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The MacBook Pro i use for work recently got upgraded. If you remember last week's post on "When should you buy a New Mac?" You'll remember that I had just placed my order at work for the newly introduced MacBook Pro 15" Core i7. Well it arrived last week and I thought I would take a few minutes to share my first impressions.


My Config

8GB RAM, 15.4" Antiglare LED Display, 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 500GB 7200 RPM drive


The Design

There's nothing really new with the design. My last MacBook Pro was the 1st generation uni-body enclosure. So I was already familiar with this design and Apple hasn't really changed it much. They replaced the ExpressCard slot with an SD card reader and I was already mentally prepared for that. Otherwise from a look and feel perspective It feels just like my old one. Don't take that as a knock. There wasn't anything wrong with the design (other than I still prefer the older trackpads with a separate button).


The Display

One of the first things that caught me totally by surprise was that I didn't know that Apple changed the default resolution of the 15.4" display. It's now 1680×1050 as opposed to the old one being 1440×900. Of course the advantage is that you see more on screen and the disadvantage is that everything is smaller. It took about a day to get used to it, now I don't give it a second thought and I do appreciate having more of my documents display without scrolling. However, if you have a hard time reading/seeing small things on screen this could be a problem for you. Sure you can change the resolution, but anything other than the native resolution will be soft unless you use an external display. The one thing I  wasn't crazy about with my last MacBook Pro was the very reflective glossy display. I lived with it and it wasn't the end of the world, but apparently Apple listened to the cries of thousands of photographers and offered an anti-glare option. I went for that option this time around. Right off the bat I could tell I was going to like it better. Not only is it antiglare, but it's also recessed just like the previous aluminum MacBook Pros, which means my 3M privacy screen fits in it nicely again.


It's Quiet

My last MacBook Pro seemed to always be running the fan. Yes, I do lots of processor intensive work, so the fan is on all the time even in this new one, but it's much much quieter than my last one.


The Battery Life is AMAZING!

I never ever ever pay attention to Apple's claims on battery life when it comes to a MacBook. I never pay attention to the claims, because I never get anywhere near what they specify the machine can do. I think my last MacBook Pro was rated at 4-5 hours of battery life. I'm always lucky if I can do 2.5-3 hours. On average it's probably closer to 2 hours. So when I saw the claims on this one doing 8-9 hours on battery I said "yeah right!" Do I get anywhere near that? NO! However, I do get double what I used to get. I can easily go 4 hours or more now on battery and for me that's huge! I haven't even tried any battery conservation techniques. The 4 hours I got was on full regular use, screen as bright as it can be, keyboard light on, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. This means that on a plane, with my battery saving techniques in place, I should easily be able to get 5 hours now. So while 8-9 seems like a pipe dream (at least from my experience), I'll definitely take 5 (maybe 6).


Migrating over

It's always a debate with me to either migrate over from my old Mac or start FRESH with the new one. Starting FRESH is better because you're not bringing over unnecessary baggage and problems from your years of migrating. However, starting fresh takes longer to get everything reinstalled and back to the way you like things. I always seem to bail on starting fresh because usually I don't have the downtime it would take to do so. Once again I migrated…sigh. I used Ethernet to do so figuring that Gigabit Ethernet on both Macs would be faster than Firewire 800. Even so, moving over 350GB's of stuff can take hours and it did (about 4 to be exact). However, everything came over nicely and is up and running. 


The Speed is Awesome!

At the end of the day this update is all about speed for me. One of main reasons I waited till 2010 and didn't go with the 2009 model is because I figured Apple would put the Core i7 processor in the MacBook Pro just like they did in the iMac. I'm glad I waited! Knowing that Adobe Creative Suite 5 was coming and that the move to 64 bit was underway (Photoshop CS5, After Effects CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5 are now all 64 bit), I not only wanted as much RAM as I could get, but I also wanted the fastest processor I could get in a Mac laptop. That's the Core i7 and it doesn't disappoint. Everything is snappier! Here are my Xbench results:

Click the graphics below to enlarge

Here's the results from the the NEW MacBook Pro Core i7


Here are the results from my 2008 MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo


and just for giggles, I ran the same test on my "production machine", my 1st generation Mac Pro (yes, I'm in the market for a new one. Just waiting for the 2010 model)

My new MacBook Pro got a better overall score than my Mac Pro!


The Bottom Line

While this MacBook Pro isn't a revolutionary update over my 2008 model, it has all the right things in it to make the upgrade worthwhile. I try to plan my purchases to get the most out of the latest processor, graphics and RAM improvements. This move was worth the wait.

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34 Responses to MacBook Pro 15″ Core i7 Review

  1. Jpanic4 says:

    Hey, the 1680Γ—1050 is not the default resolution unless you get the anti-glare screen. The default res for the glossy screen is still 1440Γ—900. πŸ™‚

  2. rose says:

    now that bottom line makes me think it worth the wait to upgrade from my g4 laptop and I look forward to it. I wonder thought why does the 17″ have a slower processor than the 15″

  3. […] this article: Terry White Reviews the NEW MacBook Pro 15" Core i7 | MacNews linkscolor = "000000"; highlightscolor = "888888"; backgroundcolor = "FFFFFF"; channel = […]

  4. Marshall says:

    Always nice to get more info on the new Macbook Pros. I was hoping for these same features on the 13″ this time around as I’m a road warrior using photoshop, FCP and other graphics in airports, so the glossy screen doesn’t work for me. I may have to convince myself to lug around the antiglare 15″ model πŸ™

    To give your blog a little more professional appearance, clean up the grammar and typo errors next time. Plus, if you’re going to give us performance specs on current and previous machines (something all readers want) make sure we can read them beforehand. The font sizes just don’t work. Links to separate pages would have been better.

    Still, thanks for the info.

  5. Walt French says:

    Haven’t had the chance to test the battery life yet, but my experience with the 17″ that’s otherwise just the same as yours has me smiling just as much.

    Even more, maybe, since it replaces a Core [non-2] Duo MBP/17. Twice as fast. 4X the max RAM. Almost a pound lighter, 2+ lbs when you consider I no longer carry a spare batt and the power brick is lighter, too. Much sturdier, this uniblock.

    PS: @rose, Intel is offering lots of tweaks to keep power under control; the CPU can speed up for single-thread tasks. The i7 CPU is more efficient in compute/watt than the Core2Duo, and offers 4 threads on its 2 cores, so it can crank quite a bit faster within its power budget.

  6. nowhereman says:

    Terry, how do you find the heat? Gizmodo says it can boil water it get so hot.

  7. Jay says:

    I ordered the same config as you but I also bought separately, the best SSD drive on the market; the OWC Mercury Extreme 200GB drive. Not that’s extreme speeeeeed πŸ™‚

  8. Walt French says:

    @nowhereman, still haven’t gotten mine anywhere near as warm as its predecessor got. I’m sure that you can push the CPU to the limit, maybe especially in BootCamp, and it’ll throttle back when it gets too hot for its — and your! — comfort. Sometimes, you want the CPU running full bore, and the temp control should be built for that.

    Still, I haven’t seen any clear complaint that Apple firmware allows the chip to go outside its design limits. The shots about heat that I saw were kinda vague on how they did it.

  9. nik says:

    I think the running hot all has to do with the automatic graphics card switching. As soon as I read about this feature I thought “great so now the MBP will constantly think the graphics are being used (even if they aren’t) and run the discrete card at all times”. And I think that’s exactly what’s happening.

    It’s not easy to automatically decide on whether or not discrete gfx should be used. In my day to day usage scenarios, it’s in fact impossible. I might be using Photoshop, but I might be on battery and not doing anything CPU intensive. I’ll wait until they introduce an “OFF” button for that.

    Discrete graphics on means more power used, and more heat.

  10. alex says:

    Hi Terry,

    Thanks for sharing. I have one question: IWas just about to get the new macbook pro when i heard rumors about the heat of the new laptops form apple. How is it going for you? Is it getting overheat at all?


  11. Elizabeth Anita says:

    Hi Terry,

    I’m planning to get a 15″ i7 MBP. But I’m still seeking advices of which should I get, the i5 or i7.
    I’m a photographer and designer. I need a laptop because I travel a lot, so I don’t have any other choice.
    I run photoshop, indesign, illustrator (currently at CS4) , freehand, and painter on daily basis. Sometimes I open a few applications at one time, like photoshop+illustrator+itunes+browsers.
    I got an old iMac (not sure what generation it is) but I don’t use it anymore since I got my previous laptop, Alienware M15x. I got all the specs maxed out, and within 1year, it blew up on me due to overheating (even with cooling pad on), and I cannot get it fixed anymore.

    Which do you suggest? The 15″ i7 or the 17″ i5? Or, which one is better for heavy duty? Cos I don’t want an overheating laptop anymore πŸ™

  12. karen bishop says:

    Hi Terry,

    I’m looking to purchase a MacBook Pro 15″ with your configs, except I had a question about the display. I want to install Adobe CS5 Master Collection. An installation requirement for this is a display of “1280 x 900, prefer 1280 x 1024.”
    What does this mean? Would CS5 Master Collection work with your configs?
    Thank you!

  13. Lance says:

    It must be luck that you got the Hi-Res version even if you didn’t order such upgrade πŸ™‚ How’s you battery by the way? Care to share another post about how things are going with your new toy? Thanks!

  14. Julien says:

    Hey Terry,
    nice review man.
    i have the 15″ i7 aswell. 4gb RAM, 7200rpm 500gb drive and the antiglare Hi-Res screen.
    This is a rough review from me
    Thought id let you know that you paid 150 for that antiglare screen, meaning, also says that when choosing the option that you get the 1680×1050 Hi-Res screen aswell. Only the Hi-Res option is 100. last Generation macbook pro had the antiglare for 50 because the Hi-Res option didnt exist. Some people guaranteed would like the antiglare without the Hi-Res due to money but thats probs just apples way to make money πŸ˜‰
    Regarding heat with my machine. Well i could be a lot happier. If im in a skype call (both mine and other persons camera on) then skype uses 100% (from 400%) of my cpu, ie. 1/4 of my cpu. my CPU temp then easily goes up to 70-80Β°C and fans are running at approx. 5500rpm. Which can be very frustrating when having it on your lap or in bed. When i throw 3D renderings at it, which uses all 4 virtual cores 100% then my CPU managed to get to 98Β°C, for some reason it took a while for the fans to kick in. Dont know why it did that. Now comparing this to my girlfriends 2.66Ghz core 2 duo unibody (2. Gen unibody), which runs cooler on average actually, On skype call, again both cameras turned on (mine and hers) her temperature stays at roughly 65Β°C. Also her battery lasts a bit longer when about 1/4 of her cpu is used. However speed wise, it is probably half as quick as mine when playing games and doing 3D Renderings with a program not needing graphics card performance.
    Annoying thing about the automatic graphics switching is that even when using skype the GT 330 m is turned on. This sucks for the battery life. GFX card status application does help here as you can choose the intel only option and everything still runs smoothly.
    My battery life seems better than with you!!! If im typing in pages and slightly using safari, just for information purposes, so no hardcore surfing I do end up with nearly 8h 30 min. :O This I thought was amazing. However as soon as you throw a little bit more stuff at the i7 cpu it seems to suck the electricity. at roughly 1/4 cpu use battery goes down to 3-4 hours. This is still crazy good, any windows user could only dream of this πŸ˜› Playing call of duty MW2 decreased battery life to 1.5 hours, obviously!! its using like 80% of the cpu and discrete graphics.
    The High resolution screen with antiglare is AMAZING!!!! πŸ™‚ so much better then the normal 1440×900 screen. Everything is so much sharper and the colours are more real with the antiglare as the glass makes them stronger than they would be on a printout for example. This is a great advantage when im doing photoshop work, and then print it out. Also there is no stupid reflections πŸ™‚

    All in ll im very impressed by this machine, couple small thing i dont like but otherwise it is i am 100% satisfied:)

  15. Mark says:

    On my second MBP in 5 months. First one died on the bench at genius. Think this one is headed the same way. After 21 years, this may be my last mac. LIght user here but it’s basically a piece of crap.

  16. Vanessa Alves says:

    Hi Terry,
    I’m from Brazil and i’m going to NY in January. I own a Mac Pro Core Duo, and i am wondering… Do apple store upgrade my mac to and i7 and add more memory? Is it worthed? Thank’s!!! I can’t find this info in Brazil!!! Best wishes!

    • Terry White says:

      Hi Vanessa,
      Memory upgrades can be done. Processor upgrades can NOT be done. The only way to get a core i7 MacBook Pro is to buy one with that chip in it.

  17. starinatchaheadbu says:


    Thank you for that info. I have a core 2 duo 17″ 2.8Ghz w/ 500GB @5400RPM. I chose to stick with the 5400RPM b/c it is better for battery life (probably get an hour or two more than the 7200 RPM), and to me having a laptop that is one of the most important things. However, your MacBook Pro with the i7 may be heating up in Skype not only due to the dedicated Graphics being on (which you can keep on integrated only with the gfx controller as you correctly state), but b/c you have a 7200RPM HD. This will add to the heat in your MacBook. I chose to stick with the 5400 RPM for extra battery life, less noise and heat, all of which are more important to me than the slight increase in speed that the 7200 RPM gives you. Now if you have the $$$ to drop on a SSD that is a different story b/c you get the excellent battery life, plus it runs cool and quiet b/c of no moving parts sans the moving part of my hand taking a ton of money from my wallet to get one of these…think I’ll wait on that…$1400 for a 512 GB SSD…no thank you, not now, not ever. Maybe when it comes down to earth.

    I was wondering whether I should upgrade to the i7, but since you provided that wonderful comparison with your gf’s 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo, I think I may stick with my mid 2009 17″ anti-glare at 2.8 GHz with 4GB RAM. I don’t do ANY gaming (I actually can’t see why people do, but hey, it takes different strokes to move the world), but I occasionally do some video production.

    The battery life is great on the 17″ core 2 duo at 2.8 GHz and 4GB RAM. If you don’t shut the computer off (and/or don’t constantly restart it) and keep it on sleep, it seems to last at least 6-7 hours using light applications. This saves some coin on my electricity bill.

    I do have Windows 7 Ultimate Running on BootCamp, and when I use that partition, it is more hot. It is probably due to the dedicated graphics card always being on in Windows. I need to find a way to use only the integrated graphics card in Windows.

    But, for some reason, I still want that darn i7 even though there is a $600 differential b/w my current computer and the 17″ i7, but the 2.8 Core 2 Duo was the last year model of the Core 2 series so maybe I should keep it because the last of every series is usually the best with all the bugs worked out, and the i7 is at the beginning of its life…making a year old come April 2011 (it’s still Jan 2011).

    However, when Apple comes out with OS 10.7 Lion this summer, there will most likely be a significant change to the MacBook Pro line with the introduction of the Sandy Bridge Quad Core Processor according to several Mac Rumors. So being that the current i7 for the 2010 MacBook Pro is only a dual core i7 even with Turbo Boost and Hyperthreading, it’s only 1.5x (50%) faster than a similar clock speed Core 2 Duo which is not THAT much if you think about it. For instance, if it takes a minute for the 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo to render a video in iMovie, the 50% faster speed of the dual core i7 will render it in 45 seconds. This is not THAT amazing. Using the same math, if it takes 60 minutes to import a movie in HandBrake using 2.8 Core 2 Duo, it will take 45 min with the 2.8 GHz dual core i7 MacBook Pro.

    The quad-core MacBook Pro coming out this summer should be 2x faster than the Core 2 Duo. I think I will wait until then to upgrade (if at all). Something that is 2x the speed would be worth it, not 1.5x. I would want something 100% faster not merely 50% faster if I am to upgrade. So I will stick with my 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo for practical reasons even though the allure of seeing a 2.8 Core i7 in my System Preferences is extremely enticing, but it is more enticing to see that $600 in my bank account saved for another day.

    “TIMMY!” – Timmy

  18. TomA says:

    Man, I got a MacBook Pro i7 17″ and have had exactly the opposite thoughts. I hate it. It’s slow as a dog. The Powerbook G4 I had seven years ago was faster. I have spinning cursors on even the simplest tasks. Instant alpha on my 4 year old Core2 was just that–instant. On this piece of crap everything runs slower than the trackpad. I can do two or three instant alphas and then sit back for about ten seconds and watch them happen. It’s not just that, either. In many apps, I can OUT TYPE this dog. I couldn’t out type my SE/30!

    One of these days I am going to throw this damned thing across the room. Unfortunately, my office bought it for me while I was out of the country and I got back after the 30 day return deadline. πŸ™

    I’d avoid the new i7/i5 machines like the plague until Apple gets the bugs worked out of them.

    • Terry White says:

      And you’ve done what to troubleshoot it?
      How about a clean install of the OS and your Apps for starters?
      Trash prefs, boot from a different drive, create a test user account, etc.

      If it’s running that way out of the box without putting your old, migrated system on it then by all means return it as something is seriously wrong. If you’re having these problems after migrating from your previous computer then I would start to look there as the cause.

  19. Teddi says:

    I have always used windows and I am ready to make the switch to Apple. I know I want the Mac Pro 15 inch. I also understand this summer they are changing it and making it better. Should I wait? Then could you try and explain better the difference between the 512 solid state and 500 7200? I do understand it has no moving parts but that’s about all I understand. I guess think blond.

  20. Lacy says:

    Looking to purchase the Macbook pro 15″ core i7 2.66 ghz. Not sure which option to purchase – the 500gb/5400 rmp or the 500gb/7200 rpm? Concerned about the heat, and also vibration and noise. Running the creative suite – all programs. Have you had problems with vibration and noise with your 7200?

  21. Lacy says:

    Do you notice vibration and noise? That does concern me.

  22. Julien says:

    When im in my room, and there is no other ambient noise, then i certainly notice the extra noise from the 7200rpm drive πŸ™ the vibrations are much higher. I can deal with, i do lots of copying from the MBP to other drives, and the other way round, the extra speed is awesome, there is around a 30mb/s difference to the 5400rpm drive :). The extra noise wouldn’t make me keep the 5400 rpm. All tough at times I miss the near silent operation of macs, i don’t like hearing or feeling vibrations πŸ˜€

    —>Quoiting Teddy: I have always used windows and I am ready to make the switch to Apple. I know I want the Mac Pro 15 inch. I also understand this summer they are changing it and making it better. Should I wait? Then could you try and explain better the difference between the 512 solid state and 500 7200? I do understand it has no moving parts but that’s about all I understand. I guess think blond.<—-

    Lots of differences. SSD use essentially flash memory. It is sooooooo many times quicker then tradition HDD's (7200rpm drive = max 90mb/s, good SATA II SSD = 220 – 300mb/s). you will see your system boot in like 20seconds or less compared to like 45-60 secs. Normal usage will be faster, ie. opening applications, savings things etc. No movable parts ( thus no vibrations, no noise), far less electricity consumption so a better battery life, much more durable then normal HDDs (it would fail when it gets severe bum from dropping it, SSDs also have a lot bigger life span.
    SSD's are definitely worth it, but i wouldn't spend 1400 on it (512gb). get a 7200rpm drive, make sure you backup your data, and upgrade to a 512gb SSD in like a year or two.

  23. Julien says:

    @ TomA

    you might have a runaway application. Check your activity monitor, choose all processes in the bar at the top right. Sometimes an application hogs one cpu core which makes your MBP feel terribly slow if the system tries using this core. Quit the process if there is one.