Apple has upgraded its MacBook Pro range, but although the addition of its multi-touch technology (first introduced on the Apple MacBook Air) is a nice feature, there aren't many other improvements. If you are a current MacBook Pro owner, there is no reason to upgrade, but if not the latest MacBook Pro is an excellent option for power users.
Under the hood, the MacBook Pro falls into line with the previous models. Our review unit was powered by a 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (an optional extra over the standard 2.5GHz processor) with a 6MB L2 cache. There is also 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 250GB capacity hard disk drive and a double-layer super drive – in addition to 802.11n/b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. One complaint is that the 5400RPM hard drive is quite slow when compared to most new notebooks. You can upgrade this hard drive to a 200GB 7200RPM drive, but faster speed means a loss of 50GB disk space.
The MacBook Pro retains its familiar aluminium design and excellent keyboard. The latter is one of the most comfortable notebook keyboards we've tested, the keys are easy to press and well spaced. Conveniently, the MacBook Air's backlit keyboard illumination is now included on the MacBook Pro. A row of F-key functions above the keyboard include keys for brightness, expose, dashboard and media playback controls. On a whole, the aluminium design feels extremely well built and sturdy – the Pro looks as though it has been built to take a few knocks.
Apple offers two display sizes, 15in and 17in, and if you order online from the Apple store, you can choose glossy or non-glossy display finishes at no extra cost. We prefer the non-glossy finish as the former tends to reflect fluorescent office lighting a lot. The 15in model has a maximum resolution of 1440x900 and features an ambient light sensor, which automatically adjusts the backlight depending on the conditions. An NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card with 512MB RAM means you should be able to play some newer games, but the MacBook Pro may struggle on the highest video settings.
The new touch pad features multi-touch technology. Operating in a similar way to the iPhone and iPod Touch displays, the trackpad responds to finger gestures such as swipes, pinches and taps. Just like the iPod Touch, you can swipe your finger across the trackpad to scroll through your documents, pinch to enlarge text and rotate to adjust your photos. It's fairly responsive as it's able to distinguish between one, two or three fingers, although we preferred the MacBook Air's slightly larger width and height.
The MacBook Pro features a front loading, dual-layer superdrive, headphone and line-out jacks, two USB ports, FireWire 400 and 800 ports and an ExpressCard slot. The 17in model features an extra USB port while both models have a Kensington cable lock slot. The built in stereo speakers push out solid, but far from outstanding sound. A built in microphone is hidden under the left speaker grille.
Battery life is rated at up to five hours on the 15in model, and up to four and a half hours on the 17in model. We experienced slightly less performance time during the DVD run-down test, with the MacBook Pro managing to run for just under four hours before powering off.