Hardware

Review: Apple MacBook Pro 13 inch notebook

Apple's 13" MacBook Pro laptop sets new standards for industry design and performance in a mobile PC. IT consultant Erik Eckel explains.

Apple's 13" MacBook Pro laptop sets new standards for industry design and performance in a mobile PC. With integrated gigabit Ethernet, wireless-N networking, potent graphics capability and a highly secure native OS, I think Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro is the best pound-for-pound laptop available.

Specifications

  • Processor: 2.26GHz or 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • RAM: 2GB or 4GB 1066MHz DDR3
  • Video: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB DDR3 SDRAM Shared
  • Screen: 13.3-inch LED-backlit glossy widescreen (1280x800)
  • Storage: 160GB or 250GB 5400RPM SATA, optional 320GB SATA, 500GB SATA, 128GB Solid State or 256GB Solid State
  • Optical Drive: 8x Slot-Load SuperDrive
  • Dimensions: 12.78" x 8.94" x .95", 4.5lbs
  • OS: Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard
  • Price: Start at $1,199
  • More Info: Apple MacBook Pro 13" Page
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery of Apple MacBook Pro 13 inch

Who's it for?

Apple's MacBook Pro line targets a wide range of professional business users. From technology professionals needing the stability of the UNIX kernel, to business staff requiring dual-booting PCs, to graphics and video editing personnel, the new 13" MacBook Pro features outstanding performance, impressive battery life, brilliant graphics, and industry-leading reliability and customer satisfaction for several hundred dollars less than previous generation models.

What problem does it solve?

Apple provides mobile professionals with a dependable, reliable, high performance laptop computer. Design and functionality meld wondrously in the 13" MacBook Pro to provide a stable, secure, flexible laptop which, due to standard Intel and NVIDIA components, runs Windows as well as Mac OS X. In addition to providing a highly capable mobile computer, Apple has created a dynamic workhorse that can meet the demanding and varied computing needs of everyone from traveling sales executives to graphic artists.

Standout features

  • Reliability - Apple Macintosh systems are renowned for their reliability. Because Apple engineers specify hardware components and develop the underlying operating system code, users experience a seamless integration that results in reliable performance that's impervious to most every ubiquitous Windows threat and vulnerability. Further, due to Apple's selection of high-quality components, even business users loading Windows typically find the MacBook Pro's reliability exceeds that of most every other business-class Windows laptop. Simply stated, Apple's hardware reliability, measured by numerous independent customer satisfaction surveys, is unsurpassed.
  • Performance - Apple systems are engineered to handle the rigors associated with video production and editing. With two gigabytes of DDR3 memory standard, a powerful Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and a 1066MHz front side bus, the 13" MacBook Pro is fast. Most mobile professionals will find the standard Apple configuration, which includes the capacity to power 2560 x 1600-pixel resolution on an external monitor, more than sufficient for daily office productivity, presentation, e-mail, database, video and Internet tasks.
  • Graphics - Thanks to an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated GPU, the new 13" models boast faster graphics performance, up to five times faster versus older models. The power-conscious graphics chip is still balanced to provide exceptional battery life, however, with up to seven hours use possible. Videos and other presentations are no trouble, and rendering and encoding times are more than respectable.
  • Design - The 13" MacBook Pro's unibody design gives it more than just good looks. The seamless aluminum case is more sturdy and sleek, making the laptop thin and light, not to mention durable. Design influences functionality, too. The backlit LED display generates crisp, razor-sharp images and requires less space than prior-generation LCDs, thereby contributing to a lighter laptop. Even the trackpad benefits from design details. The new Multi-Touch pad provides more space for controlling the cursor, while incorporating swipe, pinch, rotate, and four-finger swipe motions.

What's wrong?

  • Expansion - Batteries, hard disks and other components are essentially baked in to the new 13" MacBook Pro. While Apple's standard configurations should ensure the units are more than capable of meeting most professional users' needs, upgrades are not simple propositions. For this reason, it's critical to carefully consider computer needs when purchasing a MacBook Pro. Only by carefully reviewing specifications prior to purchase can professional users ensure the laptop is properly and cost-effectively outfitted.

Competitive Products

Bottom line for business

Technology professionals frequently, and often emotionally, debate the merits of Apple versus PC computers. The facts, once divorced from rhetoric, speak clearly. Market data released by ChangeWave Research in February 2009 revealed planned Apple laptop purchases were up, despite a down economy in which ChangeWave noted the lowest ever record of planned PC buying. Further, when measuring customer satisfaction, the same survey data showed Apple's a "Very Satisfied" customer rating level of 81 percent. No other manufacturer was remotely close. Dell, with a rating of 55 percent, wasn't even in the ballpark.

Why's that important?

Business laptops are crucial to an organization's success. While technology novices often lament a MacBook Pro's "higher" price, they forget to factor the costs associated with security breaches, hardware failures and other reliability issues that frequently nag users of lesser equipment. Apple's product reliability, designs and performance make the new 13" MacBook Pro an outstanding option for mobile computing needs.

User rating

Have you encountered the Apple 13" MacBook Pro laptop? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of Apple's MacBook Pro in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

8 comments
niccy4513
niccy4513

My girlfriend had talked about buying a Mac and I always balked at them as being too expensive. Well, most of the main problems with my old laptops were compatibility issues between hardware and software, often involving frustrating searches for new drivers. Knowing that Apple makes the hardware and develops the software for their computers made me think they would be able to integrate the two aspect better than PC's I have used. I still have nightmares about all the drivers I had to hunt down when I downgraded my Toshiba from Windows Vista to XP.See Here: Apple MacBook Pro MC371LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop

odiug
odiug

what about audio quality? what about graphics card with only shared memory compared to dedicated memory in pc notebook? how hot is the lower part of the macbook pro after a few hours of work?

gypkap
gypkap

Gestures sound like extensions of Murphy's Law. Can the Multitouch pad be disabled or changed to a regular track pad? I really prefer a two button wheel mouse, and have had trouble with accidentally touching pads on my Toshiba or my wife's Macbook if I don't have the mouse connected.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

The Apple notebooks are generating a significant buzz lately - do you support Apple Mac OS X in your organization? Do you expect to have to in the near future?

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

I've been very happy with the integrated audio controller that ships with Apple's previous PowerBooks and MacBook Pros. When in the office, I often connect my MacBook Pro to a simple Bose three-speaker system, and the sounds is clear and vibrant. The new MacBook Pro features a combined digital output/analog line out port. Certainly, the sound is as good or better (at least to my ear) than I've seen on most every other business-class laptop. As for shared video memory, the MacBook Pro leverages a 1066MHz frontside bus featuring DDR3 RAM, so I experience no performance issues with the shared video RAM. This is true even running the standard 2GB RAM configuration. I believe the video performance on this system with shared RAM is better than I've seen (smoother transitions, sharper movie graphics, bolder colors in presentations, etc.) with many Windows laptops that boast dedicated video memory. After a few hours, the unibody case does get warm; I've never seen a laptop that doesn't.

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

The Multi-Touch trackpad can be customized to fit most users' specific preferences, yes. This is true whether running Mac OS X or Windows on the MacBook Pro.

adakar_sg
adakar_sg

Cant find any good reason why we should support it, neighter why anyone would buy one

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

In my experience, clients that have purchased Apple hardware experience very few hardware failures. The same, unfortunately, is not true for Acer, Gateway, HP, Dell, Compaq and Lenovo clients of mine. While I typically purchase only business-class desktops and laptops for clients, thereby ensuring most models feature a three-year hardware warranty, clients frequently experience downtime or labor costs for those hardware repairs. I believe Macs, particularly the MacBook Pro, prove a very cost effective option for many businesses, a benefit I've seen first hand in my consulting practice.

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