With most of the attention from Apple's hardware refresh event centered around iOS 6 and the new Retina MacBook Pro, the updated 2012 edition of the regular MacBook Pro has flown a little bit under the radar. Basically, it’s just an Ivy Bridge-infused version of the venerable unibody MacBook Pro chassis that we’ve known and loved for the last few years. The details don’t bring any particularly earth-shattering revelations, with 13” retaining the dual-core processor and integrated graphics, while the 15” makes the switch from AMD to Nvidia’s new Kepler-based GT 650M dedicated graphics. Along with Ivy Bridge, the 2012 MBP line gets HD 4000 graphics and USB 3.0 across the board, plus a free update to Mountain Lion when it releases later this summer. Naturally, it doesn’t generate the same kind of excitement that the all-new, all-awesome Retina MacBook Pro does. But is a less headline-worthy computer necessarily a worse one?

It’s pretty difficult to find things to write about the 2012 MacBook Pro hardware. You can essentially sum it up in one paragraph, or even one sentence if you try hard enough. The 2012 MBP looks exactly like the 2011 MBP, which looked exactly like the 2010 MBP, which looked exactly like the post-April 2009 MBP. It’s likely to be the last iteration of the original unibody MBP, giving this body style a 4.5 year run as one of the most instantly recognizable notebook computers on the market. I’m not going to go too far in depth with analyzing the design, because we’ve gone over it a few times over the years (here, here, here, here, here, and here. Oh and here too, just for good measure.)

It’s a solid notebook, that much is certain. From an SKU standpoint, Apple has kept things relatively straightforward, with a high end and a low end for both the 13” and 15” models. Starting at $1199, the MBP13 comes with a 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M, 4GB DDR3, and a 500GB HDD, while the higher end SKU bumps that to a 2.9GHz i5-3520M, 8GB DDR3, a 750GB HDD, and a $1499 pricetag. Other than the updated processor/integrated graphics and the addition of USB 3.0, the 13” is identical to the previous model that we covered in depth last year.

The 15” is a bit more interesting. The base $1799 SKU comes with a quad-core i7-3615QM (2.3GHz) and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M dGPU, but makes do with a paltry 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive. The standard memory and storage configuration in a nearly-$2000 notebook is pretty unacceptable. This being Apple, upgrade pricing is still a hair away from being highway robbery, but at least the matte WSXGA+ screen upgrade costs a reasonable $100. Thankfully, unlike the rMBP and MacBook Air, you can always opt to buy RAM and storage upgrades on your own.

2012 MacBook Pro Lineup Comparison
  15-inch Mid 2012 MacBook Pro MacBook Pro with Retina Display
Dimensions 0.95 H x 14.35 W x 9.82" D 0.71 H x 14.13 W x 9.73" D
Weight 5.6 lbs (2.54 kg) 4.46 lbs (2.02 kg)
CPU Core i7-3615QM Core i7-3720QM Core i7-3615QM
L3 Cache 6MB 6MB 6MB
Base CPU Clock 2.3GHz 2.6GHz 2.3GHz
Max CPU Turbo 3.3GHz 3.6GHz 3.3GHz
GPU Intel HD 4000 + NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
GPU Memory 512MB GDDR5 1GB GDDR5
System Memory 4GB DDR3-1600 8GB DDR3-1600 8GB DDR3L-1600
Primary Storage 500GB 5400RPM HDD 750GB 5400RPM HDD 256GB SSD
Optical Drive Y Y N
Display Size 15.4-inches
Display Resolution 1440 x 900 2880 x 1800
Thunderbolt Ports 1 2
USB Ports 2 x USB 3.0
Other Ports 1 x Firewire 800, 1 x Audio Line in, 1 x Audio Line out, SDXC reader, Kensington Lock slot SDXC reader, HDMI out, headphone out
Battery Capacity 77.5 Wh 95 Wh
Price $1799 $2199 $2199

The unit we’re looking at here is the high-end 15” SKU, with a 2.6GHz i7-3720QM and a 1GB version of the GT 650M, plus 8GB memory and a 750GB HDD. It rings up at $2199, which interestingly is the same as the base rMBP (i7-3615QM/8GB/256GB SSD/1GB GT 650M). I’m mostly certain that it’s not the configuration to get - you’re better served by getting a base 2.3GHz 15”, adding the $100 high-res screen, and grabbing a 256GB SSD (~$250) and an 8GB RAM upgrade (~$50) separately from Newegg or Amazon. Boom. You spend roughly the same $400, depending on your SSD choice (I would go Samsung SSD 830), and end up with a system with a better screen that’s faster in most day to day situations. Unless you have a really specific need for the extra 512MB vRAM or 300MHz clock speed increase, I’d recommend against it.

Performance and Battery Life - Ivy Bridge and Kepler At Work.
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  • snajk138 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Well, the graphics in the MBP is faster when it comes to games and such, but the NVS is a professional grade card that is tuned for reliability in CAD/CAM applications and the like. Not really comparable to the consumer grade card in the mac.

    And you are mistaking perceived quality for actual quality. The MBP is one of the best when it comes to the perceived quality but it doesn't hold a candle to (real) thinkpads when it comes to actual quality. Iv'e dropped thinkpads on a concrete floor, spilled coffee in them and really just abused the hell out of them and I've still haven't had one break before their time. Try that with any mac and you'll see the difference between perceived quality and actual quality.

    I'm not saying that a MBP is a bad choice. I mean, it is thin, light and the performance isn't bad, and a lot of people seem to think they look nice in spite of the dated aluminium design. But a lot of people prioritize differently.
    Reply
  • Malih - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    yeppp, a macbook is a brick once you spill liquid over it, for most people that have them. Reply
  • pmhparis - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    So, for the 0.01% of the people who need to perform CAD/CAM work on it the Lenovo is better. Good to know.

    As for build quality, It'd be nice if the series of lenovo's my company gave me that I
    passed of to my son would have been able to withstand the same level of abuse that my daughters MBP got. The Lenovos broke. The MBP just got dented for whet seemed to me to be worse treartment. I had to get the Lenovo's replaced 3 times but the MBP is still running solidly.

    I think your "percieved" is an artifact.
    Reply
  • dartox - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    i've dropped my macbook pro several times, on hardwood here and the tile floors of india with no damage to the screen, just scratches and scuffs on the unibody casing. don't underestimate the build quality of a macbook pro. not to mention that non-unibody computers can have the casing compromised and parts start to come apart after drops. the "roll cage" is only good for saving the screen if you're lucky (and it's not perfect either). Reply
  • The0ne - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    I whole heartily agree with you. Most members here have this perceived quality about Macs, Apple products in general, that they can't seem to think beyond it. The main reason for this perception is inexperience and, for some, ignorance. I should state that ignorance is from the lack of not knowing because you were too young, never read about it, never researched, etc. I don't mean it to be condescending. The other is because of personal, very subjective opinions such as your laptop, usually PC in this case, breaking down first before your Mac.

    Thinkpads are great industrial laptops and can stand whatever force you put on them. That is really why they are so popular. If you haven't used them you don't know how valuable they really are, more so than any review can do for you imo.

    Having said that though, the sheer amount of cheaply priced laptops nowadays should be avoided at all cost. They are horrendously made and it would be worthwhile for you to spend a little more for a good quality build laptop. If Mac makes you feel good and safe owing it by all means own one, just know that there are laptops on the PC side that are very very well made for professionals, especially for those that travel often.

    The MBP is good product and I absolutely love the retina display but for the price it is very difficult for me to make a purchase for myself or have reasons enough to persuade the company to consider them.

    Lastly, I agree that Mac reviews here are really left alone without comparisons to Windows counterparts. Whatever the case may be, it is the same for Windows base laptop reviews with the difference you have choices on the Windows side to actually have comparisons between them. This is the key difference in the reviews. While acceptable the way Anandtech does the Mac reviews, they are in some ways very limiting. You basically just have a review/update of a product with no choices to consider. As someone already said, when you consider a Mac you want a Mac and will get a Mac. There's no other choices when you dive in the Mac side.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    It seems other have responded before my post went live about the quality of MBP and thinkpads. Again, comparing what your daughters does to a thinkpad and MBP is ludicrous. You don't know what each has gone through to be broken with. Here's what you should be looking for when you shop, the tests and facts.

    Thinkpads are tested and qualified to sustain damage, to a certain high degree. I don't know about the MBP and whether it goes through the same types of test so I can't say much (my ignorance here). I've done my share of destructive testing on products and I don't doubt the MBP has gone through some. But these thinkpads are sturdy and are made to be that way.

    When you're making comparisons that is what you should be looking for, not making irrelevant justifications because your kids, your wife or the dog can break your windows laptop quicker than your Mac. That's just insane.
    Reply
  • Super56K - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    So you say: "When you're making comparisons that is what you should be looking for, not making irrelevant justifications..."

    And you even began your initial post critiquing others on "perceived quality about Macs."

    But, aren't you yourself doing that? You say you don't know what kind of testing they go through, but that doesn't stop you from indirectly hinting that they're not durable. Seems like very contradictory reasoning.
    Reply
  • snajk138 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    The Thinkpads go through MIL-SPEC tests for use in field and vehicle semi-ruggedized computing environments such as in public safety, utilities, construction and the military. That is why they are used by the military, by NASA in space and so forth. Macs don't go hrough that kind of testing and therefore are not used in those types of environments. Reply
  • joelypolly - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Well the Thinkpad is 1.25~1.40" thick and heavier than the 15" MBP. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    The GPU in that Thinkpad is much slower, plus you're also getting less storage. This is before we get into things like trackpad and keyboard quality, magsafe, an OS optimized for laptops, etc etc Reply

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