Apple MacBook Pro 13—Introduction

Anand has already given the latest Apple MacBook Pro 13 a comprehensive review, but I wanted to give a different take on it: I wanted to evaluate it as a Windows laptop. Oh yeah. Basically, I wanted to take the vaunted MBP and put it in an apples-to-apples comparison with our favorite thin and lights from the PC world. Now, since Anand has already reviewed it, I’m going to gloss over the hardware—if you want an in-depth analysis of the notebook and its features, I point you towards his review.

Here’s my one major problem with the MacBook Pro 13, at least on paper: it’s still running a Core 2 Duo processor. The C2D P8600 debuted as part of the Penryn-3M lineup on June 13, 2008. They’re selling a notebook with a 2 year-old processor for $1199. And that’s just the low end model; the high-end MBP13 SKU costs $1499. Only Apple can get away with pulling a stunt like that; I don’t think the other manufacturers would even dare to try it. By the time Apple updates the MBP line to Sandy Bridge, the P8600 will be nearly three years old.

But other than that wrinkle, I basically love the MacBook Pro. The industrial design is absolutely peerless (except for maybe the original Dell Adamo). The overall aesthetic just seems so cohesive, so well thought out. There’s nary an extraneous button or design element in sight, giving way to a clean, sleek, and elegant notebook that could only come out of Cupertino. The build quality is excellent, definitely one of the most solid notebooks this side of a ThinkPad. The keyboard is one of the best chiclet keyboards out there, and the glass trackpad with two finger scroll is awesome. None of this is new for the MacBook Pro, but it’s still striking to think that this chassis debuted two years ago and there still isn’t a PC notebook that is designed or built on the same level as this. (Yes, we know about the HP Envy and we're still working to get a review unit, but while similar the Envy line still isn't like a MacBook Pro.)

So what is new then, if the processor is from the Stone Ages and the chassis is basically unchanged from before? A faster IGP, a bigger battery, and 4GB of RAM standard (finally!). Let’s start with the new IGP, NVIDIA’s 320M. As Anand detailed in his review, it’s got 48 CUDA cores versus the 16 CUDA cores in the old 9400M, and as such should offer far better performance. In fact, it outdoes the G 310M by a significant amount, but we’ll get to that later. The battery has now been increased in capacity to a sealed-in, 63.5 Wh lithium polymer unit that claims 10 hours of battery life under OS X. We’ve noted that OS X gets better battery life than Windows, so we expect less out of the MBP as a PC, but it should still be pretty competitive. Just how competitive is what we're here to find out.

Apple MacBook Pro 13 - Some Quirks as a PC
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  • yuhong - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    "(And for those people who still cling to the theory that Apple couldn’t fit a third chip onto the board without reducing the battery size or making the notebook larger, that’s nonsense. If ASUS can manage to fit a Core 2010 processor, the chipset, and a dedicated graphics card into a system with similar dimensions to the MBP13 and a 33% larger battery, then Apple could have too. Simple as that.)"
    Do a detailed comparison of the insides of the two, please.
    Reply
  • aniraf - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    The one thing I've always been interested in is comparing the graphical benchmarks from OSX and Windows7 on the same machine. I don't know why I've never seen this done, but it would certainly be an interesting way to determine which OS takes better advantage of the hardware. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I pay no attention to Donutmark and never have. I really respect Anandtech's resistance to it, how they used to never even post it, and now still downplay it and tell you things like "this is worthless, but here it is because some people want it".

    I'm fine with that-if it helps the site, leave the Donutmark stuff in. If not, dump it I guess.
    Reply
  • djcameron - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I had to buy a unibody 13 inch Macbook for a past job. Once the job was over, I set up a minimal OS X partition for updates, and then made Windows 7 Ultimate my primary partition.
    It works great, and I don't miss OS X at all.

    FYI... The obnoxious Delete(really Backspace) key becomes a true Delete key if you hold down the Fn key.
    Reply
  • radium69 - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    I really can't justify that steep price, it's just plain insane.
    I'm buying a tax free MSI GX740 for 1400 USD, and thats with a core I5 460m, 4gig ddr3, 500gb 7200RPM HDD, and a RADEON 5870M! It's 17" but I don't mind!
    It also comes with a 9 cell battery so should be plenty!

    For other stuff where I have NO wallsockets I just use my EEEPC 1000H. Works very well for the basic stuff.

    The only + is the screen that looks good. But why is it good if you need to play everything on ultra low / medium settings. Sure the macbook is more portable, but you can get a lot more bang for the buck.

    Just my 2 cents,
    Reply
  • lorribot - Friday, October 15, 2010 - link

    ......Apple would release OSX in to the wild. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    "The majority of the expense is in higher quality components and build, but my point is that the 15" i5 MBP is only $300 higher than the 2.6 ghz Core 2 Duo MBP 13" and the i5 is between 50% and 100% faster depending on the task."

    johnspierce, what are you smoking?

    Core i5 is at best 20% faster in performance per clock than a C2D Penryn architecture design. So no, there are 0 tasks where a Core i5 will be 50-100% faster than a C2D at the same clock speed.

    And the major reason for a high Mac product pricing is OBVIOUSLY their profit margin. They got all the apple fanatics to believe that their products use "proprietory, specifically selected hardware". Keep in mind EVERY single component inside a MAC other than the motherboard (which everyone who owns a PC knows has 1% impact on performance) is no different than what PCs use. The reason Apple products cost so much $ is because they are:

    1) Customer Service (Apple store is amazing!! the customer service is 2nd to none).
    2) Image (it's a fashion statement; (the younger generation considers them more hip).
    3) Marketing (Apple has outmarketed Microsoft in selling an "easier to use, better, more stable environment").
    4) Design - it's impossible for anyone to deny that Apple products are sexy/contemporary and push design trend boundaries.

    People pay $$$ for all 4 of these first and foremost when they buy an Apple product, with performance, price/performance ratio being almost irrelevant.
    Reply
  • yuhong - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    "They got all the apple fanatics to believe that their products use "proprietory, specifically selected hardware"."
    Which used to be true back in the PowerPC age.
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    "it’s the best chiclet keyboard out there" - great, but how does it compare to a regular laptop keyboard? Reply
  • Klimax - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    I have only onel problem with review. The baterry test. Respectively what where the settings? There are few plans available like balanced and minimal power. Which one was chosen?Where they altered?

    For example,when I alter power level of WiFi I can easkly gain or lose about 50% of battery life and there are more of such options.(like USB suspend ; Link state power mng and min/max processor state along with cooling policy) They all can alter experience and it would be interesting to know how much they can change outcome.
    Reply

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