Apple’s 45nm Refresh: New MacBook & MacBook Proby Anand Lal Shimpi on February 29, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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The New MacBook Pro
Externally, the new MacBook Pro is no different from its predecessor so I'll refrain from going into great detail about it. Instead I will focus this section mostly on how the Pro differs from its cheaper alternative: the base MacBook. Be sure to check out our teardown of the new MacBook Pro and a closer look at its internals here.
Virtually all Apple notebooks now ship with 2GB of memory standard. Nice.
The MacBook Pro continues to be an all-aluminum chassis with ports on both sides and a slot loading optical drive out front. Unlike the MacBook and MacBook Air, the Pro's display latches to the base and isn't held down using a magnet.
The MacBook Pro (top) vs. the MacBook (bottom)
The larger footprint of the MacBook Pro is noticeable and while it's comfortable to carry around, it's far better suited for sitting on your desk than being constantly carried around and unfolded. It's not quite desktop replacement size (unless you opt for the 17" model) but there's no question that the base MacBook feels more portable, not to mention the Air.
The display on the MacBook Pro is beautiful and is a significant improvement over what’s used in the base model thanks to Apple's use of an IPS panel instead of a TN panel. The result is much better off-angle viewing. I can't stress enough how big of a difference the display makes with the MacBook Pro and is honestly the main reason I would pick it over the regular MacBook as a work machine.
The higher resolution display is a nice advantage of the Pro over the base MacBook (1440 x 900 vs. 1280 x 800). While OS X does an excellent job of window management on cramped laptop displays, there's never a replacement for more pixels and you can simply be more productive on the Pro's display than on the base MacBook's.
The 13" MacBook's 1280 x 800 resolution
The 15" MacBook Pro's 1440 x 900 resolution
The MacBook Pro is cooled by two fans, just like its predecessor. In fact, the entire cooling solution remains unchanged from the previous Pro. Thankfully, due to Penryn’s lower thermal output, the fans shouldn’t have to work as hard as they did in the Merom based MacBook Pros.
My first MacBook Pro was based on the 65nm Yonah design, Intel’s first dual-core mobile chip. That MacBook Pro got far too hot to use on my lap without borderline burning my skin or ruining the potential of having any little Anands running around in the future (scary). The 65nm Merom based Pros improved things considerably, but they were still uncomfortably warm after any real usage. How does the 45nm Pernyn based MacBook Pro stack up?
Honestly, the new MacBook Pro isn’t bad at all when it comes to heat. The base of the system can get warm, but not what I’d consider hot. Penryn’s impact here is definitely a positive one.
Despite not having the unique separated-key keyboard of the base MacBook and the Air, the MacBook Pro’s keyboard is arguably just as good, if not better. The keyboard feels a bit more expensive but I can’t stress enough how both keyboards are definitely among the best I’ve used.
The biggest difference between the MacBook keyboards is the Pro's use of a fiber optic backlit keyboard. Light sensors are hidden beneath the speaker grills on the left and right of the keyboard, in low ambient light the keyboard's backlight will illuminate and help you locate keys. If you use the MacBook Pro as a second system only on the road and aren't necessarily intimately familiar with its keyboard layout, the backlight helps a lot in dark situations like on a plane without being intrusive or waking up neighboring passengers. The Pro's display will also dim/brighten itself based on ambient light, something the base MacBook won't do as it lacks the appropriate light sensors.
The Pro really makes the base MacBook look entry-level, and yes that's my hotel room in the background
The improvement in Exposé and Dashboard performance is very noticeable on the Pro vs. the base MacBook thanks to the Pro's GeForce 8600M GT and larger, dedicated frame buffer.
Even with only five windows on the screen, a full Exposé across all of them is much smoother on the Pro than on the base MacBook with its X3100 integrated graphics. The solution here isn't to demand discrete NVIDIA GPUs on all of Apple's notebooks, but to demand better integrated graphics from Intel. Montevina will bring about a faster graphics core, which may be enough to make Exposé smoother on the MacBook - but if frame buffer access is too slow then no integrated graphics core will really help.
It turns out that Apple really did an excellent job of naming with the MacBook Pro. If you were to ask me which I’d recommend to you, it’d really depend on whether or not you were using the notebook for work. The MacBook Pro really completes the package in a way that the base MacBook doesn’t, and the improved screen is so key if you’re planning on doing any sort of work while seated in a somewhat unusual position (ooo kinky).
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alisonkay2008 - Friday, March 7, 2008 - linkYou can get the best Macbook Pro Case at Macbook Pro Case
alisonkay2008 - Friday, March 7, 2008 - linkSorry... the link didn't work.
JAS - Tuesday, March 4, 2008 - linkFWIW, MacWorld Labs is reporting that the new "entry level" MacBook Pro is about 10% faster than the model it replaces.
On this third year anniversary of my current laptop, I'm headed over to the Apple Store to purchase the 2.4 gHz model. Thanks to Anand for providing his helpful analysis.
brunerd - Tuesday, March 4, 2008 - linkQuick note about the Exposé key and some modifier keys:
If you hold down Command when pressing Exposé (F3) it shows Desktop
If you hold down Control when pressing it, it shows just the App Windows
So you don't have to resort to fn-f12 or fn-f11 to get the above behavior.
Thanks for the write up, nice to know it's running cooler.
louieking - Tuesday, March 4, 2008 - linkI was very disappointed that you did not compare the new Penryn 2.6GHz, 200GB- 7200RPM model with the 2007 Merom 2.6GHz, 200GB- 7200RPM model. I don’t think the tests were comparing apples for apples. I think most people interested in your reviews would have wanted to see the difference in overall performance (processing times, battery life) as it relates to lower voltage demands of the Penryn. This would have shown true comparison in battery performance since I suspect that the Penryn version would out-perform in all tests and still have better battery life by a few minutes. Lastly, I think many folks would have been intrigued with a test that showed Firewire 800 download speeds as it relates to battery life. This is an everyday task that would make a difference for a professional MacBook Pro user.
PS. It’s not too late to WOW the world with your review since you usually beat everyone else to the punch.
Thanks for your insight.
azca - Monday, March 3, 2008 - linkHint: you can use a tiny driver/software to control the frequency of the intel cpus to show better comparison in your charts:
Please, if you can, use this for your next review so that you can have better apple-to-apple comparison.
You can also use the program to undervolt the cpu and hence measure the thermal output and lifespan of battery etc.
Pete248 - Monday, March 3, 2008 - linkWhile the MacBook Pro keyboard isn't bad, I'm really wandering, why Apple didn't switch to the new keyboard they now use in the MacBook, the Air and the external keyboards.
Having tried both side by side, the new keyboard feels more definite than the MacPro keyboard. And its probably less susceptible to dust, crumbs and water - the later killing the MacBook Pro keyboard easily - even in traces.
With a new keyboard I would have pulled the trigger for a purchase, now I'm holding back to see what comes within the next 3 months.
Wolfpup - Monday, March 3, 2008 - linkThe review says Intel's upcoming video would help the Macbook Pro with Blu Ray playback. Presumably that should have said help the Macbook, as the Pro doesn't use integrated video, and has already had a GPU that accelerates Blu Ray playback for most of a year.
[quote]MelCarnahan, 2 hours ago
The author claims Apple picked the right CPU partner in Intel, yet these Intel CPUs could not come close to matching a 32nm Quad Core IBM Cell processor with 2000 MHz FSB. It is disingenuous to compare these Intel egg fryers with a single core PowerPC with a 133MHz FSB. Clearly the Cell processor is superior both in performance and battery life. Only those who wish to use their Yonahs to fry eggs prefer Intel. [/quote]
Is this some kind of joke? If so, I don't get it. There's so much wrong with this post I don't know where to start, and someone else can do a far better job explaining why, but off the top of my head:
Cell is a TERRIBLE general purpose CPU. It gets destroyed by Netburst architecture, let alone Intel's modern CPUs. It's great for specific things, but would be terrible for a computer (and is very questionable for a game system for that matter...)
As far as I know, Intel is a who process ahead of anything Cell is produced on. Geez, the PS3 version is only now hitting 65nm.
I have no idea why Cell would run COOLER. If anything I'd assume the reverse is true, and certainlly it is anyway because AFAIK there's no 45nm Cell (let alone 32nm as claimed).
[quote]The Yonah fans sound distinctly like one of those unarmored Humvees with its muffler blown off. The Merom 2.2 Macbook Pro is an improvement but still far hotter, louder and short-batteried compared to the PowerPC. [/quote]
The Macbook Pro's I've used are dead silent unless they're pushed-but that's a case design issue. I have no idea how they compare to the G4 that was used in terms of the power they use, but I don't think it was much different, and certainly Intel's CPUs would destroy those G4s in terms of power/performance.
MelCarnahan - Monday, March 3, 2008 - linkThe author claims Apple picked the right CPU partner in Intel, yet these Intel CPUs could not come close to matching a 32nm Quad Core IBM Cell processor with 2000 MHz FSB. It is disingenuous to compare these Intel egg fryers with a single core PowerPC with a 133MHz FSB. Clearly the Cell processor is superior both in performance and battery life. Only those who wish to use their Yonahs to fry eggs prefer Intel.
Secondly, Macbook and Macbook Pro keyboards are a disaster. Forget bells and whistles and multitouch. They don't even get the basics right. These are basically what was long derided as cheap chiclet keyboards for many years. The backlighting is frivolous when you consider that even at the dimmest setting, the screen is enough to light up a room. The screen is certainly bright enough to light up both the room and the keyboard. The first and most important requirement of any keyboard is a dedicated, full-size page up and page down key. Second, full-size arrow keys. Even the first TRS-80s got this right and Apple still can't get it right. They could create a feature where you waddle your elbows like a duck while holding up three fingers and bending your knees and then the page scrolls down a page - or they could just include a proper page-up and page-down key.
The Yonah fans sound distinctly like one of those unarmored Humvees with its muffler blown off. The Merom 2.2 Macbook Pro is an improvement but still far hotter, louder and short-batteried compared to the PowerPC.
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hernan1304 - Monday, March 3, 2008 - linkIf you want a custom case made specifically for MB Pro or Air, check out vajacases.com - I've had one of their iPod cases for almost two years and it's been great. Very very very expensive and they take a long time to make but they definitely don't look like generic laptop bags and they hold up. Not affiliated with them in any way, by the way.