15-inch Apple MacBook Pro review

Processor and graphics upgrades for 15-inch MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch review
Apple's 15-inch laptop features a welcome refresh with faster processing and OS X 10.7 Lion

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The new Ivy Bridge processors are quad core Intel Core i7 chips in both 15-inch MacBook Pros. Their Turbo Boost feature means that when processing demands are high, under-used resources can be reallocated to temporarily boost their speeds - temperature and power considerations allowing.

The cheaper of the two new 15-inch MacBook Pros has a 2.3GHz processor that Turbo Boosts up to 3.3GHz.

The high-end regular 15-inch MacBook Pro runs at 2.6GHz, Turbo Boosting to a maximum of 3.6GHz. Order from the Apple Online Store and you can upgrade the higher-specced machine to a 2.7GHz processor that Turbo Boosts up to 3.7GHz.

Apple MacBook Pro 15inch review

All MacBook Pro processors offer Hyper-Threading, whereby two threads can run on each of the processor's cores, giving eight virtual cores on these quad-core chips.

The Ivy Bridge processors have integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipsets, which give an improvement of up to 60% over their predecessor's Intel HD Graphics 3000.

The discrete graphics chip has also been upgraded, an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M with 512MB or 1GB of GDDR5 memory replacing the AMD Radeon HD 6750M or 6770M used by the late 2011 15-inch MacBook Pros.

Apple MacBook Pro 15inch review

The onboard RAM has been given a speed boost too, with 1600MHz DDR3L memory replacing the 1333MHz memory used before. The 2.3GHz model has 4GB off the shelf, which can be upgraded to 8GB on the Apple Online Store, with the 2.6GHz version having 8GB as standard.

Despite not having a Retina display, the regular 15-inch MacBook Pros retain the great screen used by previous generations. It boasts a 1440 x 900 native resolution and extremely good viewing angles.

You can upgrade to a 1680 x 1050 high-resolution glossy or anti-glare display if you wish, but even this doesn't come close to the Retina MacBook Pro's incredible 2880 x 1800 resolution.

Apple MacBook Pro 15inch review

The new 15-inch MacBook Pros have 500GB and 750GB 5400rpm hard drives, respectively. Custom options for both versions include a 750GB drive running at 7200rpm, a 1TB HDD at 5400rpm or solid state drives of 128, 256 and 512GB capacity.

These regular 15-inch notebooks retain their FireWire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet ports, unlike the Retina MacBook Pro, which proved too thin to house them.

There's also a single high-speed Thunderbolt port, an SDXC card slot and two USB ports that, for the first time in a Mac, are USB 3.0.

The built-in 77.5Wh lithium-polymer battery lasts for around seven hours of wireless internet use. The two new 15-inch MacBook Pros measure 2.41 x 36.4 x 24.9cm (0.95 x 14.35 x 9.82 inches) and weigh 2.56kg (5.6lbs).