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Apple MacBook Pro

Apple returns, with an all-new design MacBook Pro, and it's a looker. But does it have what it takes for value and performance.

The keys don't have much travel and despite a reasonably positive action at the end of each stroke, the short-travel keys don't feel particularly nice under the fingers. It's an improvement on the old MacBook Pro's plasticky keyboard, but it's not up to the high standards set by other 15.4in laptops, such as Dell's superb XPS M1530.

The final moan comes courtesy of the MacBook Pro's frighteningly stingy attempt at connectivity. To keep the clean, pristine lines of the chassis, Apple has grouped all the ports on the laptop's left-hand side. The meagre two USB ports are flanked by one FireWire 800 port, Gigabit Ethernet and a Mini-Displayport. Dell's business-focussed Latitude series was the first to embrace DisplayPort technology, but the Macbook Pro is the first to adopt the Mini-flavoured variety.

Whether Mini-Displayport is a proprietary Apple venture or a forthcoming standard is yet to be seen but, for the user, it means only one thing: if you want to connect an external display you'll need to spend extra on one of Apple's adapters. Single-link DVI or VGA adapters cost 17 apiece, while a dual link DVI adapter costs 59. Bizarrely, Apple doesn't even offer a full-sized Displayport adapter as an option at all.

The rest of the MacBook Pro's specification gives little cause for surprise. Storage comes courtesy of a DVD writer and 250GB hard disk, while on the wireless side of things, Draft-N goes hand in hand with Bluetooth 2.1.

Stylistically, Apple's new MacBook Pro is a success. Or at least it is until you start using it. Within minutes of extracting our box-fresh MacBook Pro from its packaging, the aluminium finish and glossy display bezel were soon covered with smudges and the tell-tale tracks of sweaty palms. It might boast model-looks, but you'll be spending much of your time buffing and polishing it if you want to retain that brand-new sparkly sheen.

The design is matched by a fine performance elsewhere, but it all comes at a daunting price. Ultraportables such as Lenovo's X200 and Sony's VGN-Z11WN/B can match the MacBook Pro's application, if not its gaming performance, and they roundly trounce it when it comes to battery life.

They can also excuse their 1,500-odd price tags by virtue of being ultra-portables, whereas the 2.49kg Apple certainly can't. Essentially, as ever, you're paying a hefty premium for that Apple logo and the slick design that comes with it.

Mac users will already have put their old Macbook Pro up on Ebay and rightly so - it marks a significant improvement on its predecessor - but given the problems we encountered with Windows Vista (poor battery life and no switchable dual graphics chipsets) we'd recommend PC users hold off a little longer before they consider taking the plunge.

Verdict

Apple's given its Macbook Pro a thorough makeover but, for all its charm, it's still overpriced.

Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor Memory: 2GB RAM, Hard disk: 250GB hard disk space Display: 15.4in 1,440 x 900 TFT Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9400M / Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT graphics Connectivity: 802.11abg + draft-n WLAN, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, 0.3mp webcam, Ports: ExpressCard/34, 2 x USB, Mini DisplayPort, OS: Mac OS X Dimensions: 364 x 249 x 24.1mm Weight: 2.48kg (2.98kg) Warranty: 1yr warranty

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