Apple MacBook Pro 17in Thunderbolt review

The latest 17in MacBook Pro is Apple's most powerful laptop yet thanks to its quad-core Sandy Bridge processor and new Thunderbolt port. But are these enough to justify its high price?

The Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro desktop replacement laptop

IT Pro Verdict

The 17in MacBook Pro is a powerful desktop replacement laptop that's also equipped with a great screen, long battery life, several useful design touches as well as a comfortable keyboard and touch pad too. It's expensive though and the lack of Blu-ray and security features will put off some. It's a niche laptop, but at least it's a good niche laptop.

We don't often review desktop replacement laptops since we don't really see the point of a laptop that's too heavy to actually take anywhere on a regular basis. We decided to take a look at the new 17in 3kg MacBook Pro though as it's not only the first laptop from a major manufacturer to come with a new Intel Sandy Bridge processor, but it's also the first to come with a Thunderbolt port.

Thunderbolt is an exciting new port and cable technology from Intel that could leave USB3 in the dust. We've already taken an in-depth look at Thunderbolt and its potential for both video and storage peripherals is very promising. At the moment though it's of little practical use as there are no Thunderbolt peripherals available, but with Apple including the port on all its MacBook Pro laptops, hopefully it will take off soon.

The Thunderbolt port isn't useless though it's backwards compatible with existing Mini DisplayPort monitors and, using adapters sold separately, HDMI, VGA and DVI-equipped monitors and projectors too. We do wish at least one of these adapters had been included in the box since Mini DisplayPort monitors are fairly rare. There are also three USB2 ports and a FireWire 800 port. There aren't any USB3 ports or a SD card reader, but these can easily be added using the ExpressCard/34 expansion card slot the 17in model is the only one in Apple's laptop range to have this slot.

The 17in MacBook Pro comes with a quad-core 2.2GHz Core i7 2720QM processor and 4GB of RAM. It sped through our benchmarks with a high overall score of 165. It's the fastest laptop we've seen yet so it shouldn't have any trouble handling demanding applications for some to come. The normally whisper-quiet fan did become noticeably louder and part of the aluminium underside did become very warm when our demanding benchmarks were running though.