Verdict

The early 2011 MacBook Pro refresh brought us a single 17-inch model, which has similar specifications to the more expensive of the two 15-inch versions. This is a step up from the previous generation of MacBook Pros, where the 17-inch model matched the middle of three 15-inch notebooks.

Like all the early 2011 releases, this particular MacBook Pro has a new, second-generation Sandy Bridge Core series processor, a powerful AMD discrete graphics chip and a fast, versatile Thunderbolt I/O port.

We liked

The new Sandy Bridge processors are excellent, with a new integrated micro-architecture, upgraded Turbo Boost feature and powerful new processor graphics. The discrete GPU is a great step forward too, as is evidenced by the gaming tests.

The Thunderbolt port could well prove the future of I/O connectivity, and once again, a long-lasting battery gives you around a full day of use on a single charge.

We disliked

We were never going to get a Blu-ray drive, but the DVD drive could and should have been upgraded. At a quid shy of £2,100 it's a lot of money too, regardless of its undoubted quality and performance.

Verdict

The MacBook Pro range takes a great leap forward with the 2011 refresh, and this 17-inch model is no exception. The popular unibody aluminium form factor is retained, but across-the-board component upgrades (SuperDrive excepted) gives it a huge performance improvement over its predecessor.

Apple is wise to spec-match the sole 17-inch model to the top 15-inch MacBook Pro instead of the next one down, and although expensive, the price increase from the mid-2010 refresh is reasonable.