15-inch Apple MacBook Pro review

Processor and graphics upgrades for 15-inch MacBook Pro

TODO alt text

In our benchmarking tests of the cheaper 2.3GHz new 15-inch MacBook Pro, the upgraded processors and graphics proved their worth.

Even comparing the cheaper 2.3GHz MacBook Pro of 2012 with the more expensive 2.4GHz version from the late 2011 refresh, we see the 2012 MacBook Pro has a significant edge in gaming.

The late 2011 MacBook Pro ran Doom 3 at 184.7 frames a second, and Call of Duty 4 at 86.7fps, but the newly refreshed cheaper 15-inch MacBook Pro managed 189.0fps and 87.5fps, respectively.

Apple MacBook Pro 15inch review

In our Cinebench test, which rates the Mac's rendering capabilities, the new notebook scored 18395, up 16.5% on its more expensive predecessor's score.

A feature the MacBook Pros have enjoyed for some time is automatic graphics switching. Instead of having to open a preference pane and set the notebook's graphical capabilities to Better Performance (so using the discrete graphics chip) or Better Battery Life (using the integrated graphics chipset), this is now achieved on the fly, with no user intervention required.

When graphical needs are low, the integrated chipset is used to save the battery. When more graphical power is needed, graphics processing automatically switches to the discrete chip.

Apple MacBook Pro 15inch review

The take-up of USB 3.0 in PCs means USB 3.0 peripherals such as external hard drives are common. Its adoption in the new MacBook Pros is extremely welcome, especially because the faster-still Thunderbolt protocol has been slow to catch on, and is proving expensive.

USB 3.0 can carry up to 4.8GB/s, which is 10 times faster than USB 2.0's 480MB/s. It's backwards-compatible with the older USB standard, so your USB 2.0 peripherals still work with the new MacBook Pros.

Although 2.56kg is a far from outrageous weight for a 15-inch notebook, Mac users have been spoiled by the ultra-portable MacBook Air and tantalised by the thinner, lighter 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Apple MacBook Pro 15inch review

The regular 15-inch MacBook Pros aren't heavy compared to other laptops of a similar size, but if you plan to carry one around a lot, or for long distances, it might be worth considering dropping a little power and a few features and buying a 13-inch MacBook Pro, or spending a little more and getting the Retina model.

The MacBook Pros have surprisingly good audio, with stereo speakers housed under grilles to the left and right of the keyboard. No notebook will ever put in an audiophile performance, but playing music through your 15-inch MacBook Pro's internal speakers isn't as excruciating as you might expect. Bass response is reasonable, and they have a decent amount of volume.

Like all Macs, the new 15-inch MacBook Pros come supplied with the latest version of OS X and the iLife suite. New Macs purchased before the release of Mountain Lion in July 2012 get a free upgrade.