Review: Apple Macbook Pro 17″

The Macbook Pro 17 inch looks less like a “computer” and more like something you want to use. It could be put on any surface in the world and still have a semblance of style that few companies can bring to nearly every device. But the Macbook does it. It retains that sleek simple styling I remember when the first Titanium Powerbooks strolled onto the scene all those years ago.

Before last week, I only admired Apple’s Macbook Pro from a distance. I liked the look of it and thought that others who bought it would be getting a decent laptop computer, but I probably wouldn’t have considered getting one for myself.

That’s all changed now.

In our quest to see some of the coolest high-end laptops, we took a gander at the new Toshiba Qosmio G40 which we just recently reviewed. But we wanted to see what was happening on the other side of the camp, the side that more and more traditional Windows PC users are looking at to see what all the fuss is. I admit that I too was curious at what the fuss was. Having only used Macs in small amounts previously, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

And then we got the box and the first thing you have to appreciate about Apple is that they are excellent designers. The Macbook Pro 17 inch looks less like a “computer” and more like something you want to use. It could be put on any surface in the world and still have a semblance of style that few companies can bring to nearly every device. But the Macbook does it. It retains that sleek simple styling I remember when the first Titanium Powerbooks strolled onto the scene all those years ago.

Even the parts that come with it feel as if they’re parts of the Macbooks’ body. From the magnetic power adaptor to the power brick, the high caliber of design is present. One of the things you have to understand is how rare the “design” mentality is coming from a world of otherwise uninspiring PC’s and Windows-based notebooks. For many other laptops, having an interesting and useful design of the computer itself is only now just being recognized. Making sure included accessories are designed to match the computer (plug packs, cables, etc) is still something manufacturers really haven’t picked up on. I’d seen past Apple designs with the previous Powerbooks and it’s still evident that Apple are thinking about the computer experience as a whole when it comes to designing their computers.

Times have changed though and Apple no longer use the “G” generation of chips. These new matte-finish laptops come equipped with Intel Core 2 Duo processors, a concept that a few years ago I would have never thought possible.

For the most part, I expected the system to perform quite well. It’s pretty well spec’d out, featuring a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, a 160gb hard drive, an 8x double-layer SuperDrive (capable of all the standard DVD re-writable formats), wireless networking using 801.11n, an Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB of memory, and a screen capable of displaying a resolution of 1680 x 1050. If that’s not all a blur to you, you’ll have found that it’s a decent set of specifications and depending on whether you’re working with multimedia applications like sound & video, image editing, playing some games, or just doing business work, the laptop has enough power to pull all of that off.

But you’d expect that from a computer that at its lowest price point hits $3,999. So I was curious to see how it performed as a computer. Could I – a regular Windows PC user – enjoy using the Macbook Pro as much as I enjoyed using my home-built tower running Windows XP?

Using Mac OSX isn’t a hard thing to do so I won’t even talk about that. I’ll talk about how the unit feels and how it runs because that’s what matters.

The keyboard is quite simply one of the nicest keyboards I’ve ever felt. It’s a well designed keyboard and you really can’t fault it. The mouse I’m not so sure about. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to the one-button mouse and I’m a little surprised that even in wake of the Mighty Mouse – Apple’s two button rodent – the Macbook Pro still comes with a one-button touchpad. I half expected that the button on the mouse would have different sensors at both the left- and right-sides to act as if you were left-clicking and right-clicking respectively, but that was not to be the case.

Regardless of this, the experience in using the Macbook isn’t hampered in anyway. In fact, the tactile response from the keys and mouse are quick and snappy.

The build quality of the laptop caters to what seems like a very high standard too. All of the parts feel seamless and some of the features included like the battery meter on the bottom of the laptop are quite ingenius inclusions. The notebook has a great feel to it as it’s not too heavy & not too light while still maintaining an excellent slim profile.

In testing multimedia, I was pleasantly surprised to find the sound nice and loud. Many of the laptops I’ve played with in the past have what I would see as too low volume limits and the Macbook Pro’s sound capabilities excel past this while still maintaining great fidelity. The screen too is impressive though we found that the 17 inch didn’t have even backlighting. As such, the bleed coming from the bottom of the screen, while not a major issue, could be seen as a distraction depending on how fussy you were. A resolution of 1680×1050 is pretty good for a laptop, I must say, though we have seen better. Recent releases of Dell and Toshiba 17 inch laptops have 1920×1200 resolutions and although the clarity in those can be outstanding, the display is still excellent in the Macbook Pro.

One area I had to look at was the Boot Camp beta that Apple are currently running for their Intel users. As someone who typically uses Windows machines in almost every field, I know that many of the programs that I do use aren’t going to be made for a Mac system. As a games reviewer, I’m especially prone to seeing fewer Mac releases so the chance to see Windows games running on a Mac is something I just had to see.

It should be noted that while this is a review of the Macbook Pro 17 inch, I have to comment on the sheer ease of use Apple have done with Boot Camp. It really is idiot proof. I installed Windows XP quickly enough and proceeded to the next paragraph.

Which brings me to here: the Macbook Pro we received runs Windows XP better than some of the Windows laptops I’ve seen. Granted, the partition I went with had nowhere near the amount of hard drive space I normally load an installation of Windows with but it was doing an impressive job.

So we decided to go in a different direction. Seeing as though 2K Games had just released Bioshock for the Xbox 360 and Windows PC only, we figured that was a good place to start. It ran beautifully. The 8600M GT performed admirably and didn’t skip a beat, serving as our test for the graphics on this laptop as well as a means of making sure even the graphically aggressive Windows applications work on a Windows installation on a Mac. We even have a video of it in action in case you’re interested.

Looking back over the past few weeks, I’ve found the Macbook Pro to be very impressive. The Macbook Pro is targeted at someone who wants exceptional performance & design in their computer and that is exactly what’s provided. Design has been thought about, features have been planned and while you could easily sit on the fence and say that you might not be getting as much for your dollar as you would in lesser priced PC notebooks, you are getting a computer where the parts have all been thought about. What this all means is that when you open up the box, the notebook just works brilliantly.

All of this leaves you with a notebook that is so versatile, you can have two computers in one: a powerful Mac and a power Windows machine if desired. If what you’re after is an excellent computer that looks stunning for pretty much everything then you’ll want to check out the Macbook Pro.

Pros

  • Excellent design
  • It could probably run pretty much any application you could throw at it

Cons

  • The mouse should probably adopt the similar two button design like the Mighty Mouse
  • Screen backlighting doesn’t seem even

Product: Apple Macbook Pro 17″

Vendor: Apple Australia

Starting at: $3,999

Website: Apple Macbook

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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