Done for 2009: The Holiday MacBook Pro Roundupby Anand Lal Shimpi on November 10, 2009 12:00 AM EST
- Posted in
Just Pick Your Screen
Very few companies have put together the sort of lineup that Apple has with its MacBook Pro. Apple strives to simplify decisions and ultimately, after you decide whether or not you want a Pro, Apple wants you to be faced with one decision: what size screen do you want.
By making the 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros look and feel as similar as possible, Apple really has simplified the buying process.
Nearly all of the hardware options are available on all of the machines. The larger machines naturally get faster processors as there's more room to dissipate heat, but the starting point is the screen.
Apple's logic is sound. The more work you're going to do, the more desktop real estate you'll want, and thus the larger the machine you'll want. The fastest CPUs and most powerful configurations are offered in the 17-inch model.
The more of a casual user/consumer you are, the less likely it is that you'll need a ton of screen real estate. Which also means that you'll probably not be multitasking as much and won't need CPUs that are quite as fast. The least powerful configuration is in the 13-inch model.
And of course the in between option is the 15-inch which delivers a combination of speed and resolution.
The machines are nearly all the same thickness, the only difference is footprint depending on the screen size. The 13-inch is great from a portability standpoint, but the sub-1" thickness of all of the machines means slipping them into a case isn't a problem regardless of screen size.
Normally the 17-inch version of anything looks and feels huge, but honestly the 17-inch MBP feels like a slightly bigger 15-inch and that's exactly what it is. You obviously get a much higher resolution , but you get to keep a very thin chassis, something we can all appreciate.
From left to right: 13-inch, 15-inch, 17-inch MacBook Pro
Even Apple's default hardware choices make a lot of sense. You pay more for faster processors and larger screens. My biggest complaint, as always, is that Apple doesn't give the entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro enough memory. As you'll see from my benchmark results, 2GB is not enough to do any sort of content creation in OS X. It's fine for browsing the web, but as the entry level "Pro" system it's unacceptable. Many flock to the 13-inch MacBook Pro not because they don't need a bigger screen, but because it's the cheapest way to get into a MacBook Pro. And 2GB is laughable for such a thing.
Personally, while I like the resolution of the 17-inch MacBook Pro, my pick ends up being the 15-inch model. The 13-inch has a higher pixel density but the absolute resolution isn't too low. The 17-inch has the best combination of pixel density and resolution, but it's perhaps a little too dense for my eyes. It's all very Goldie Locks-esque, the 15-inch is just right. The fact that Apple has distilled the decision making process to one of screen size and resolution is admirable. HP has as many models for 17-inch notebooks as Apple has for its entire MacBook Pro line, it's just unnecessary.