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3.06 GHz 17-inch MacBook Pro

Flagship MacBook Pro does not disappoint By Heath McKnight

I recently had a chance to review the latest, top-of-the-line unibody MacBook Pro from Apple; with a 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and many other great features, this is the fastest Apple laptop I've ever used.

This system has everything you expect to find in MacBook Pros, including a 17-inch display (with the option of a 15- or 13-inch display), anti-glare or glossy (available only in 17- and 15-inch models. This particular model comes with two integrated graphics processors, the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M and the 9600M GT with 512MB.  You can switch between the two to either save on power (the 9400M) or get some real speed (9600M GT), which is what I left the MacBook Pro on. You have this option on the 15-inch model as well as the 9600M GT with 256 MB to save a little money.  The 13-inch model only has one graphics prcoessor, the 9400M. 

The default RAM on the 17-inch model is 4GB and it'll cost you at least $800-$1000 to double the RAM to 8GB, whether through Apple or other companies. There is one Ethernet port, one Firewire 800 port (I wish there were a FW 400 port, but you can use a 400-800 cable), three USB 2 ports, a Mini DisplayPort to connect to monitors (with an adapter), and audio in and out ports.  And don't forget the MagSafe power port, just in case someone trips on the power cable, it won't take the computer with it! 

On the 13- and 15-inch MBPs, there is an SD card reader, which is nice, but I prefer the ExpressCard/34 slot on the 17-inch model, which allows me to connect a lot of great 3rd party hardware, including the Matrox MXO2 and the MXO2 mini, which I'm currently reviewing.
Plus, there is a backlit keyboard and an amazing glass trackpad which is actually a button as well!  Check out all the features at  Oh, and while there isn't a built-in Blu-ray burner, there is still a fast SuperDrive (DVD and CD burner/reader).

Apple claims you can get 8 hours on the non-removable battery and my tests, which were done with me mostly writing, emailing and surfing the Internet. came back at close to seven hours. I also was using the Airport card, I used the 9600M GT graphics processor, and had the brightness turned all the way up.

Speed and the Snow Leopard Factor
I installed Snow Leopard about three weeks after I received the system, and I could immediately tell a difference in overall speed, which of course affected my review. Check out my full review of Snow Leopard to learn more, including how it's helping to make many Intel Mac systems faster.

The difference in speed between OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard is remarkable.  I did two tests in the latest version of Final Cut Studio's (3) Compressor.  I took a 33-second clip NTSC (720 x 480, 29.97 frames per second/fps) and converted it to a similar .m2t (MPEG-2 Transport Stream), which I have to convert video clips to at work.  The results:

  • With Mac OS X Leopard: 26 seconds
  • With Snow Leopard: 18 seconds

Other interesting speed results:

  • 39 minutes to install Leopard (clean install after wiping the drive).  Only 439GB of hard drive space was available (out of 500GB). 
  • 26 minutes to install Snow Leopard (clean install) on the system; 485GB of space available.
  • DVD encode in Compressor 3.5.x in Snow Leopard (30 second clip): 22 seconds;
  • DVD encode in Compressor 3.5.x in Leopard (30 second clip): 31 seconds.

Apple does it again with its newest line-up of MacBook Pros, which range in sizes from 13-inch to 17-inch.  If you're debating between a 15-inch and a 17-inch, and you're a video or graphics pro, I highly recommend going with the faster, more powerful 17-inch model, which includes that all-important ExpressCard/34 slot.  The model I tested is a custom and the fastest Apple laptop ever, and retails for around $3,500 to $4,000, depending on the additional add-ons.  It can get a little pricier if you add software, like Final Cut Studio (v. 3) and so on.

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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.

Related Keywords:notebook computer, 17-inch macbook pro, Macintosh

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