Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Review

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With the early 2011 refresh of the MacBook Pro family, Apple came out with both guns blazing. Not only is the entire lineup now powered by Intel’s second generation Core i5 and i7 mobile processors (commonly known by its codename, Sandy Bridge), but the new MacBook Pros also feature the brand-new Thunderbolt I/O technology (the official name of Intel’s Light Peak technology)--which supports up to 10Gbps bi-directional communications for high-bandwidth external peripherals, such as RAID arrays and HD displays. Add these new features to an outstanding chassis design, a sharp display, great keyboard and trackpad, and superb battery life and the MacBook Pro appears pretty compelling . And don’t forget, even if you’re not a Mac OS fan, you can run Windows on the MacBook Pro--either natively or via a virtual machine.



The new MacBook family is available in five different models: two 13.3-inch units, two 15.4-inch versions, and a 17-inch behemoth. The base prices for these models range from $1,199 up to $2,499, but with configuration options such as faster processors, more memory, and larger-sized hard drives or SSDs, you can easily boost the cost considerably. In the past we’ve dinged Apple for putting a premium price on its notebooks when compared against models with similar specs from other manufacturers. You could easily make the argument, however, that this is simply not a fair comparison--comparing apple and oranges if you will--you’re not going to find another laptop that runs the Mac OS (at least not legally) and you’re going to be hard pressed to find another laptop that comes even close to the MacBook Pro’s design aesthetics.



In the case of the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro that Apple sent us, we need not rehash our past critiques. While its $1,499 price tag puts it firmly out of reach of those looking for budget units, this price is commensurate with similarly configured Windows laptops that are powered by Intel Core i7 mobile processors. We should also point out that Sandy Bridge Core i7-based laptops are still a rare commodity these days--not many vendors have released models with the new processor yet. In addition to its dual-core 2.7GHz Core i7-2620QM processor, our unit also came with 4GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, a 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive, and an 8x slot-loading DVD±RW drive. The unit’s graphics engine is Intel’s HD Graphics 3000, which is integrated into the Core i7 processor (see our story here for a technical deep-dive into the mobile Sandy Bridge technology). Perhaps the only disappointment with the system’s specs is that the LED-backlit display has a native resolution of only 1,280x800--you can find plenty of 13-inch laptops that come with a slightly higher overall 1,366x768 resolution On the other hand, there aren't many other 13-inch laptops that have displays as bright and vibrant as the MacBook Pro's--we'll gladly sacrifice a few extra pixels for the high-quality screen.

MacBook Pro 13-inch Laptop
Specifications & Features
  • Mac OS X 10.6.6
  • 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-2620QM520M (2 cores, 4 threads, Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz, 4MB L3 Cache)
  • 4GB of 1,333Hz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 500GB 5,400-rpm Serial ATA hard drive
  • Integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • 13.3-inch (viewable) LED-backlit glossy widescreen display
  • 1,280x800 native resolution (16:10)
  • 8x slot-loading SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)
  • Built-in FaceTime HD video camera (1,280x720 resolution)
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Internal omnidirectional microphone
  • Built-in full-size backlit keyboard with 78 keys
  • Multi-Touch trackpad with support for Multi-Touch gestures
  • Built-in 63.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
  • 60W MagSafe Power Adapter with cable management system
  • 0.95 x 12.78 x 8.94 inches (HWD)
  • 4.5 pounds

Direct Price: $1,499 (as tested)

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