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The Long-Awaited Beast

With this week being big for iPad fans, last week was no-doubt a good week for Macs. The OS X Lion Developer Preview was released, and like I mentioned earlier, there has been plenty of coverage on this release on the internet, so I won’t bother doing any coverage myself. All I can say is that Lion looks to be a very significant update, with not only numerous UI improvements, but also plenty of under-the-hood speed enhancements. If the next release is dramatically different, I will go ahead and do some coverage, as I will be taking advantage of a Developer account soon enough. I must say though, with Lion looking like it will not be the $29 release that Snow Leopard was, the $99 cost for a Develeoper account seems like a good idea (to not only test the upcoming OS, but also to get the final release of the OS at the end of the beta period).

Fastest Notebook on the Market

Let’s get into what everybody wants. Last Thursday, the star of the show was the new MacBook Pros. I received my new machine yesterday, and I can easily say that I am impressed.

Here are the specs of my CTO monster of a machine (these specs are out of the box, and I will be making ongoing changes to certain things, more on that later):

17″ High-Resolution Antiglare

2.2 GHz Quad Core i7

AMD Radeon HD 6750M 1 GB

4 GB 1333 DDR3 RAM

128 GB SSD

Here’s the gallery:

When I received the package, I was actually a little bit uneasy. Having wasted a good deal of time lurking in forums, I’d seen enough people receiving defective machines (dented, scratched screens, sleep issues). My machine came in absolutely pristine condition, with not a scuff in sight, making me a very happy camper. It’s been on for maybe 36 hours already (various setup tasks, battery calibration, etc), and there’s been no hiccup yet. Sleep works fine, it’s all good.

As can be seen in the gallery, I’ve also put on a new Moshi Clearguard for this machine, as to prevent the keyboard from grease-staining right from the start. The Clearguard is the same quality as the one I bought for my MBA, so I’m definitely satisfied with it.

After I booted up the computer I made sure that everything worked, and powered it down again. I immediately got to work and installed the 8 GB of G. Skill RAM I ordered the day before the MBPs were actually unveiled (the RAM only cost $55, which is way too good a deal to pass up). Apple is using Samsung RAM in at least some of its machines, but that makes no difference to me, since it’s just getting swapped out. While I was in there, I did take some pictures of the internals, and while not much has changed from last year’s models, I am upgrading from a late ’08 unibody MacBook Pro. The internals of this machine are way cleaner and seemingly better organized. I also removed the SSD to show that it is indeed a Toshiba SSD. Interestingly enough, this Toshiba SSD physically weighs a lot less than my 160 Intel X25-M. This probably has something to do with the enclosure of the SSD, but it really doesn’t matter.

To clarify, I paid for Apple’s SSD because for once, the drive is quite competitively priced. People keep saying that Apple overcharges and it’s stupid to buy the SSD from Apple. However, if you’re buying any of the high-end MBPs already, the upgrade to the 128 GB SSD is only $90 with a student discount. Even if you factor in the loss of the base drive on those models (which I value at around $60-70 tops), the SSD is still only costing $160 at the most. This makes Apple’s SSD one of the cheapest on the market. Throw in the fact that the SSD is also covered under Apple’s own warranty, the upgrade seemed like a no-brainer.

I’d also like to point out that the new build of SL in the new MBPs actually has TRIM support built in. This may have to do with the new version of the kernel also used here.

With regards to performance, the SSD works pretty well. I can’t see a noticeable difference in speed from my Intel X25-M, but that’s to be expected. At SSD speeds, normal users will no longer see a difference between different SSDs, unless the SSD is being used for a scratch disk.

This is my first 17″, and I am definitely enjoying the amazing screen real estate. With my 11″ MBA serving as my portable machine, the 17″ is a perfect desktop replacement. The machine itself is blazing fast. I won’t get into benchmarks, since those synthetic results mean absolutely nothing to a user. Using Hulu on my old late ’08 2.4 C2D machine, the processor would get cranked up to maybe 30%. With this machine and iStat Menus, I couldn’t even see much activity in the graphs. Each core hit maybe a couple percent of activity, but the computer didn’t even break a sweat.

Something to take note of is the temperature. The machine, overall, seems to run at about the same temperatures as my old C2D machine. This is perfectly acceptable, as I don’t plan on using the machine in my lap. It did hit 60 degrees celsius when playing Flash video on my external display, but that’s expected from the AMD GPU, which performs quite admirably.

I haven’t pushed the machine at all yet, but I will be trying handbrake on this beast over the weekend. I will update this post once I have done so. I will also be sticking the old Optibay back in, with the Intel X25-M for some Windows 7 Gaming. When I get around to doing that I will post the process here.

Overall, this year’s MacBook Pros are probably the biggest upgrade Apple has put into its machines ever. Both the CPU and GPU (at least in the high-end models) have been improved greatly, and it definitely shows. With no Windows machines on the market using these CPUs just yet, for once in a long time, Apple literally has the most powerful notebooks on the market. At all. We will see how the competition responds, but while they may match/beat Apple in specs, I doubt that anyone will be able to match Apple in overall package (design, battery life, etc). The biggest downside of the MacBook Pro is once again price, but if one can afford it, at least this year, a MacBook Pro is the way to go.

Categories: Review
  1. Dale C
    March 18, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Nice pics… nice machine! I’m still waiting to hear about the iMac update before I take my next plunge. I’m getting a bit anxious for that “I just got a brand new computer” feeling. Have a great weekend!

    • March 18, 2011 at 6:30 am

      Sounds good. I will be keeping an eye on any Mac news, and the iMacs are due any day now.

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