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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  • Baron Fel - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Why didnt you mention the 15" HP Envy? It beats the MBP in everything but battery life... Reply
  • solipsism - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    There is a distinct difference in these machines. For starters, these MBPS have been out many months and won’t be getting an update until after the holidays. If your focus is solely on a Clarksdale quad-core processor.

    Note that it doesn’t beat the nearly half-a-year old 15” MBP in a lot of areas. It’s nearly 10% thicker, only has a 6-cell battery, while not having an optical drive. I hope that the MBPs come without an optical drive in favour of the OS being installed on a SD Card, but Apple isn’t HP with dozens of machines with the same display size. Apple still runs like a boutique shop so when they commit to removing the optical drive to run a Core i7 quad-core it’ll be for all their 15” notebooks.
    Reply
  • far327 - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Apple equals proprietary gayness!! Design is great. Quality is stellar, but Apple is GAY!!! Reply
  • aapocketz - Thursday, November 12, 2009 - link

    I like apples line of laptops, they seem quite well built, though I don't really see a huge benefit of unibody design, I think my ancient ibm laptop is just as nice. I don't really love the glossy screens either. Overall they are nice.

    apple has some impressive engineering and decent innovation capabilities but their closed and protected platform and general company philosophy is disturbing to someone who relies on and enjoys the openness of hardware and software platforms.

    Consider apple disabling support for Atom cpus in the newest OS updates, ostensibly to prevent homebrewers from using the OS on their own hardware like netbooks. Man I certainly don't love Microsoft, but we would be way worse off if Apple dominated the market. I am fine with them as long as they only want that single bite of the apple though.

    I like choice and flexibility, and apple computers tightly integrated platform may be a good choice, as long as its not my only choice.
    Reply
  • robco - Thursday, November 12, 2009 - link

    You have to see on in person to understand why the unibody design has benefits. While still being less than an inch thin, the MacBooks are incredibly rigid. Little flex at all. They feel rock solid. I do agree that the ThinkPads are nice and solid too. If I hadn't gotten a MBP, a ThinkPad was my second choice. You can now custom order the 15 and 17" models with a matte display.

    I find OS X to be a nice compromise. I like Linux, but it's not always easy to find good software. A lot of FOSS runs under OS X. There's also virtualization to run Linux alongside OS X. A friend who does web development loves the fact that he can run Office, Eclipse, Apache, Tomcat and MySQL all on the same machine easily.

    As for dominating the market, I don't think that's Apple's goal - unlike Microsoft. Apple seems pretty happy with their market segment overall. They're raking in a lot of money.

    I like my Mac and it's a solid machine. That being said, I'm hardly a fanboy. There are certain circumstances where people should get a Windows machine. As far as Atom support, Apple never supported Atom in the first place, I don't see why they should be expected to provide it or continue providing it. AFAIK, OS X uses some of the optimizations in the Core and Core 2 Duo chips that aren't present in the Atom.
    Reply
  • setzer - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Okay, this is just a supposition because I don't have an actual macbook to test, but I would bet the reason OSx provides so much better battery values is because Apple is running the cpus at a much lower voltage than the defaults, ie, what is here: http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Pentium_M_undervolti...">http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Pentium_M_undervolti...

    this does make a difference in battery longevity and by default windows doesn't undervolt processors.
    Reply
  • blufire - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    I believe it may have more to do with napping and shutting down components more frequently/aggressively.. Reply
  • araczynski - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    the macs are starting to smell like pc's now, incompatibilities all over the place. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    ...so you'd think that with less hardware to code for, that they'd get it right! Reply
  • tuskers - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    At the Mac coverage at this time and place. As a long-time reader of Anandtech, this feels completely out of place from "coverage" and more non-topical than anything I've ever read here, before. We've seen the Macbook Pro reviews already.

    My guess is that this has to do with one (or more) of three things:
    - Anand has turned into the "Mac person" who needs to justify his fanboi-ism.
    - There's too little tech news in the holiday season, so this is a classic "fluff" piece, that was easy to write.
    - Apple paid the site to publish said fluff piece.

    Regardless, journalistically, this is one of the worst pieces I've seen here.
    - Failure to analyze the market from a "competitors to Apple" sense. Dell and HP's "representatives" aren't competing with Apple with their mainstream products; instead, they're competing against each other. They're competing on low price to justify expenses with corporations. Most corporations don't care if a laptop is slightly thicker. Instead, pick laptops that are trying to out-Apple Apple, like the Envy or Adamo; Asus and MSI also offer intriguing competition and increasing market shares. Rather than looking at it as "Apple is a mainstream computer maker with 15% of the market", realize that the more true statement is "Apple is dominant in a high-priced niche market which doesn't focus on computing power, here is how it compares to other products competing for that market."
    - Exaggeration of differences. The highlighted weight of the 15" MBP is within rounding error of the compared model! And in marketing specs instead of actual product weights, no less.
    - Focusing on the battery so much without mentioning that other laptop brands only have to pack a replacement battery to achieve longer battery life. Yes, maintenance is a little more difficult, but you aren't making an honest comparison given that the unibody Macs discarded this functionality.
    - A token "please get SSDs to work properly!" plea, without research. Does the "Mac Edition" OCZ Vertex work or not? It's true that OCZ has admitted it as marketing hype, but the least you could do is expose it. You even go so far as to say that some people might be happy to know that random combinations might work-- because people have SSDs lying around.
    - I'm amazed a commenter put together the "Flash is 32-bit, so of course it runs slowly talking to 64-bit Safari" before Anand did.
    - Blanket statements without truth to them. For instance, the claim that 1920x1200 screen in the 17" is not "bigger than anything else on the market". You simply need to select an Alienware model at Dell's site (a competitive price range for the MBP 17", no less). And then, Anand complains that the pixels are too dense-- a common complaint, which is why Dell offers more 1080p screens instead. I own an Inspiron with a 1920x1200 screen that I bought several years ago. They aren't an Apple monopoly because Apple's the only one that can do it. This whole scenario is worse than simple marketing hype.

    I'll leave it there, I'm sure I could find more though. I expect better from this site, Anand!
    Reply

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