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Apple MacBook Pro 17in

Apple has finally updated its flagship 17in model with its unibody design. It’s a looker alright but how does it fare for performance and value?

The Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile T9550 processor runs at 2.66GHz and delivered a benchmark result of 1.34, which is excellent. It's more than enough to motor through OS X and demanding design and creative applications.

Like the 15.4in MacBook Pro, the 17in version has two GPUs: an Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT and an lower-power Nvidia 9400M chip for prolonged battery life. The latter isn't up to it but if you want to kick back with some after hours gaming, in our medium-quality 'Crysis' benchmark the 9600M GT scored 22fps; dropping the settings to Low resulted in an eminently-playable 76fps.

The rest of the MacBook's specification, compared to rival machines, seems rather meagre. Comparing with a alternative option a Dell Studio XPS 16 - both offer 4GB of RAM, but the Dell has a 500GB hard disk versus the MacBook Pro's 320GB Fujitsu unit. The Dell also features Blu-ray drives and a memory card reader. The lack of a TPM chip and ISV certification on the Apple may also prove a deal breaker for professionals intending to use the system as a dual-OS workstation laptop.

Battery life is a mixed bag under Vista. Apple's Boot Camp application currently offers no support for the MacBook Pro's twin GPUs, and consequently uses only the higher-power GeForce 9600M GT. The MacBook ran out of steam after a reasonable 4hr 22m, but this figure plummeted to just an hour in our heavy use benchmark.

The results were far more encouraging when we simulated a light use test in Mac OS X, in which the MacBook Pro lasted a minute shy of seven hours, just 61 minutes off Apple's impressive-sounding claim of eight hours battery life. The final, much-discussed caveat is that the battery isn't removable, so the entire system has to be sent back to Apple should any problems crop up.

The latest MacBook Pro comes with a considerable list of pros and cons. The stunning, high-resolution screen, powerful hardware and superb build quality will endear the 17in Apple to those keen on image and video editing, or simply those just looking for a luxurious desktop replacement. Conversely, the keyboard and trackpad are a mite disappointing and the specification isn't as versatile as rival machines. The most prominent challenger is from a Sony VAIO VGN-AW11Z/B. Not only does it offer a larger (if lower-resolution) 18.4in TFT, you also get twice the hard disk capacity, a Blu-ray writer and very similar performance, all for 600 less.

If you're happy spending the best part of 1,700 before VAT on a machine that places style and design ahead of more practical considerations, are a professional user who demands a near-perfect screen with plenty of desktop space, or just have to have MacOS X, the 17in MacBook Pro is a great choice. Be warned, though: your money could go an awful lot further elsewhere if you contemplate life without the iconic logo.

Verdict

There’s no doubting it’s a impressive laptop and for many it may be a dream machine, but the MacBook Pro 17in suffers the usual Apple caveats of offering less hardware for more cash than Windows based rivals.

Processor: 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile T9550

Memory: 4GB 1,066MHz DDR2 RAM

Storage:320GB hard disk, DVD+/-RW

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT and GeForce 9400M

Display: 1,900 x 1,200 17in TFT

Ports: 3 x USB, mini-DisplayPort, ExpressCard/34, FireWire 800

Networking: 802.11a/b/g + draft-n WLAN, Gigabit Ethernet

OS: Apple OS X 10.5 Leopard

Warranty: 1yr warranty

Dimensions: 394 x 268 x 24mm (WDH)

Weight: 2.95kg

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