Product review: Apple MacBook Pro


13 Sep 2006

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The first casualty of good design doesn’t have to be usability and Apple’s MacBook Pro is a case in point.

Maybe it’s because I write for a living but for me, a laptop’s keyboard is a pretty important element in the overall package. So my initial fears that the slim, stylish sleek box would host a keyboard as an inconvenient afterthought were thankfully unfounded.

The laptop’s keypad is snugly mounted within the casing and the keys were surprisingly springy and responsive — surprising partly because they don’t appear to be at first and partly because Apple keyboards, in my experience, have historically been a bit of a mixed bag. So it’s thumbs up here, no pun intended.

Another neat feature is the power cord, which attaches magnetically to the port at the side of the MacBook Pro. It’s the sort of touch that you wouldn’t miss if it wasn’t there but now that it’s included you have to think: “pretty cool.”

Widescreen is now par for the course on portables everywhere and Apple’s new range doesn’t disappoint. The backlit display is good and bright; the MacBook Pro comes in three different versions: two 15.4-inch display models and a 17-inch unit, each with faster Intel Core Duo processors than the last. While we’re on the subject, our review model had plenty of horsepower, zipping along nicely and well up to handling whatever tasks were sent its way. There are also loads of ports for a raft of connections, be it USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and others. Wireless networking is included as standard.

I still feel that the Pro is priced somewhat on the high side, a criticism that’s been levelled at Apple in the past. That being said, for the money you not only get hardware of impressive standard but a raft of software applications out of the box, whereas a newly purchased PC tends to be pretty threadbare by comparison. Anyone familiar with Macs of recent vintage will be pleased to see that the same creativity tools are present and correct, including iLife ’06, iWork ’06 Trial, Front Row and Photo Booth. That’s not to mention all of the various elements that come with the Tiger operating system.

As the name suggests, this is a product aimed mainly at the business market — the consumer’s already catered for with the MacBook — so the price may be less of a factor for buyers. And if that’s the case, there’s much to make this new Mac stand up well on its merits.

Price: starts at €2,019 (including VAT) for the 15.4-inch display with 2GHz Core Duo processor, up to €2,829 for the 17-inch 2.16GHz version

STAR RATING

Handling: ****
Features: *****
Performance: *****
Value for Money: ***

By Gordon Smith