we reviewed was endowed with the Intel Core i7-2620M 2.7 GHz processor complemented by Turbo Boost that lets you overclock up to 3.4GHz.

With this combination under the hood, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is supposed to run applications up to two times faster than its predecessor. We got to check this claim with help of a benchmarking software.

On the rating scales, the overall performance of the new MacBook Pro 13-inch hit an amazing 6,910, while its predecessor scored a 3,889 on the test.

The graphic bit

Giving the boot to NVIDIA GeForce 320M, Apple has chosen the Intel HD Graphics 3000 to deliver graphics on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apart from providing ample speed for the latest 3D games, the new HD Graphics 3000 comes with a built-in hardware decoder that boosts battery life when you're watching video.

After charging the unit to 100 per cent, with AirPort turned on, watched ‘Family Guy', buffered a couple of high-def videos on YouTube, surfed the web and at the end of the day, although the indicator showed red, the brand new MacBook Pro still hadn't died on us.

Going back to the graphics, we ran a couple of more benchmarking tests, where to our surprise, the previous gen Pro fared better with a 50 on graphics test and 115 3D frames per second where as the new one only scored a 27 displaying only about 66 3D frames per second.

We say

The new MacBook Pro is different, yet remarkably similar. The fact remains that the MacBook Pro's design hasn't aged and manages not only to stand out among a cluster of notebooks but remains one of the sturdiest, sexiest machines you can own. The new MacBook Pro with a stronger heart is clearly more feature-rich and comes future-proofed with the new Thunderbolt tech. Definitely a good pick for Mac fanboys and those who are just about to become so.

Love: Amazing battery life, Thunderbolt technology

Hate: Same ol' design, glossy display

Rs 69,900 onwards

Published on April 27, 2011
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