Apple Macbook Pro (15in, early 2011) notebook

Apple Macbook Pro revew: Apple's 2011 Macbook Pro adds extra processing, graphics grunt and a new connection standard

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Apple Macbook Pro (15in, early 2011)
  • Apple Macbook Pro (15in, early 2011)
  • Apple Macbook Pro (15in, early 2011)
  • Apple Macbook Pro (15in, early 2011)
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Thunderbolt is theoretically an excellent connection standard
  • The extra processing power is noticeable


  • There aren't many other changes to write about
  • We can't do anything with Thunderbolt at the moment

Bottom Line

If you were considering a Macbook Pro recently but held off to see what the model refresh would bring, you might be disappointed. There aren't many innovative updates in the new Macbook Pro -- Thunderbolt is the only one worth writing home about, in our opinion -- but the extra processing power and graphics grunt are welcome. Apple's latest Macbook Pro improves on an already competent design but doesn't stand out significantly from competitors like Sony and Alienware.

Would you buy this?

We compared the latest Macbook Pro to our 15in model from the middle of 2010, which runs a dual-core Intel Core i5-520M at 2.4GHz as well as 8GB of 1066MHz DDR3 and a 320GB 5400rpm hard drive. Our old reliable base-model MBP scored an overall 32-bit GeekBench rank of 4967, with a score of 3828 for processor integer performance, 7359 for floating point performance, 3735 for memory performance and 3051 for memory bandwidth performance.

Unsurprisingly, it was soundly whipped by the new Macbook Pro. The shiny new system pulled together an overall GeekBench rank of 8488, with a processor integer performance score of 7144, floating point performance of 12944, memory performance of 4927, and memory bandwidth performance of 4726. The new notebook averages out to be about 62 per cent faster than the previous base-model configuration.

We ran a couple of benchmarks in Half Life 2, using time demos that we recorded and ran at the 15in Macbook Pro's native resolution of 1440x900 pixels with all graphics set to maximum. The new Macbook Pro recorded an average frame rate of 125.18fps, while the older GeForce GT 330M–based 2010 Macbook Pro managed an average of 65.28fps.

We also put the new Macbook Pro through its paces with a test 3D render using Blender. Our Blender render contender gave a performance to remember, using all its four cores and eight processing threads to render a scene in a flat 20 seconds. The older dual-core Macbook Pro's Intel Core i5 took a comparatively glacial 51 seconds.

Our final test was stressing the new Macbook Pro's CPU to encode 53min of WAV files into Apple Lossless and 192KBps MP3 formats. The quad-core Core i7 blitzed the task, taking only 24 seconds for the Apple Lossless conversion and 30 seconds to create the MP3s. This is noticeably faster than the 32 second and 41 second results of its mid-2010 Core i5 predecessor.

Battery life is effectively unchanged on the new model. Sure, Apple only quotes seven hours of battery life for the updated Macbook Pro, but this testing is using an updated procedure that means the figure isn't directly comparable to the old models' eight to nine hour claim. In our DVD run-down test, where we turn on Wi-Fi and lock screen brightness to maximum, the older model achieved 3 hours and 12 minutes before turning off. The newest incarnation's extra processing efficiency works wonders, with the newest Macbook Pro hitting just over four hours before powering down. This test satisfied us that there is no appreciable hit in battery life as a result of moving to a new CPU and graphics chipset.

Apple Macbook Pro: Conclusion

The one thing that holds the Macbook Pro back from being an easy recommendation is its price. At $2499 it's notably more expensive than a comparable Windows laptop like Dell's latest XPS 15 (L501x) or Latitude E5520, or even a specced-up version of the Sony VAIO SB series. If you're prepared to fork out the extra dollars, you won't be disappointed with its performance. We don't see a compelling reason for owners of recent Macbook Pro models to upgrade, though.

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