MacBook Pro 2011, The Good and the Bad

Like many others, I had been holding my breath for the greatness of the Macbook Pro hoping some of the rumors where true while others were not.
First let’s take a look at the good which would be the obvious inclusion of the Sandy Bridge processor. The Core 2 Duo was aging gracefully, but still needed to be retired only to be replaced by a much speedier i5 offering two generations of performance boost over the Core 2 Duo. The immediate added bonus and probably the second most promoted item would be the inclusion of Light Peak, or as we have now rebranded it, Thunderbolt. With an interface that allows for 10GB of bandwidth across the interface, moving data to an SSD has never been so fast. In fact, I might want to run my games off of the external drive because of the speed. Also a couple of maintstays with the New Macbook Pro are the Firewire 800 port and two USB ports. We have the same Super drive without any mentioning of the BluRay drive at this time. Clearly Apple wants to distance itself from Sony and promote their iTunes store here. All MacBook Pros include an illuminated keyboard which they have for a couple of generations now. The resolution starts with the very familiar 1280×800 and moves upwards. We also include the familiar SD card slot which started with the 2010 generation of MacBook Pros  The one last good thing that I have to mention is that they have bumped up the hard drive capacity to 320 GB by default.  However, if you want to get an SSD, they are by no means any cheaper of an upgrade than they were a year ago.

Now time for what I consider the bad. The Macbook Air 13.3″ laptop has a superior 1440×900 resolution screen that makes me almost want that particluar laptop instead of the 13.3″ MacBook Pro. Also, and I personally hold Intel responsible for this, but the 13.3″ models also suffer from using Intel’s intregrated HD 3000 video card. This is an unfortunate departure from the nVidia chipsets in the last four generations of Macbook Pros. At this time, I have not met an Intel video chipset which I have liked. They are all slow performers and lack the power that I need just for my day to day operations. I may try the latest Macbook and change my mind, but I highly doubt this. I can usually tell when I am running a PC with an Intel graphics chip or an alternative.
Last and this is what I probably consider why I recommend anyone with a current Macbook Pro to stay away from this upgrad is that Apple has slashed the battery life with the new upgrade. They are now 3 hours less than the previous generation. That to me means that I might as well stick with my iPad for the long trips or try getting a different brand of laptop. -See Update.  I currently think a Lenovo Thinkpad T420 has my name on it. As much as I was looking forward to the new releases, Apple has done little to impress me and much to disappoint me.

As for Steve Jobs, please get well soon as I feel your company is beginning to disappoint me.

UPDATE: There was a bit of a misunderstanding on the battery life. Apparently the battery holds the same charge as before and the laptop has the same power draw as before, but the tests were changed.  As noted in a computer shopper review.  The battery life is the same in both 13.3″ laptops.  The new testing is that using the DVD drive during the operation of the laptop while the older test was based on “average” use.  Average use would be something akin to browsing the web or performing other low CPU intensive tasks.   I hope that holds accurate as I would hate to see newer generations of laptops moving towards power draining CPUs again.

6 thoughts on “MacBook Pro 2011, The Good and the Bad”

  1. I think the Sandy Bridge Intel Integrated graphics is nearly as good as an NVIDIA 9600. That means that you have to put in a much better discrete to justify paying extra. Besides, having a switcheable solution is the best of all worlds.

  2. @George
    I would agree with a switchable graphic solution. I am a fan of the Lenovo T410 for using Optimus. I don’t think the GPU needs to be powered on at all times and any measure to save on battery life is great for those long trips.

    I still don’t buy that Intel makes an acceptable integrated graphics chip set. I have had some machines as new as first generation i5 that seemed to be dogged down by operating system use. I would have to try out the HD3000 before I would be convinced. Even then, if I can get a thinner laptop with longer battery life from Lenovo, then I will go with Lenovo. I am waiting to see what their T420 specs out as before I go buying a new laptop.

  3. @Dietrich Schmitz
    Was that really necessary Dietrich? Any CPU that requires a heatsink and fan (anything above 10W TDP) can fry eggs if you don’t cool the chip. The Sandy Bridge CPUs typically range from 15W to 25W TDP which is the norm for mainstream performance laptops. That TDP also includes the GPU power consumption, but the chips can burst above the rated TDP for a brief period of time when the chip dynamically overclocks. This is possible so long as the average power dissipation over time is low enough for the cooling system to handle.

  4. @Dietrich Schmitz
    Not hot at all. Have you actually looked at one? You’ll notice a very clever cooling arrangement routing heat out the back behind the display, far away from any “treasured posessions”. –

    Running Lightroom and CS5 with panoramas stitched from multiple exposures run noticeably faster than the 2010 iteration. The real show stopper is Premiere running 5DMKii content – no comparision.

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