Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Review

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Design & Features

The silver-clad MacBook Pro has one of the sturdiest chassis we’ve encountered on a laptop--13-inch or otherwise--it truly feels like it can take a beating and keep on ticking. This strength comes from the MacBook Pro’s “patented aluminum unibody design,” which actually carves the unit's central chassis piece from a single piece of aluminum. The sturdy design also gives the laptop a bit of heft--at 4.5 pounds it’s not the lightest 13-inch laptop on the market.

The chassis has rounded corners, and when the cover is closed, the entire unit is almost all silver--the exceptions being the white (backlit) Apple logo on the top of the lid, a black strip running across the back edge of the unit, and four rubberized black feet on the bottom of the unit. The lid stays closed using a magnetic latch.

Open the lid and you're greeted by an island-style keyboard of black keys against a silver keyboard deck. The keys are backlit, which is controlled by an ambient light sensor (you can also set the keyboard illumination brightness level manually). The keyboard is roomy, has a great tactile feel to it with absolutely no flexing, and decent key travel. The spacious, 5-inch (diagonal) trackpad is actually made of glass, so it has a very smooth feel to it. The trackpad supports multi-touch gestures with up to four-fingers.

To put it simply, the 13.3-inch, LED-backlit display is gorgeous. It’s bright and shows crisp colors that remain uniform across the display. The glossy screen doesn’t throw back reflections nearly as bad as we’ve seen on many other glossy displays, and the screen has a very wide viewing angle. The display is surrounded by a black bezel, which houses the hi-res, 1,280x760 FaceTime HD camera on top.

Less impressive is the MacBook Pro’s audio. The stereo speakers, which are hidden beneath the keyboard, get plenty loud and don’t distort, but the lack of bass makes them sound tinny. That said, the speakers do deliver better-sounding audio than you’re going to find on most other 13-inch laptops. The MacBook Pro’s omnidirectional microphone is positioned just above the ESC key.

All of the MacBook Pro’s ports are located on the left side of the unit. Here you’ll find the MagSafe power connector, Gigabit Ethernet jack, a FireWire 800 port, the Thunderbolt port, two USB 2.0 ports, an SDXC media-card slot, and a combined line-in/headphone jack that supports digital-audio output. To the right of the audio jack are the battery charge indicator LEDs. Note that the MacBook Pro’s battery is not user-replaceable. The right side of the unit houses the slot-loading optical drive and security lock slot. The front edge of the unit has an IR port and a sleep indicator LED.

The Thunderbolt port takes the place of what was the Mini-DisplayPort connector on the previous iteration of the MacBook Pro. ThunderBolt has native support for PCI Express and Display Port, and it’s compatible with USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, VGA, DVI, and HDMI protocols. This will make it very easy for peripheral manufacturers to create new products that support the Thunderbolt interface without having to worry about supporting any new protocols or making major changes to their devices' silicon. With support for up to 10Gbps bandwidth, and up to six daisy-chained devices, it also means you can attach a number of mighty speedy external peripherals to your MacBook Pro, or connect devices that send scads of data at any given time (like HD video streams). The only trouble is, there aren’t any Thunderbolt devices available yet. The wait won’t be much longer, however, as a number of manufacturers have promised to have Thunderbolt peripherals, such as external hard drives, available by this summer.

As do all new Mac laptops and desktops, the MacBook pro comes with the typical bevy of Mac OS X apps, including iTunes, Time Machine, Mail, iChat, Safari, Address Book, QuickTime, iCal, Photo Booth, and Front Row. The system also comes with the iLife suite, which includes iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb.

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