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Apple MacBook Pro (MC723B/A) 15.4 in. (MC723LLA) Notebook
The computer's 15.4" display features a LED backlight and a glossy finish. Its 1440 x 900 native resolution gives you ample... Read More
The computer's 15.4" display features a LED backlight and a glossy finish. Its 1440 x 900 native resolution gives you ample screen real estate with which to work. You'll be able to output to an external display at up to 2560 x 1600 via Thunderbolt. Any Mini DisplayPort LCD will plug-in without the need for an adapter. If you have a display with DVI, VGA, or HDMI input, you'll only need to purchase an adapter cable for connection. Minimize
6 Reviews from Epinions.com
Feb 28, 2011
Super High End 15" MacBook Pro
Pros: Fastest CPU available, Radeon 6750M, 750GB HDD, battery life, high res antiglare display
Cons: Expensive, heavy, hard drive stutters/pauses
The Bottom Line:
Has the potential to be a great gaming rig that can also run MacOSX for your iMovie itch.
When I bought my first Apple MacBook, I bought it because the price was very good. You can read my story here. I figured I can finally see what the Mac world was like. Of course, I found myself not really using it for much. I surfed the net, installed a few programs, and dabbled in some of the iLife programs. Curious, I actually built a "Hackintosh", which is a PC that can run Mac OSX. My gaming rig doubled as a Mac Pro workstation, allowing me to render movies quicker with iMovie.
It was then I fell in love with iMovie. It was easy to use, and the results were excellent! I seem to want to find new movie editing projects, so it spawned a whole new video me. I am now on YouTube, and have a blog site. It was fun!
The problem with a Hackintosh is that it is finicky. I just so happened to have the right hardware to make everything work like a real Mac Pro, and I loved it. However, when it came time to upgrade to a better video card, I found that the Mac side of things didn't like it. Since it was primarily a gaming PC, I decided it was time to leave the Mac world and let it be used as it was intended: to play Call of Duty and hopefully the up-coming Duke Nukem Forever.
So now this leaves me with a underpowered Macbook to do all my iMovie projects. Editing movies wasn't so bad (so long as I have a real mouse instead of using the crappy trackpad). Some effects took longer to render on the fly while editing. The real issue was rendering the final output. It took longer than usual, though surprisingly not as long as I thought it should (iMovie doesn't take advantage of more than 2 CPUs). So appearently, I am limited by the clock speed of the CPU, not the number of cores.
When Apple refreshed their MacBook Pro line for 2011, I was impressed by the huge upgrade the 13 inch models got. of course, it's easy to impress when they weren't upgraded from last time. They were still sporting Core 2 Duo CPUs when their larger sibblings were using the Core i5/i7 (Nehalem) CPUs. So now that they are getting a CPU upgrade, they jumped two Intel CPU generations, and now using the 2nd Gen core i5/i7 (Sandy Bridge). The GPU is arguably the same performance (gone from the nVidia 9400M to the integrated Intel HD 3000).
I really did wanted to get the 13 inch MBP, but there was one thing that stopped me: Apple did not use the higher resolution 13" screen from the MacBook Air. The screen was left with last 2 year's 1200x800 resolution. I had the MacBook from last year that also had the same 13" 1200x800 resolution, and while it's fine for web surfing, it was not enough for iMovie. Everything seems cramped. An option for 1440x900 would have made the 13 inch MacBook Pro the perfect Apple laptop for me, including the price point.
I was forced to make a decision of either compromising on the low resolution, or go for broke and get the 15 inch model with the better graphics and higher 1680x1050 resolution. I decided to go for broke. To make up for it, I am now selling both my gaming laptop (had a 8600M GT video) and my 13 inch white MacBook.
My justification? I figured I mind as well have one premium built laptop to rule them all. Mac OSX to satisfy my iMovie itch, and Boot Camp with Windows for my gaming itch. Now, if only I can get someone to buy my two laptops on eBay to cover my current expense...
The packaging is just like the old MacBook I had. The box is smaller than what I expected a laptop box should be. It was packed in exactly the same way as last year's MacBook. As stated before, not as spectacular like their first or second gen iPod (seems like Apple is getting less and less creative with the packaging now), but still different enough from your HPs an Dells.
Again, you get the OS DVD and Applications DVD (Mac OS X 10.6.6), an 85W MagSafe power supply, as well as an 3-prong extention cord. I'm not sure why Apple decided to use a 3-prong plug since they don't even use the ground (it's only 2 prongs on the adapter). This limits us to searching for 3-prong outlets when it is clearly not technically neccessary.
You also get a good sized booklet for instructions, a microfiber cloth, and Apple logo stickers.
Intel Core i7 2.3 GHz (Quad Core /w Hyperthreading)
4 Cores, 8 Threads
4GB (2x 2GB) 1333MHz PC3-10600 DDR3
Intel HD 3000 (Integrated)
AMD Mobile Radeon 6750M /w dedicated 1GB GDDR5 RAM
750GB 5400 RPM
Internal slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD recorder)
2x USB 2.0
1x Firewire 800
1x Ethernet (Gigabit)
1x headphone/optical out
1x mic in
1x infrared sensor
AirPort Extreme 802.11b/g/n (Broadcom chipset)
Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.6
Apple MacBook Pro 15.4" MC723LL/A
This year's MacBook Pro looks and feel like last year's model. In fact, it seem to use the exact same chassis still. As with the other aluminium unibody MacBooks, it is heavier than it looks! It's not so bad for the 15 inch frame, but the 13 inch version is very surprising. It has all of the ports on the left side, while the right only has the slot-loading Super Drive (DVD recorder).
The left side is the most interesting because of the ports. The MagSafe power connector, Ethernet (1 Gbit), FireWire 800, mini DVI which is also the Thunderbolt port, 2 USB 2.0, SDHC card reader, and audio in/out ports (headphones/line-in). The headphone jack doubles as an optical audio out jack. Visually, it looks the same as last year's model, since the new Thunderbolt port shares the same port as the mini DVI out.
The ports are too closely spaced, and I am still disapointed that there are still only 2 USB ports. To add to this, they are not the new faster USB 3.0.
There is also a button with a series of LEDs to check your current battery charge capacity without turning your laptop on. This is the same as on the white MacBook, but since the battery is not removable, it's on the side of the laptop instead of being on the battery itself.
The aluminium chassis feel real good. The texture feels like brushed aluminium, and feels sturdy. Even the lid is harder to twist compared to other plastic laptop lids. As you close it, there is more resistance towards the closed position until it snaps closed completely. There are no latches, and Apple provides a notch for you to get your finger underneath the lid to pull it back open.
The keyboard is much improved from the plastic MacBook I had earlier. It is less mushy feeling, though it's still softer than other laptops. It provides just enough feedback to satisfy a good typing session (such as writing this review). It still isn't a very good keyboard for Windows, since you're still missing keys such as DEL, Print Scrn, PgUp/PgDn, etc. Overall, it is an improvement over the white MacBook. The MacBook Pro features a back-lit keyboard as well. There is a light sensor that determin your abimient light and adjust both the keyboard and screen brightness accordingly. Perhaps the aluminium helps with making the keyboard feel sturdier.
The multitouch glass trackpad is a huge improvement over the MacBook I had before. The glass with a nice texture is smooth and will probably keep the smooth gliding surface longer. There is no button, as the entire pad clicks when pushed down. It actually pivots from the top, so I find it easier to click towards the bottom than the top. The multitouch glass trackpad is much like the Apple Magic Trackpad I reviewed earlier. It's perfect for the Mac OSX, giving you many more finger gestures that feel natural after a couple of uses. For example, 4 finger swipe up, and you can temporarily clear the screen of windows to get to your desktop. 4 finger swipe down, and you get the usual Expose view.
In Windows under Boot Camp, the trackpad seem way too sensitive, especially with 2-finger scrolling. There are 3rd party drivers that can help, but it requires another applet to run in the background. It's not a very satisfying solution. For some reason, Apple hasn't gotten the mousing feel or physics right in Windows. Maybe it was done on purpose.
Either way, neither OSes are set to tap-to-click by default. Coming from a PC, I find that annoying. Thankfully, it can be set up to do so.
The MagSafe power connector still uses a strong magnet to hold the connector to the body of the laptop so if you trip over the cord, it just disconnects instead of drapping the laptop to the ground. However, it is now oriented in a 90 degree angle so the cable goes straight back or forward (depending on how you connect it). It's definately more convienent, but I already have my workspace set up to deal with the older style plug. Not a huge deal, and I can see how it can be beneficial. There is still a LED that lights up orange when charging, and green when done.
The MacBook Pro 15" comes with a glossy screen with 1440x900 resolution as standard, but you can also choose a higher resolution dislay (1680x1050) for another $100, or the same high resolution with an antiglare display (non-glossy) for $150. I really liked the glossy screen, but after seeing the antiglare version, I changed my mind. Plus, if you want to buy from the Apple Store, the only MacBook Pro 15" they have with the high resolution monitor is the antiglare version.
Since I was going all out, I mind as well get the higest resolution display possible, and I didn't regret it. The extra workspace provided by the higher resolution is a god send. Being able to work with multiple windows is much easier. Also, it doesn't feel so cramped when using iMovie. The screen itself gets very bright at the highest setting. It can also get very dark without actually turning the backlight completely off. The brightness range is so large, you should have no trouble adjusting it just the way you like it.
Even with the antiglare coating, the display is very crisp and seem to help with color presentation. Blacks aren't as black as on a glossy screen, but that's ok. It's not that bad. It's the small trade-off to have a screen that doesn't reflect like a mirror.
Apple no longer calls their webcam iSight anymore. Instead, it is now called FaceTime HD. It's not just a name change (though, I think it mostly is). The new webcam is now a higher resolution (2MP vs the 640x480 resolution before), but it's mostly a name change to coincide with their new FaceTime application, which allows you to video chat with people on Macs, as well as iDevices such as the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch. For the most part, it works. Image quality is only slightly better than the one on my old MacBook. It's still very webcam-quality, but the images capture have less noise than my previous MacBook.
The built-in mic is still pretty good. It's located right next to the camera as usual. I'm still surprised at how well it picks up my voice from 2-3 feet away. You can actually hold a Skype, FaceTime, or iChat conversation without a headset in a pinch! It does pick up background noise as well, so you'll want to be in a quiet room. It is omnidirectional, so it picks up everything.
The speakers are located on the top side, flanking both sides of the keyboard. It doesn't sound as full as the MacBook, which ironically has the speakers in the rear, relying on the bottom part of the display to bounce sound back to you. This reflected sound actually sound better. It's probably because the larger surface it is bouncing from gives the mids and lower frequencies some way of manifesting themselves. With speakers directly firing towards your ears, you get the direct sharp sound waves, so there is more of the high frequencies. Mids were present, but again, seem overshadowed by the highs. There was no bass presense, unfortunately. I was actually disapointed at the sound on the MacBook Pro vs the plastic white MacBook.
So finally, my impression of this laptop. Well, it's a metal MacBook Pro. It feels very solid, but at the same time, pretty heavy. It's actually pretty thin for the kind of power it holds. The Intel Core i7 2.3 GHz is actually the Intel Core i7-2820QM, which is a true quad-core CPU with Hyperthreading, so it can handle 8 threads in one cycle. It has a Max Turbo Frequency of 3.4 GHz, which means if only a single core is being taxed heavily, the CPU can clock itself to 3.4GHz, giving you more performance without going over the power/heat envelope set by Intel.
Again, the keyboard and trackpad feels very nice and solid. It feels very much like a premium product. It is suppose to switch between the integreated video and the AMD Radeon 6750M on the fly to save battery when the GPU isn't heavily taxed.
Performance is relatively quick, although I've experienced some pauses when multitasking, especially when there is a decent amount of disk I/O. Perhaps the 750GB HDD is to blame. It's no lightning fast SSD afterall. This is also appearent in Windows.
The dedicated GPU is excellent for gaming. I was a bit worried there for a bit, but it is at least 2 to 3 times faster than my old gaming laptop that was sporting an nVidia GeForce 8600M GT. It completely trounces the Macook's GeForce 9400M by more than 6 times! All courtesy of FutureMark's 3DMark Vantage. I could not run Call of Duty: Black Ops very smoothly on my old GF 8600M laptop at the resolution of 1440x900 (the native screen resolution). However, at a higher native resolution (1680x1050), the Radeon 6750M was able to keep the framerates high enough to be playable, even on high settings. I am impressed, and relieved. I can now get rid of my gaming laptop and just play on my MacBook Pro.
When the CPU was fully taxed (used Handbrake to transcode videos), all of the cores (real and virutal) were showing almost 100%, and it got very hot. Do NOT use this on your lap when you're doing some really CPU intensive work!
I hate laptops larger than 13 inches, and I still wish Apple made a 1440x900 display an option on the 13 inch model. However, because the high resolution was more important, the 15 inch with the high resolution display upgrade made hauling the 15 inch mass worth while.
This will not be the laptop I will be hauling everywhere, though. It will now serve mainly as a gaming laptop (running Windows of course), and some light iMovie projects in Mac OSX. I still have my 11.6" Acer Timeline for travel and for surfing in the living room.
The high resolution anti-glare display is very nice for video editing, and I'm just a novice at it. I'm sure professionals would absoultely thrive on it. The GPU is perfect for gaming in Windows, although I wonder what you'd need it for in the Mac OS environment.
I was actually shocked to see a 750GB HDD, even though it only spins at 5400 RPMs. I didn't know 2.5" drives have gotten so big! I'm glad, too, since I was able to split the drive in half for Windows. I figured I need a lot of space for Mac OSX because I'd be working on lots of large video files, but I would also need an equally large amount for Steam and other games in Windows. Still, having a rotating hard drive, especially at 5400 RPMs, affects the overall impression of speed - or at least the lack of it. Every so often, no matter what OS I was in, there are long periods of pausing due to large hard drive I/Os.
Apple claims 7 hours of use, and under the right conditions, I could verify their claims. At the lowest brightness setting, the keyboard backlight turned off, and just surfing the internet and other light-use over WIFI, I as able to get more or less 7 hours. In Windows 7, the same light-use only garnered 4.5 hours. Windows doesn't seem to be optimized for the Macs (or maybe it's the other way around). I experienced the same battery shortcoming with Windows on my previous MacBook.
7 hours of use on a 15 inch laptop is nothing short of amazing. Even with Windows 7 lasting around 4.5 hours, it's actually on par with other 15 inch PCs, except this one has a good GPU under the hood. It could be that the AMD GPU doesn't switch off under Windows to save power, but that's just my speculation.
I'm glad battery life is good because it is not user replacable like the old MacBook.
Apple is a strange animal. We all know how much Apple hate users mucking with their products. They are hardcore in stumping attempts with jailbreaking iDevices, and they even replaced the standard Phillips screws with their own "Pentalobe" screws. So it was a surprise to see that the screws under the MacBook Pro are standard Phillips screws. The entire bottom of the laptop comes off like a huge plate.
Once inside, you will find the hard drive and memory easily accessible. The battery is held in place with odd tri-shaped screws, however. I guess Apple doesn't mind users upgrading their hard drive and memory, but does not want us to touch the battery at all.
I am still wondering if my purchase was a smart choice. It's a very expensive laptop, but it is also a very powerful one. It's also a "large" laptop for me, since I value portability. Again, what I really want was a MBP 13" with a 1440x900 resolution display, but since they didn't have it, I decided to go for broke and bought the best 15" model they had with a high resolution display. Again, to justify buying it, I am selling my 2009 white 13" MacBook and my dedicated gaming laptop, which is also a 15" like this MBP.
It's definately faster than my old gaming laptop, but it also only cost $1400 when new. I can imagine that I could get a faster gaming laptop than the MacBook Pro for half the price, but I was very drawn to the build quality and aluminium feel. Yes, it's the Apple tax, folks.
In the end, it will play my games for the next year or so before I will feel the need to upgrade (or with a laptop, replace). Yikes, I think I just have buyers remorse after writing all this...
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