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Apple MacBook Pro (15 inch) review: Apple MacBook Pro (15 inch, Summer 2012)

Sarah Tew/CNET

The actual application performance was modestly improved, mirroring what we saw in Windows laptops that switched to Ivy Bridge. If you get the $2,199 base model Retina MacBook Pro, you'll get the same chip, and essentially the same performance, with some minor improvement in some tests thanks to the Retina Pro's solid-state hard drive.

There's been a big switch in graphics from last year, however. A new Nvidia GeForce 650M replaces last year's AMD Radeon HD 6750M. In our admittedly dated Call of Duty 4 Mac gaming benchmark, we got 69.6 frames per second at the native 1,440x900-pixel resolution, which was much better than last year's 41.3 frames per second. Of course, we'd expect that from a newer, faster processor and video card. The GPU here is the 512MB version of the 650M. You can get a 1GB version, but only with the more expensive 15-inch Pro base model.

Juice box
Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-inch (Summer 2012) Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.28
Sleep (10 percent) 0.68
Idle (25 percent) 9.93
Load (5 percent) 54.77
Raw kWh 47.80
Annual energy cost $5.43

No big improvements to battery life were expected with the move to Intel's latest generation of CPUs, and this model's run time of 6 hours and 54 minutes in our video playback battery drain test is exactly the same result as last year's Pro (which was similar to the iteration before that). It's also about what you'll get from either the 15-inch Retina Pro or the 13-inch Pro. We've settled into a comfortable level of battery life with MacBook Pro laptops. It's impressive, but I'm looking forward to moving the goal posts again for the next generation.

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 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 personal experience, and as heard from others, is generally a frustration-free experience.

This revision to the 15-inch MacBook Pro looks minor from the outside, with nothing new to report designwise. But inside, sure, there are new Intel CPUs, but the Nvidia graphics and USB 3.0 may be a bigger deal. I've previously called this the most universally useful laptop you can buy. That title now has to be split with the Retina version, and honestly, if you buy this, there may always be a twinge of remorse that you didn't make the jump to the Retina model, budgets be damned.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Annual energy consumption cost
Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-inch (Summer 2012)

Benchmark testing by Julie Rivera.

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