And The Story Begins

Traditionally the notebooks with the largest screens are the least attractive, have the worst battery life and are heavy. They're also usually cheaper than their smaller brethren to give people a reason to buy them.

Take a look at what Dell and HP offer with a 17-inch screensize:

17.3-inch Notebooks Dell Studio 17 HP Pavillion dv7t Quad Edition
CPU Intel Core i7 720QM (1.6GHz, up to 2.8GHz Turbo) Intel Core i7 720QM (1.6GHz, up to 2.8GHz Turbo)
Memory 4GB DDR3-1066 4GB DDR3-1066
HDD 250GB 7200RPM 320GB 7200RPM
Video ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 230M 1GB
Optical Drive 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R
Screen Resolution 1600 x 900 1600 x 900
Battery 9-cell 85Whr 8-cell ??WHr
Dimensions (W x D x H) 16.28" x 11.04" x 1.1" - 1.54" 16.2" x 10.9" x 1.37" - 1.70"
Weight 7.08 lbs (6-cell battery) 7.74 lbs
Price $1099 $1069.99

 

In both cases you're looking at over 1" thick at the thinnest point, and in the case of the HP system it goes up to 1.7" thick. Both machines start at 7 lbs and don't offer higher than 1080p resolutions. In fact, all the larger screen is useful for is reducing DPI as you can get the same resolution screen in 15-inch and 16" models. The hardware is usually fast and affordable, both machines cost less than $1000.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro is a bit different.

At 0.98" thick, it's only 0.03" thicker than the 13-inch or 15-inch MacBook Pro. And that's a constant thickness from front to back. The impact on how it feels is tremendous. It's the first 17-inch notebook I've used that doesn't make me want to laugh at first sight. It honestly just looks and feels like a slightly bigger 15-inch machine.

17.3-inch Notebooks Apple 17-inch MacBook Pro HP Pavillion dv7t Quad Edition
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 720QM (1.6GHz, up to 2.8GHz Turbo)
Memory 4GB DDR3-1066 4GB DDR3-1066
HDD 500GB 5400RPM 320GB 7200RPM
Video NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (integrated) + NVIDIA GeForce 9600M 512MB (discrete) NVIDIA GeForce GT 230M 1GB
Optical Drive 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R
Screen Resolution 1920 x 1200 1600 x 900
Battery 95Whr 8-cell ??WHr
Dimensions (W x D x H) 15.47" x 10.51" x 0.98" 16.2" x 10.9" x 1.37" - 1.70"
Weight 6.6 lbs 7.74 lbs
Price $2499 $1069.99

 

It’s also Apple’s most expensive notebook. Starting at $2499, it’s more expensive than the 27” iMac and doesn’t even come with a quad-core processor. You’re paying for the screen size, as you can get the same hardware in the 15” MacBook Pro.

The added size is used for one purpose: a higher screen resolution. Apple offers a single display option with the 17-inch machine: a native 1920 x 1200 panel. It's a 16:10 aspect ratio panel, measuring 17-inch on the diagonal, resulting in a pixel density of 133.2 pixels per inch (PPI).

17.3-inch Notebooks Pixels per Inch
Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro 113.5
Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro 101.6
Apple 17-inch MacBook Pro 133.2
Apple 27-inch iMac 108.8
Apple 30-inch Cinema Display 101.6
15-inch 1080p Panel 141.2

 

That’s more than a 30” display. That's more than the 27" iMac. That's more than any other 17-inch notebook on the market today. Only the 15-inch 1080p panels offer a higher pixel density at 141.2 PPI. It's sharp.

Apple makes the 17-inch MacBook Pro very work-focused, you get a ton of desktop space in a package that's honestly not bulky. I can't stress how pleasant it is to carry around; at a constant thickness of less than 1" it really feels a lot smaller than it is. It's the only 17-inch notebook I'd be willing to take with me.


From left to right: 13-inch, 15-inch, 17-inch MacBook Pro. Note the constant height.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro was the first to use Apple's integrated batteries out of necessity. Apple wanted to build a slim, attractive 17-inch MacBook Pro, and cutting down on battery volume enabled that. A side effect was that the 17-inch model has impressive battery life.

Paired with a 95Whr battery, Apple promised up to 8 hours of battery life - a realistically attainable figure as you'll soon see.

From a hardware perspective the 17” isn’t that much different from the rest of the lineup. The system starts with a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M chipset, adds a separate GeForce 9600M for GPU intensive workloads (3D games, OpenCL apps, etc...) and gives you the option of either a 2.8GHz or 3.06GHz 45nm Core 2 Duo with a 6MB L2 cache. The vast majority of users will find the 9400M is sufficient for their needs. And paired with Snow Leopard, the 9600M in the off state doesn’t sap as much battery power as it did under Leopard.

The machine starts with 4GB of memory, expandable up to 8, and comes with a 500GB 5400RPM SATA drive. SSDs are still only optional from Apple.

The 17” system doesn’t come with an integrated SD card reader but it is the only MacBook Pro to ship with an ExpressCard/34 slot.


From left to right: Power input, Ethernet, FireWire 800, 3 USB, Mini DisplayPort, Line In, Headphone Out, ExpressCard/34

Mini DisplayPort is the only way to connect to an external display, and unfortunately Apple cheeps out and doesn't supply any adapters with the machine. With a 17-inch 1920 x 1200 panel, you'll probably be fine without one though.

About the only thing that the machine is missing is Nehalem, but that won't come until next year.


From left to right: 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro

The 17” MacBook Pro started a new trend within Apple. Integrate the battery, offer longer battery life and no one will complain. The technology soon waterfalled down to the 15” and 13” models.

Index Swap the Pro Out for Some Flavor
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  • sprockkets - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    While in general their stuff just works better with OSX for the general public, and this issue will never affect any of them, still, this issue, plus the stupidity of having unlocked iphones legally purchased in other countries lose their ability to teather and other stuff makes for a big disconnect.

    They didn't handle the SATA issue well at all, and the efi update didn't help either when there was no easy downgrade option.
    Reply
  • martinw - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Not really news, it's just the way Apple works, particularly towards developers. For some reason they do not admit to faults, they just go away and fix the problem in a future version. Not ideal from a developer angle as I'd prefer to get an acknowledgment that something is definitely wrong and that it will be addressed, but at least the problems do get fixed eventually. Reply
  • windspast - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I was a bit disappointed with this article. In a technological website, an article like this with many pages only spent ONE single page on the actual TECH. This article only spent ONE PAGE talking about the spec and it wasn't even any comparison on how fast (or slow) this computer is. For a technological website, this article only talked about things that didn't matter.

    When it comes to comparing Mac and DELL or HP, the rest of it is irrelevant. Design is purely objective. I don't care if the MacBookPro is thinner by a tiny little bit. It's not that big of a deal. 2 pounds worth of difference? WHO CARES. I buy a computer for the power that it offers, not whether or not it's thin enough to be a coaster.

    I don't care if the DELL is one or two pounds heavier if it cost half as much and is twice as fast. I don't care if the MacbookPro has a "stylish" design. I think it's plain and boring looking. I don't care if it has a longer battery life. That's not important to me. I want POWER out of my machines without having to sell a kidney to buy one.

    This is a TECH website, not a style website. I bet if you spend one second showing how much the i7 blows the core 2 duo out of the water, none of the other stuff will even matter.

    Mac isn't a BMW or a Lexus or a Cadillac.

    Mac is a beat up Honda with a new paint job and a higher price tag.
    Reply
  • jhl654321 - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

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  • roxyland - Thursday, April 15, 2010 - link

    Anand, while the rest of your article seems like a very objective analysis, I couldn't agree less with your comment "virtually anything you can do in OS X can be done in Windows 7"...

    I don't even want to touch on the subject on UI capabilities on each platfrom, where it all comes down to user preference, but if you were more than the average desktop user, OSX give you all the power and flexibility of UNIX via a shell. It wouldn't even be fair to compare the far limited command line utility available on Windows to a UNIX shell.

    Anyone with experience on either linux or any flavour of unix will tell you how invaluable this is for more serious work on an OS. On these terms Windows 7 is still more comparable to "buying a car with it's hood welded shut".
    Reply

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