Apple MacBook Pro Winter 2011 review: Apple MacBook Pro Winter 2011

To be sure, once more systems with these new Intel processors hit the streets, the competitive gap will close up significantly, but for now, this is the fastest laptop we've tested.

The switch from Nvidia to AMD in the graphics department came as a surprise. The AMD Radeon HD 6750M in our review unit is one of the better GPUs you can cram into a laptop right now. The less-expensive base-model 15-inch version of the MacBook Pro includes a still-good Radeon 6490M. As with the last generation of MacBook Pros, the discrete graphics automatically share the workload with the integrated Intel graphics as needed, saving battery life as you go.

Mac gaming, no matter what anyone says, is still a pretty fallow field, with many big games still available only for Windows systems. Fortunately, one of our most anticipated upcoming releases, Dragon Age II, will be Mac-compatible. Civilization V is another recent high-end game that will run on OS X. In our older Modern Warfare Mac gaming benchmark, we got 51.8 frames per second at a 1,440x900-pixel resolution with high quality settings, which was significantly better than the 34.5fps we got with the Nvidia GeForce 330M in last year's 15-inch MacBook Pro (but when we turned the graphics settings down to medium, the two GPUs were much more similar).

Juice box
Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Avg watts/hour
Off (60%) 0.27
Sleep (10%) 0.8
Idle (25%) 6.58
Load (05%) 75.59
Raw kWh number 49.64
Annual energy cost $5.63

Annual power consumption cost
Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 Sandy Bridge 15.4-inch - 2.2GHz
$5.63 
Dell XPS 15
$6.38 
Alienware M15x
$15.67 

For once, our battery life score actually exceeded a manufacturer's estimate. Apple says the system should run for 7 hours on average, and in our video playback battery drain test, it ran for 7 hours and 5 minutes. That's about an hour longer than last year's model, even with all the new, powerful hardware inside.

Service and support from Apple has always been a bit of a mixed bag. Apple includes a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, but only 90 days of telephone support. Upgrading to a full three-year plan under AppleCare will cost an extra $349 ($100 more than for the 13-inch MacBook Pro) and is pretty much a must-buy, considering the proprietary nature of Apple products and their sealed bodies. Support is also accessible through a well-stocked online knowledge base, video tutorials, and e-mail with customer service, or through in-person visits to Apple's retail store Genius Bars, which, in our personal experience, have always been fairly efficient, frustration-free encounters.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 Sandy Bridge 15.4-inch - 2.2GHz
130 
Dell XPS 15
669 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 Sandy Bridge 15.4-inch - 2.2GHz
63 
Dell XPS 15
105 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 Sandy Bridge 15.4-inch - 2.2GHz
90 
Dell XPS 15
140 

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro - Core i7 Sandy Bridge 15.4-inch - 2.2GHz
425 
Dell XPS 15
146 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Apple MacBook Pro (2011) 2.2GHz Core i7 quad-core, 15.4 inch
OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard; Intel Core i7 2.2GHz; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6750M / 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Dell XPS 15
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 M460; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB NVIDIA GeForce 420M + 64MB(Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Acer Aspire 5742G-7200
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 M460; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 420M; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Apple MacBook Pro (2010) Core i7 M620 15.4 inch - 2.66GHz
OS X 10.6.2 Snow Leopard; Intel Core i7 M620 2.66GHz; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce GT 330M + 256MB Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Alienware M15x
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-920XM; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb. 24, 2011
  • Operating System Apple MacOS X 10.6
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Weight 5.5 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD±RW (±R DL) - fixed
  • Graphics Processor AMD Radeon HD 6750M / Intel HD Graphics 3000 - 1 GB GDDR5 SDRAM
  • CPU Intel Core i7 2.2 GHz
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