Apple MacBook Pro Fall 2011 (2.2GHz Core i7, 15-inch)
Typical Price: $2,213.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: Incremental updates to the CPU help keep the MacBook Pro line a step above the now-mainstream MacBook Air. The trackpad and gesture controls are still the best of any current laptop.
The bad: Unless you need an optical drive, the MacBook Air may be a better fit for most, and the Pro still lacks things we'd like to see, such as HDMI, Blu-ray, and USB 3.0.
The bottom line: A MacBook Pro is a significant investment, especially when adding in optional upgrades. Cost aside, there's not a better choice (there are, however, some close ties) for an all-around powerhouse that will work in the home, the office, and in between.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Editors' note: On October 24, 2011, Apple updated the MacBook Pro line with new CPUs, larger hard drives, and new graphics options. The upgrades were very minor, and the bulk of our review of the 15-inch MacBook Pro from earlier in 2011 still stands. We've added upgrade and contextual notes below, as well as new benchmark test results.
The latest round of updates to Apple's popular MacBook Pro line were modest enough that they simply appeared on the Apple Web site with little fanfare beyond a basic press release. Rather than a generational jump as we saw in February 2011 (when the Pro moved from Intel's original Core i-series CPUs to the latest second-generation chips, formerly code-named Sandy Bridge), this is perhaps better described as minor housekeeping.
In the 15-inch MacBook Pro, we previously reviewed the more high-end of two starting configurations. That $2,199 unit had a 2.2GHz quad-core i7, whereas the $1,799 model had a 2.0GHz CPU. The biggest change is that the $1,799 model now has that 2.2GHz quad-core i7, and the $2,199 model moves up to an even faster 2.4GHz CPU. The GPU options are now a 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750M in the lower-priced version and a 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6770M in the more expensive one. Default storage remains the same for the 15-inch models, but the 13- and 17-inch MacBook Pros have their own set of CPU, GPU, and HDD updates, the details of which are here.
Note that this time around we tested the new $1,799 15-inch MacBook Pro, whereas our previous 15-inch MacBook Pro review sample was the $2,199 version, so we're effectively looking at the same CPU in both cases.
The iconic unibody aluminum construction remains the same, as does the large glass multitouch trackpad. Thunderbolt, Intel's new high-speed powered port for data transfer and displays, remains an interesting extra, but its promise is still hypothetical, with few available Thunderbolt-compatible peripherals.
This 15-inch MacBook Pro, at $1,799, follows the usual Apple trajectory of keeping the price steady but adding faster, more powerful components. The latest round of upgrades, while not revolutionary, helps give the Pro line a boost at a time when the less-expensive MacBook Air has become such an excellent mainstream laptop that it could easily substitute for the Pro for many potential MacBook buyers who don't need an internal optical drive or bigger screen.
|Price as reviewed||$1,799|
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core i7 quad-core|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 6750M / Intel HD 3000|
|Operating system||OS X 10.7 Lion|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.4x9.8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.5 pounds / 6.2 pounds|
By now, the shape and size of the MacBook Pro should be very familiar. Even more recent designs, such as the second-generation MacBook Air, are variations on it. The basic building block remains the same: a solid chunk of aluminum, which is carved down into a shell with support struts. This unibody chassis has the benefit of being thin (for a 15-inch laptop), but strong and flex-free at the same time.
The touch philosophy that informs the iPad/iPhone line of devices can be said to have its roots in the large multitouch clickpad-style trackpad that's been a staple of the MacBook Pro for years. The multitouch gestures, slightly revamped recently for OS X Lion, are incredibly useful. Once you get used to them, going back to a regular touch pad is difficult. Several Windows laptops have added larger clickpads over the past year or so, with somewhat similar multitouch gestures, but we can easily say that none can yet compete with the MacBook's implementation.
The 1,440x900-pixel display is still higher-resolution than many 15-inch laptops (which are 1,366x768 pixels), and two screen upgrades are available: a 1,680x1,050-pixel version for an extra $100, or a 1,680x1,050-pixel "antiglare" version for $150. Of the current MacBook lineup, only the 11-inch Air has a 16:9 display; Apple is otherwise the only major computer maker still widely using 16:10 displays.
|Apple MacBook Pro (Fall 2011, 15-inch)||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||DisplayPort/Thunderbolt||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The big difference between MacBooks and other laptops in the ports and connections category is the recent port based on Intel's Thunderbolt high-speed I/O technology. If it looks a lot like the Mini DisplayPort connection on older MacBooks, that's because it is the same, except for the tiny lightning bolt logo next to it. It still functions as a DisplayPort output, and in fact, you're able to daisy-chain up to six Thunderbolt devices or displays to that single port.
Thunderbolt is technically capable of 10Gbps bidirectional transfer, and if Intel and Apple have their way, it may replace many other kinds of ports and connections in the future, but there are only a handful of peripherals that work with it currently.
Also notable on the 2011 MacBook Pro (including the version we tested earlier this year) is a 720p Webcam, which works with the new Mac version of FaceTime, the same video-conferencing app found on the iPhone and iPod Touch. With a solid Wi-Fi signal, jumping into full-screen mode was clear and mostly stutter-free. There's also an onscreen button for changing the video window from portrait mode to horizontal, and video calls can be made between MacBooks and iPhones as well. You can read more about FaceTime for Mac here.
But while Thunderbolt and FaceTime are interesting extras, the real muscle behind the new MacBook Pro is the quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU and AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU. These parts were previously found on the higher-end 15-inch Pro, and now are the default loadout for the less-expensive base model. In our CNET Labs benchmark tests, the new MacBook Pro performed impressively, and was almost exactly matched with the Winter 2011 MacBook Pro we tested. Keep in mind that we're comparing the April 2011 high-end configuration with the October 2011 entry-level configuration.
The AMD Radeon HD 6750M in our review unit is a solid GPU, and a nice jump over the Radeon 6490M previously offered with the $1,799 15-inch Pro. As with the previous few generations of MacBook Pros, the discrete graphics swap out with the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics as needed, saving battery life as you go.
Mac gaming, no matter what anyone says, is still a pretty fallow field, with many big games still only available for Windows systems. In our older Modern Warfare Mac gaming benchmark, we got 41.3 frames per second at 1,440x900 pixels, which was not quite as good as the 51.8 frames per second we got with the high-end $2,199 version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro earlier this year, which also had a 6750M card.
MacBooks are also known for offering long battery life, even in larger systems such as the 15-inch Pro. In this case, the system ran for 6 hours and 54 minutes in our video playback battery drain test, essentially the same result as the previous version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro we tested, which ran for 7 hours and 5 minutes. In comparison, Dell's XPS 15z, clearly aimed at the same audience, ran for only 3 hours and 30 minutes in the same test.
Service and support from Apple has always been a mixed bag. Apple includes a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, but only 90 days of telephone support. Upgrading to a full three-year plan under AppleCare will cost an extra $349 and is pretty much a must-buy, considering the proprietary nature of Apple products and their sealed bodies. Support is also accessible through a well-stocked online knowledge base, video tutorials, and e-mail with customer service, or through in-person visits to Apple's retail store Genius Bars, which, in our experience, have always been fairly frustration-free encounters.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test laptops.
Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Fall 2011)
OS X 10.7.2 Lion; 2.2GHz Intel Core i7; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750M / 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 500GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch (Summer 2011)
OS X 10.7 Lion; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 128GB Apple SSD
Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Winter 2011)
OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard; Intel Core i7 2.2GHz; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6750M / 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-2820M; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 720GB Seagate 7,200rpm
Dell XPS 15z
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-2620M; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 525M / 64MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm
|Product Description||MacBook Pro Fall 2011 - 2nd Gen Core i7 2.2 GHz - 15.4 in, Apple MacBook Pro TFT active matrix|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||14.3 in x 9.8 in x 0.9 in|
|Processor||Intel 2nd Gen Core i7 2.2 GHz ( Quad-Core )|
|Cache Memory||6 MB, L3 cache|
|RAM||4 GB, 8 GB (max) - DDR3 SDRAM - 1333 MHz - PC3-10600 ( 2 x 2 GB )|
|Card Reader||Card reader|
|Hard Drive||500 GB - 5400 rpm, - Serial ATA-300|
|Optical Storage||DVD±RW (±R DL) - Integrated|
|Display||15.4 in, TFT active matrix 1440 x 900 ( WXGA+ )|
|Graphics Controller||AMD Radeon HD 6750M / Intel HD Graphics 3000 - 512 MB|
|Audio Output||Sound card|
|Networking||Network adapter - Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, - IEEE 802.11a, - Fast Ethernet, - Ethernet, - Gigabit Ethernet, - IEEE 802.11b, - IEEE 802.11n, - IEEE 802.11g|
|Input Device||Backlit keyboard, Trackpad|
|Voltage Required||AC 120/230 V ( 50/60 Hz )|
|Run Time (Up To)||7 hour(s)|
|OS Provided||Apple Mac OS X Lion|
|Manufacturer Warranty||1 year warranty|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 15
4 Star: 4
3 Star: 1
2 Star: 3
1 Star: 5
macbook pro is a beautiful, high performance machine.
Rating: 5 / 5
on November 22, 2011
5 out of 5 users found this review helpful
Pros: battery life
user interface (mac osx)
mac app store
basically nothing of what those other people said is even a concern
little to no viruses
a computer that is durable, with the software, and the quality parts would cost just as much
Cons: Most people are unfamiliar with Max osx
other people just like to bash it because its not windows
pricey, but its a premium product
doesn't come with Microsoft office but you can buy the mac version of it
Summary: To be honest I have never had an issue with my mac book pro. People may call me a silly Apple fan, which seems to be a popular thing these days. In reality I am just a very satisfied customer. People wonder why some people get so obsessed with Apple products, did you ever pause to think that maybe because they are really great? Apple does a great job of constantly updating and improving its operating systems and machines. Also, the machine was built for the operating system. Its the same thing with the phones and tablets that Apple makes. They make the machines to seamlessly integrate with the operating system. Microsoft gives their Windows system to HP, Dell, etc just like Google gives out Android to Motorola, Samsung. However, Apple creates the device that will hold their operating system, they don't sell it out. So what you get is a device and operating system that were built to live hand in hand with each other. There is a big difference in the quality of the computer. Trust me.
No other laptop comes close. period.
Rating: 5 / 5
on December 31, 2011
2 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: 1. UI is beautiful
2. Gestures and Trackpad are top of the line and windows comes no where close
3. FAST! waking from sleep takes half a second and startup is nearly twice as fast as windows
4. great build, and again just simply a gorgeous computer
Cons: 1. does overheat, but not that bad unless you are running a bunch of heavy apps, and that is like any other windows PC
2. graphics switching doesnt seem to work all the time
3. issues with all browsers except Safari
Summary: I just recently bought this Mac, and it was my first ever. I was a die hard windows fan, until I used my room mates Mac, and I instantly fell in love with it. First, the trackpad makes life so simple and it makes you wonder how you ever used a computer without it and the gestures it comes with. Also, some believe the UI is out of date, but I think it looks gorgeous and is a lot more fun to use then windows SuperBar. The speed of this computer is ridiculous. The computer wakes from sleep as I am lifting the screen, then I just log in. It used to take me a solid 30 seconds or minute to do the same on my old PC. All in all, this is a fun, beautiful, fast, and amazing computer that is worth the price in my book!
Very, very fast.
Rating: 4 / 5
on April 16, 2012
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: Very fast computer, love the track pad, Starts up in seconds.
Cons: Can't run games well, has frozen up frequently for me
Summary: This computer is built for speed. It's the fastest computer I've ever used, and blows my HP away. This computer doesn't run games, and even freezes up playing Minecraft, which is not exactly a hard game to run. Other than that this computer is great and I would definitely recommend it.
Switched from a PC to Mac - it's amazing,modern,easy!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on January 13, 2012
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: - Extremely Fast
- Beautiful screen
- Amazing OS
- Top of the line track pad
- Great webcam
- Built material
- Overall appearance
- Battery Life
Cons: - All USB ports on one side
- I wouldn't consider this a con,but it may be awkward to use a mac,especially like me who used a PC for 14 years.
Summary: I just switched from a HP Vista laptop. The difference is enormous. The laptop looks absolutely stunning,it's material is excellent giving it a feeling of expensiveness.
From all the apps,gadgets,multiple screens...it really gives you various options on customizing the computer just how you want it. Even though millions might have a Mac,nobodies is the same.
The OS is at top gear,having everything you need and not having everything you DONT need. It's so simple and easy,the startup takes aprox 5-6sec....and shutdown amazingly even less,witch is not the case on windows platforms.
The keyboard is very good,I can't say much about it since I'm not a huge typer,but it's very comfortable,and the glow is a nice touch. But the track pad is amazing,I've never seen something so cool.
There are also a lot of cool features and interesting innovations that the PC doesn't have. Like the unibody that makes the Mac so sleek and extremely durable. Then the magnetic power plugin so you don't have to push it in or pull it out causing damage. The battery light indicator on the left side,amazing quality sound,and thunderbolt.
Yes,it may be expensive for some(even me). You might want to get something similar or even better by spec for a cheaper price,but Apple does one thing that no other company does.
They build everything to work for ages. This is not a laptop that's going to be outdated in a few months,or laggy in a year or two. This is definitely a laptop thats going to last for 5 years without it being turbo slow!
I highly recommend it to anyone,from students to old folks!
P.S if you get one,consider for 60$ getting the magic mouse,it's also great!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on January 8, 2012
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: - Fast
- Casing feels very strong
- Screen is beautiful
- Speakers are good for a laptop
- Battery life very decent
- They DID something with function keys
- The webcam better than most
- Other Apple gimmicks are fun
- Not many viruses yet
Cons: - Very little customizability
- May get "warm"
- No USB 3
- No BluRay
- Why FireWire?
Summary: The laptop is very nicely made. Some may call on it just for being a mac (because apparently Apple doesn't make good products) but I have an opinion much different. And understand, this is my first Apple computer. I have an iPod but who doesn't? I am a former Windows user, and There's just so much that JUST WORKS with it. Windows 7 is better than Vista, but neither even come close to Lion.
It is lightning fast even just on the intel graphics. I've tried my best to slow it down, and so far I haven't been able to make it unusable. Editing massive photos in GIMP at 70MP in size may slow it down, but anyone dealing with those file types are probably using better image software anyway. It edits video very nicely just in iMovie. I'm no editor though, it was just fun to play with. It converts video files unbelievably fast. A 2 hour 720p movie in under 15 minutes! While running iTunes and several other things! Gaming is great on it also (boot-camped of course) on full graphics it still runs nicely and above 20fps which to me is considered good.
It feels like a robust machine. It's not some plastic garbage that you'll need to replace in a year or less. It is made of metal. I've dropped it from 3-4 feet accidentally and it barely left a dent. The screen was fine too. the hard drive turned off because of some built in safety thing but it was fine. I'm not recommending any of you start your drop tests or anything, but it will survive a fall, unlike my Acer. And the casing on all the plastic laptops is the first thing to break. If you think your hinges have broken, think again because most likely it is the plastic casing that's broken. From the dozens of computers I've fixed (of people I know or friends of friends to use Facebook terms, and yes they know that their warranties are being voided and I tell them this before I even start, and I have their permission to do so) are all the same. Acer, HP, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo, they're all made of the same stuff. Flimsy copper-coloured plastic that's coated black with texture on top, screwed together with weak connections (the screw holders break the easiest) that don't last more than a year or two. In Jobs's Terms, "They're ****." Because they are.
The screen is absolutely incredible. The colours are very vibrant and nice. Greens just look greener and blues just look bluer and so on. The contrast is nice too. Pictures look nicer on this screen than they did anywhere else aside from being printed. Video also benefits from this. The 16:10 ratio is perfect. And I see why they won't budge on that. Lots of online video content is still only in 4:3 ratio, and it's frustrating looking at it so tiny on a 16:9 screen. With this ratio, both 4:3 and 16:9 look better. So now you don't need to choose which you're going to convert your videos to. And most if not all cameras by default set their photos to 4:3 ratio, you can change that, but now you don't need to because they look fine just the way they are.
Listening to music on this laptop is great. It's part of the reason I went 15" instead of the base 13". They're loud and very good quality for a laptop. It might seem like a minor detail, but when you're not bothering with your home entertainment system, it is loud across the whole room, and due to me being in Canada, I haven't been able to test it outside yet, but I am fairly confident with what I've heard that the speakers would do well outside too. I listen to music all day, and speakers are important in this case.
Some will call the battery horrible or misleading on this because yeah, it really does only give you 4-5 hours worth. But really, does anyone do any better? This is a pro machine. It does actually sometimes get to 6 hours when just sitting there, which is how the tests are done for it anyway. Do you really think they do field tests and put that number as the maximum? They test them by looking at the battery capacity and calculating it with the minimum operating power of the machine. It's done by math, not by field test. You think any of the windows laptops that boast 5 hours get more than 2-3 hours? Well they don't. And even just using iTunes and Word on them they get maybe 1-2 hours of life (yes I've tested this, and my Toshiba was "guaranteed" 6 hours. Yeah right.). This machine's battery life for just Pages and iTunes I've gotten 5 hours out of, just doing my writing while having background music, and yes, full brightness on both the screen and keyboard. It's a very good number for them to boast about. And for those complaining about the battery being non-removable, It's not a big deal. When is it a big deal? When do you remove your battery? Do you just walk around with backups all day? It's a lithium POLYMER battery, meaning yes, it's prone to exploding if handled wrongly, which removing it would be in that category. It would be dangerous to remove this type of battery and I wouldn't want to anyway. So that argument falls apart.
Now to the keyboard. Being a writer, it's a very important aspect of the computer. I've been through so many keyboard designs, and none are better than the chicklet keys of this thing. the backlight also helps, as most of the time I'm writing late at night or in a dark room. Writing 3000 words a day just feels so much easier on this keyboard than any other. The Command instead of windows ctrl has been pretty easy to figure out, the same basic commands are the same (copy, paste, cut, undo) redo is command+shift+Z however and a lot of the commands for Pages is different from Word, but the basics are the same (bold, underline, italicize) formatting the paragraph and the page is all different though, and you can Google the commands for pages and Apple has a nice chart with them all on their website that should be the first result. Don't be afraid to use the internet sometimes.
The function keys are easy to do actual functions. You don't need to guess where the button to turn up the volume is while pushing 'fn' on a windows computer. It's done well. On a Toshiba it's somewhere in the number buttons for the volume and on Lenovo and Acers the screen brightness and volume is on the directional keys but they're not the same way so it's confusing when changing laptops. here it isn't. do away with the fn before the button and just press the button that does the function. Simple. No need to tweak it to work the way you want.
Some might wonder about this "HD" webcam they offer. Yeah it's great when on FaceTime with someone on an iPhone or iPad, but it's still grainy on the computer. But still a lot better than other webcams that are SUPER grainy and have lots of lag. It's actually bearable on this.
Apple gimmicks like the battery life indicator have been useful too. The instant on feature works in half a second, so it doesn't really matter that it goes to sleep with the lid closed unless you're using it like an iPod or something.
In the news recently there was one virus that was for Mac that was discovered, and there are others, though still thousands of times less than Windows. It's only because the makers of the viruses are targeting the largest group, the Windows users, and don't bother with Mac because it's not that big a target. But as Mac sales dominate more, which they are catching up rapidly, I wouldn't be surprised when more viruses are discovered for mac or maybe even iOS. But for now I can feel safe online without the need for a background program doing nothing but eating up my resources. I'll give it 2 years.
It really shows Apple's closed source views when you can't easily customize YOUR computer. In Windows they let you change the entire UI to your liking. In Lion, they won't let you. Or at least I haven't found out how. It's nice that they made the software and hardware to work for each other, but I want to make MY computer truly MY computer. They just won't let you because they think that everyone is technologically retarded and they don't want you to break it.
When that graphics card spins up, it's loud. it sounds like a plane taking off. But the speakers will drown out any noise when playing games, or if it really bugs you, headphones. And the metal casing doesn't really dampen any of the noise like plastic does.
It won't get unbearably searing hot, but it will get warm. I haven't had it used in summer yet, but it's warm in the semi-cold living room because we've had to rely on an electric heater because the gas one broke. so it's now bearable to sit in there, because the warmth is coming from the same place my music is. It won't get burning hot, at least I haven't been able to get it that hot and if i haven't, the average person won't be able to. And no need to worry about accidentally putting your arm where the vent is and burning yourself like I've done on other computers, because the vent is in the back behind the hinge.
A common comment that there is no USB 3, but really, your hard drive's buffer speed won't even get as fast as USB 2 anyway, so unless you're using a solid state drive, it really doesn't matter. And besides, they have the Thunderbolt port now anyway. It's not popular now, but when windows machines get it, which they are in 2012, it'll get better.
No bluray. This one I was kind of mad about. All my movies are in bluray, and as much as Apple seems to think that disk media is going to suddenly vanish from existence, it's not going to any time soon. DVDs might, but so long as the PS3 has bluray, so will most of everyone. They can leave the diskless stuff to their Air line.
Why do they seem to find the need, in their minimalist style, to keep FireWire going? It's useless and I've never even heard of it before I was looking into this machine. There's no reason to have it any more, because the only people using it are those with their decade old cameras that need upgrading anyway! You could have removed it completely, or I don't know, added an HDMI port? Not everyone wants to go buy your 40$ adapter for that, and probably only a small number does when it's 5 bucks for the same adapter on Amazon. It's just pointless to have that port there. Maybe keep it on the 17 inch failure that doesn't even have an SD card slot, but why would the 13 or even the 15 inch models need this?
There is my opinion on this computer thus far. I'm expecting something to fail too, but until then, 5 stars it is. Thank you Apple, this computer is the best one I've used yet, and finally I can do away with all those failures in Windows ones. If you've read until now, I hope some of these points are valid, because to me they are, and feel free to voice your opinion on anything I've said. For those skimming to the end to hate on this, read the whole thing or your opinions have no meaning to me.