As predicted, Apple released yet another updated version of its famous powerhouse portable computer, the MacBook Pro. With the new Santa Rosa architecture, a new 256MB video card by Nvidia, Perpendicular Magnetic Recording hard drives, a jump to 4GB of RAM, a 50% faster SuperDrive and an industry-first LED-lit LCD screen, the new 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro is quite impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that Apple hasn’t changed the price over the previous, less advanced version. We gave the new MacBook Pro a thorough exam and have some exciting things to report. Continue reading for more info.
The previous 2.33GHz MBP had a 256MB ATI graphics card. This new 2.4GHz model uses the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB SDRAM. Of course, the base model MBP offers 128MB video memory, but the real standard seems to be 256MB. There are some laptops available today with more video memory than 256MB, but these are rare and very expensive. As for the 2.4GHz MBP’s Nvidia card, initial reports show that frame rates have increased by 25-60%.
The 2.4GHz MacBook Pro has both a FireWire 800 and 400 port and two USB 2.0 ports. It also has an ExpressCard/34 slot, audio in & out jacks, the MagSafe power jack, gigabit Ethernet, DVI-out and a notebook lock slot for use with products like the Targus DEFCON Notebook lock.
Power, Audio Ports and PC Card Slot
FireWire, Ethernet, USB and DVI Connections
Here’s an update that would have gone completely unnoticed by the world it it wasn’t for two curious geeks at an Apple store. The iSight camera built into the new 2.4GHz MacBook Pro was upgraded from 640×480 resolution to a much greater 1280×1024 res (1.3 megapixels). While the built-in applications (iChat, Photobooth & Quicktime) don’t yet support taking photos or video at 1.3 megapixels, Apple is bound to update their software soon. Another note – it seems that the iSight can take 640×480 videos at a whopping 60fps!
As an upgrade option, one can select a 4200rpm 200GB hard drive or a 160GB 7200rpm drive. When buying your MacBook Pro, be sure to get more hard drive space than you think you’ll need. Personally, I can’t sleep at night if my free space falls below 30GB.
Although the battery in the 2.4GHz MBP is the same as in previous models, battery life has been extended due to lower power consumption overall. In various tests, battery life has been increased by as much as 45 minutes. For computing on cross-country flights, in long meetings and in other off-grid situations, these extra 45 minutes are precious and appreciated.
With all these changes, it’s easy to imagine the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro as an entirely different beast. Well, on the inside, it has certainly been enhanced. On the outside, however, nothing has changed. Nada. It’s the same body, same ports, same, dimensions, same weight, etc. They keyboard is still backlit, and it’s still damn sexy.
The Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch
As with any Mac computer, the initial setup process is so easy anyone can do it – even the most unfamiliar and computer-phobic. After unboxing the MacBook Pro, plug in the power adapter to the wall, connect the MagSafe plug, open the LCD screen and hit the power button. In roughly 6 (yes, six) minutes, the MacBook Pro will be set up in its basic state.
Typically, I run through the full setup process without importing settings from another system. This allows me to gauge actual setup times down to the very second. As setup times for the MacBook Pro have remained constant under 6 minutes, I thought I would do something a little more interesting this time.
I selected the option to move data and settings from another MacBook Pro. I connected the two MBPs by a Firewire 800 cable and started the process. The new 2.4GHz MBP reported that I was about to transfer 87GB of files, programs, etc. I set it in motion and got busy with some backlogged paperwork. After about 3 minutes, the transfer screen indicated that the 87GB was going to take roughly 5 hours to transfer. Panic? Nope. Another two minutes went by and the new ETA was only 3 hours. Ten minutes passed and the ETA dropped to 2 hours.
Roughly 90 minutes later, the entire transfer was done. When I logged into the transferred account, everything was there – desktop image, programs, links, documents, etc.
I then performed OS X updates. With about 80MB in update files required, the download and installation process took no more than 5 minutes. That was it. Setup was done in less time than it took me to get through bills and filing.
·2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (Santa Rosa) processor
·4GB memory (667MHz DDR2 SDRAM)
·160GB perpendicular Serial ATA hard drive
·15.4-inch LED widescreen display – glossy
·NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB SDRAM
·8X Double-layer SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
·Built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0
The 15″ MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo comes with 2GB of PC2-5300 (667MHz) memory. PC2-5300 laptop memory is some of the fastest on the market and allows the MacBook Pro to really perform like it was meant to. While most people will be satisfied with 2GB, truly serious geeks, video editing folks and other heavy process users will truly appreciate the new 4GB RAM ceiling. 2GB is great, but 4GB is just crazy fast.
·OS X boot time – 33 seconds
·Open iTunes 7 – 6.9 seconds
·Open Firefox 2 – 8.0 seconds
·Open Acrobat Pro 7 – 25.7 seconds
·Burn 512MB DVD – 6 mins 44 seconds
·Import 112 photos (512MB) – 4 mins 44 seconds
·Open 2.1MB photo in Photoshop CS2 – 16.9 seconds
·Fully boot XP Pro in Parallels – 15.7 seconds
·OS X boot time – 28 seconds
·Open iTunes 7 – 3.8 seconds
·Open Firefox 2 – 2.0 seconds
·Open Acrobat Pro 7 – 20.1 seconds
·Burn 512MB DVD – 3 mins 58 seconds
·Import 112 photos (512MB) – 2 mins 02 seconds
·Open 2.1MB photo in Photoshop CS3 – 18 seconds
·Fully boot XP Pro in Parallels – 14.8 seconds
While speeds are one important factor, the additional 2GB of RAM allows for more work to be done concurrently. Once limited to a handful of open apps, I can now run everything I need on a daily basis – all at once – without worrying about my MacBook Pro slowing down or tipping the page ins/outs ratio. No matter what I do, the ratio stays n/0.
These days, Universal Binary applications far outnumber PPC-only apps. Still, a few of the most common and necessary apps need Rosetta to run on Intel-based Mac computers, the most popular being Microsoft Office. Sadly, Microsoft’s progress in pushing out the next Office suite for OS X is pretty bad… slower than government work. It’s been 18 months, and there’s still no product. Given this fact, users of MS Office will have to deal with the less-than-fantastic start times for Word, Excel, etc.
Since the 2.33GHz MacBook Pro was released last November, both Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat were made Universal Binary. They’re much, much more efficient than ever before – in some cases upwards of 250% faster. As an example, opening a 2.1MB JPG image in Photoshop CS2 (MBP 1.83GHz) took 52.2 seconds. On the new MBP 2.4GHz, the same image opens in Photoshop CS3 in 18 seconds. Photoshop effects can be applied faster, too.
Thanks to the Santa Rosa platform and more power-conserving components, the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro seems to run slightly cooler than the 2.33GHz model. Granted, the difference in surface and component temperatures between the 2.16GHz MBP and the 2.33GHz MBP is startling (obviously, the 2.33GHz being cooler). The difference between the 2.33GHz and the 2.4GHz is not as drastic, but it’s noticeable. After nine hours of operating my MBP (Bean, burning DVDs, Parallels with XP Pro, iTunes, etc.) the CPU is only at 122F and the hard drive is 99F. The top and bottom surfaces of the MBP feel only slightly warmer than body temperature.
Again, thanks to the LED screen and less power-hungry internals, the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro uses less energy that any of its predecessors. While everyone’s battery life stats will vary slightly, the average uptime is about 3.5 hours with the SuperDrive in use (playing DVDs, burning CDs, etc.) and closer to 5 hours without use of the SuperDrive. Apple claims “up to 6 hours” of battery life, but this can only be achieved under ideal conditions – LED screen turned down to lowest setting, no SuperDrive use, wireless off, etc. It can be done, however, and that’s pretty cool.
By the end of the setup process, the ugly brownish hues went away and the haloing dissipated. It must have been some sort of initial LED warm-up or burn-in, because the final result was fantastic. Colors were beautiful, rich and stunning. Custom desktop images (e.g. a couple of my wedding photos from Hawaii) were so unusually crisp, they almost looked 3D. Of course they’re not 3D, but the color accuracy and intensity are remarkable.
As for the LED and brightness, I can say that this new lighting system is much brighter than the LCD on MacBooks and earlier MacBook Pros. I’d estimate that my 2.33GHz MBP, at full brightness, matches with the 80% brightness setting for the 2.4GHz LED model. In low-light situations, I have to turn the brightness down to keep from squinting. When using this MBP outside, upper-middle to max brightness are perfect for bright daylight use. Obviously, the LED lighting uses less battery power, but if you want to squeeze more battery life out of your MBP, turn it down a few notches.
The new 2.4GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo is a fantastic laptop for almost every conceivable use; it’s even powerful enough to act as a desktop replacement. The internal component upgrades over the previous MacBook Pro are groundbreaking, especially the new LED-lit screen and perpendicular SATA hard drive. This is the 3rd major revision of the MacBook Pro and Apple has clearly worked out all the kinks attendant to 1st rev products. In fact, everywhere you look, the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro is flat-out better, faster, more efficient and more advanced than any other Apple laptop ever produced – and perhaps more so than any other PC/Windows laptop on the market today. And though Apple clearly increased the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro’s specifications, they didn’t raise the price one penny.
The base-level 2GB configuration is more than enough for most tasks, but the MacBook Pro becomes a true performance machine when given 4GB RAM. Memory upgrades can be done at an Apple store or as a build-to-order option for roughly $750 USD or as an after-market upgrade via crucial.com for about $280 USD.
No matter what your needs, the MacBook Pro is probably the most satisfying technology purchase one can make. Without a doubt, the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro met and exceeded all my expectations.
• Runs cooler and faster than other MBPs
• New Perpendicular SATA drives
• Insane 4GB RAM option
• Awesome LED backlit LCD screen
• Nearly silent
• 8X SuperDrive
• Ability to run OSX and Windows XP
• New iSight camera with 1.3 megapixel res
• Apple’s 4GB configuration is expensive
• Hard drive is difficult to upgrade, voids warranty
• $2499 USD is expensive for a laptop