2007 MacBook Pro Review


Apple released its second refreshment or Revision C of the MacBook Pro line of professional notebooks in June, 2007, with the latest Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 ("Santa Rosa") processors, some eight months after the Revision B MacBook Pro refresh of October, 2006, which introduced the Core 2 Duo chips. Also new was LED display backlighting on the 15" model, a high-res 1920-by-1200 display option on the 17" MacBook Pro, a 33 percent increase in the memory expansion limit, to a much more practical 4 GB from 3 GB, the latter being awkward on machines that prefer memory pairing, and 2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM is now standard on all models. There is also a new NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processing unit that Apple claims is more than 50 percent faster than the one in the original Core Duo MacBook Pro, and comes with either 128 MB or 256 MB of VRAM. Price points remain the same as with the previous models.


MacBook Pro Model Chart:

17" 2.44GHz

17-inch TFT Display
1680 x 1050 resolution
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2GB memory
160GB hard drive
8x DL SuperDrive
NVIDIA GeForce 8600MGT
256MB SDRAM
Backlit keyboard
Gigabit Ethernet
FireWire 800/400
Digital/analog audio
dual-link DVI video out
ExpressCard/34 slot

$2799

15.4" 2.44GHz

15.4-inch TFT Display
1440x900 resolution
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2GB memory
160GB hard drive
8x DL SuperDrive
NVIDIA GeForce 8600MGT
256MB SDRAM
Backlit keyboard
Gigabit Ethernet
FireWire 800/400
Digital/analog audio
dual-link DVI video out
ExpressCard/34 slot

$2499

15.4" 2.2GHz

15.4-inch TFT Display
1440x900 resolution
2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2GB memory
120GB hard drive
8x DL SuperDrive
NVIDIA GeForce 8600MGT
128MB SDRAM
Backlit keyboard
Gigabit Ethernet
FireWire 800/400
Digital/analog audio
dual-link DVI video out
ExpressCard/34 slot

$1999



2007 MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo

by Charles W. Moore


Apple released its second refreshment or Revision C of the MacBook Pro line of professional notebooks in June, 2007, with the latest Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 ("Santa Rosa") processors, some eight months after the Revision B MacBook Pro refresh of October, 2006, which introduced the Core 2 Duo chips. Also new was LED display backlighting on the 15" model, a high-res 1920-by-1200 display option on the 17" MacBook Pro, a 33 percent increase in the memory expansion limit, to a much more practical 4 GB from 3 GB, the latter being awkward on machines that prefer memory pairing, and 2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM is now standard on all models, (configured in two 1GB SO-DIMMs) of PC2-5300 (667MHz) DDR2 memory filling the MacBook Pro's two SO-DIMM slots, which provides the technical advantage of RAM "pairing," but means that you will need to remove both SO-DIMMs and replace them with 2 GB ones if you want to expand the notebook's RAM capacity to the maximum-supported 4 GB (which will cost you a whopping $750 if you BTO it from Apple, but should be obtainable for a street price of $250 - $300).

There is also a new NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processing unit that Apple claims is more than 50 percent faster than the one in the original Core Duo MacBook Pro, and comes with either 128 MB or 256 MB of VRAM.

The Santa Rosa processor, which sports 4MB of shared L2 cache and an 800 MHz frontside bus (which can be slowed down to 533 MHz to save power), is still being called a Core 2 Duo rather than a Centrino Duo as with Santa Rosa based PC notebooks that include Intel's "Robson" Turbo Memory technology, which incorporates solid state NAND flash memory as a 'smart storage' buffer between system RAM and the hard drive.

Presumably Apple determined that Turbo Memory, which is reportedly optimized for Windows Vista, would not offer enough benefit running under the Mac OS to justify its extra cost, so they opted to go with the basic Santa Rosa chipset and CPU. Perhaps they'll revisit the Turbo Memory feature in the next MacBook Pro revision after OS 10.5 Leopard is on the prowl.

In the meantime, the Santa Rosa chips provide the faster bus speed, the ability to address 4 GB of RAM, and is less power-hungry (and presumably runs cooler).

Along with the new CPUs comes a very modest speed bump from 2.16 GHz to 2.2 GHz on the base 15" MacBook Pro and from 2.33 GHz to 2.4 GHz on the high-end 15-incher and the 17-inch model. Those increases amount to the low single digits percentage-wise, so in and of themselves are nothing to get up in the night and write home about, but should increase performance marginally.

Another specification upgrade is built-in 802.11n wireless networking, which Apple says provides up to five times the performance and twice the range of the 802.11g spec., and the 17" model gets better low frequency response audio speakers.

Internal hard drives of up to 250GB capacity are now supported. The 15" MacBook Pros gets an 8x SuperDrive, and the 15" 2.4GHz MacBook Pro now comes with a 160GB hard drive.

The MacBook Pro form factors remain exactly the same as they have been since the original MacBook Pro introductions in January and March 2006 respectively, and indeed are very little changed since they debuted as the 17" and 15" aluminum PowerBooks back in 2003. However, the design has aged very gracefully, and there would seem to be no compelling reason to change it other than for the sake of change. Remember, Porsche has stuck with the essential 911 form factor for more than 40 years. I can't think of a PC notebook that exudes the charm, understated elegance and tasteful classiness that the MacBook Pros do. Mind you, I would be delighted if the ease of hard drive swapping introduced with the MacBook Pro could be grafted into the MacBook Pro, but I expect we'll have to wait for the next form factor revision for that.

The smaller model comes with a 15.4-inch widescreen at 1440 x 900 resolution, while the 17-incher is equipped with a 17" widescreen at 1680 x 1050 resolution and 300 cd/m2 brightness. Both sizes are available in the customer's choice of matte or glossy screen surface. A new 1920-by-1200 high-resolution display is available as a BTO option on the 17" MacBook Pro.

Price points remain the same, at $1,999 for the "base" 15-incher, $2,499 for the 2.33 GHz 15" model, and $2,799 for the 17" king of the hill. As before, my take is that the $1,999 15" model is a bit of a bargain, the 17" machine a very decent value considering what you get, and the $500 premium you pay for the higher end 15" unit more than a bit steep for 16 MHz more clock speed and an extra gig of RAM.

The new Santa Rosa CPU, NVidia's 8600m GT GPU, and the LED backlighting all use less power than their predecessors, contributing to longer battery life. Santa Rosa's improved power consumption profile increases Apple's projected charge life for the 15-inch MacBook Pro's 60-watt-hour Lithium-polymer battery to six hours, up from the previous model's claimed five hours, while the 68-watt-hour battery in the 17" model now has a theoretical run time of 5.75 hours. None of these optimistic figures is likely to be achieved in real-world conditions..

Returning good stuff includes built-in 10/100/1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), FireWire 800 FireWire 400 ports, a backlit illuminated keyboard, an ambient light sensor, an ExpressCard/34 expansion card slot, a DVI video output to connect up to a 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display, a built-in iSight video camera, and Apple's sudden motion sensor, scrolling trackpad, and MagSafe magnetic AC power adapter connector technologies. Bundled software includes iLife '06 featuring iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, GarageBand and iWeb.

The new 15" MacBook Pro is the industry's first notebook to ship with an LED backlit display, offering the advantages of lower power consumption, increased brightness (and also can dim more without turning off) with more even light distribution, sharper contrast, instant full brightness, won't get dimmer with age, and "greener" mercury-free construction. The 17" model will have to soldier on for a while yet with conventional Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lighting (CCFL) display backlighting until LED illuminated screens become available, but the 17-incher does get a new optional 1920-by-1200 high-resolution display, which provides in excess of 30 percent more screen real estate than the standard 1680-by-1050 display. All the MacBook Pro displays are available in either gloss or matte screen finish versions.

In appearance, there are no changes. Dimensions-wise, here are the specs:

15-inch MacBook Pro, Height: 1.0 inch (2.59 cm), Width: 14.1 inches (35.7 cm), Depth: 9.6 inches (24.3 cm), Weight: 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg) with battery and optical drive installed

17-inch MacBook Pro, Height: 1.0 inch (2.59 cm), Width: 15.4 inches (39.2 cm), Depth: 10.4 inches (26.5 cm), Weight: 6.8 pounds (3.1 kg) with battery and optical drive installed

So, is now a good time to buy a MacBook Pro? Sure! This latest revision adds significant value, especially in the 15" models with the LED backlighting, while holding the existing price points, and it's definitely a step up from the original Core Duo MacBook Pros

On the other hand, if you have a Revision B Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, there's no need to be suffering buyer's remorse. The performance improvements with the latest models are modest, and the specification upgrades, while all welcome, are not in the must-have category. Which begs the question of whether an Apple Certified Refurbished Revision B machine might not be a better buy.

Whichever you choose, with machines like these, it's little wonder that Apple's notebook sales are booming.

MacBook Pro At a Glance

2.2 GHz or 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, 4MB of shared L2 cache, 667MHz Frontside Bus, 2 GB memory expandable up to Up to 4GB, 120GB or 160 GB Serial ATA hard drive, Slot-load 6x or 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) optical drive;, Built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 128MB GDDR3 memory or NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB GDDR3 memory, DVI-out port for external display (VGA-out adapter included, Composite/S-Video out adapter sold separately), Built-in Dual Link support for driving Apple 30-inch Cinema HD Display, built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, ExpressCard/34 expansion card slot, Built-in Gigabit Ethernet, Two or three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, and one FireWire 400 port;, One audio line in and one headphone out port, each supporting optical digital audio, Scrolling TrackPad and illuminated keyboard with ambient light sensor, Infrared Apple Remote, 85 Watt Apple MagSafe Power Adapter.

For more information, visit: http://www.apple.com/macbookpro

MacBook Pro photos: http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/gallery/