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


View All Comments

  • SmCaudata - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Edit: I meant ASUS Laptop. Reply
  • JimmyJimmington - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Do people really buy 17 inch laptops? I could never justify spending that much money on something I can't even take to school. Might as well build an amazing desktop... And then use the leftover money to buy a great laptop... Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Not many of us would shell out $2500 for one but many of us would for 1/3 the price with similar if not better specs. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Can we have a roundup of the following machines


    That would make everything fair.
  • Zak - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    Not everyone can afford an SSD, SSDs offered by Apple as BTO are crap and overpriced, and a fast 7200rpm HD does make a difference.

  • Zak - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    " Apple figures someone who wants such a big machine will probably have some fast external storage to connect to it..." And still no SATA? BTW, the screen on the 17" is indeed amazing.

  • mschira - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    I like the logic you draw with the heavy load test.
    So that all makes sense.
    Some other thing:
    Did you check battery time on a Hackintosh?
    Like an Acer Timeline get's up to 7 hours on Win7, what can it get when we make it a Hackintosh?
  • CharonPDX - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    You compare the 17" to an HP and a Dell, which are both monsters. (But, they are nearly 1/3 the price, for noticeably more CPU power.)

    You compare the 13" to a Dell that is slightly larger. (Compare to the HP Envy 13; then you'll get a definitive Apple win, as the HP costs more than a 13" MBP.)

    But you don't do the obvious comparison: 15" MacBook Pro to HP Envy 15.

    I think the MacBook Pro would lose out instantly in this comparison. It is what the 15" MacBook Pro *SHOULD* be right now.

    For the 17"? You dismiss the Dell and HP as being too big. Yet they both cost less than $1200. And HP offers an identically-sized model that throws in a 1080 screen and Blu-ray player for $1300. For that matter, you can completely max out the HP's specs (fastest mobile Core i7, 8 GB RAM, dual 500 GB hard drives, Blu-ray writer, etc,) before it becomes more expensive than the MacBook Pro. (And then, by only $50.) I'm sorry, but it's not worth the massive loss in features (or $1000, if you take the 'stock' 1080/Blu-ray HP,) to save 1.1 lbs.
  • ChuckyP83 - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    I think you are missing the point of the article. Comparing a one piece aluminum vault of a laptop to a flimsy, plasticky, lowest-cost-built Dell (or HP or whoever) just doesn't work just on specs buddy. Nobody knows how to build a laptop as solidly as Apple. That is a fact you CANNOT argue (I think Apple patented their manufacturing technique). Apples don't compete on price and specs because the ways they surpass the average PC competition aren't easily quantifiable. Not sure why I am even replying to this guy.... Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - link

    That is subjective. I have many dell laptops and they aren't cheap. I have my 17" with me as a backpack hiking weight in China and it still works afterward. Granted the Macbook quality might be a bit better but when people like you said it in your way you make it out as though Dell or HP has horrible quality build, that the laptop wouldn't last being carrying around, that a drop would kill it, etc. Unless you don't know how to lug around a laptop the build quality is the least of your concern.

    The bottom line is that most of us are fine with the build quality of Dell, HPs, Acer, etc. But some people don't mind spending A LOT more to have nicer metal pieces and looks. Seriously in the end what would you prefer, function or style?

    You're too much of a Apple fanboy. Thank God no one builds laptop, or in more general terms hardware, like Apple. I won't even go into the details of their greatness here. Their hardware is not perfect as you know. Knowing this and claiming no one does it better than they do is fan-boyish.

    Apple doesn't have a patent on manufacturing techniques. If they did it would be a very specific process that is not covered by countless generations of manufacturing processes. They could, like Intel, put a freeze on the process to prevent any changes. But this has severe advantages and disadvantages.

    "Apples don't compete on price and specs because the ways they surpass the average PC competition aren't easily quantifiable. Not sure why I am even replying to this guy.... "

    Who else besides me thinks these sentences is a load of BS? Please respond to this user if you do. Apple don't compete in price and spec because lets see...they are the only ones selling them and thus can dictate the prices? They surpass the average PC competition so they can do whatever they want because the user wouldn't be able to quantify the reasons? O.o

    To be honest, I'm not even sure why I'M responding to your post. It's so lame, riddled with false facts it's not even funny. Urgh.

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