Introduced to the market in June 2009, the MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz / 320 GB hard drive/ 4 GB RAM is a high performance mobile computer. We had the opportunity to test one, and this article describes our findings.
When Apple started building their mobile computers using the unibody method, they introduced another level of build quality to their products.
The computer body is machined from a solid block of aluminum, which creates a sturdy frame for the computer’s core. The 15-inch MacBook Pro tested here has the aluminum unibody that is today representative for the MacBook Pro Series.
After trying several of the earlier Apple computer models, the MacBook Pro with unibody design stood out for its solid and robust build quality.
There’s always that small (or not so small) dilemma when you buy another computer, and need to get all your data and licenses transferred to the new machine. Without magic, a simple solution would do. Apple has solved this in an elegant way with the so-called Migration Assistant. For our test, we used a dual computer set-up, with a 2006 MacBook (white, 13-inch) and the MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz.
Following the step-by-step instructions from the Migration Assistant, the two computers were connected via FireWire cable. Once linked, the MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz recognized the older Mac computer as an external FireWire hard drive. After this step, the Migration Assistant allowed us to select items, and transferred them successfully. It was still necessary to manually install some drivers for an external audio card, but otherwise the process went very smoothly. Not to mention, substantially easier than non-Mac set-ups.
The hardware specification reveals a real work horse. It’s packed with enough power that some users may only utilize a fraction of the computer’s real computational capability, yet versatile enough to fulfill many work roles.
One of the first things people notice when they start a computer is the beautiful display. Especially a large screen with vibrant colors. Many graphic designers, photographers, and videographers rely on the excellent displays of MacBook Pros for editing-intensive tasks.
What some may not know is that Apple changed the default gamma correction to 2.2 in the Snow Leopard release of OS X. The upgrade from 1.8 means that images now display similarly to a Windows computer. The new gamma value is better aligned with what has become de facto standard amongst most manufacturers.
The color gamut is also better than previous models. The color gamut is a measurement of how much of the color spectrum the display can show. Apple states that their new displays have a 60 percent greater color gamut than previous generations.
The display on the computer we tested is shiny (glossy) and you might feel that reflections bother you in some light situations. It was not disturbing in our tests, but you can order the computer with an anti-glare screen which should reduce reflections off the display.
All in all, it is a display that presents your images, videos and artwork in a beautiful way.
The MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz comes loaded with two different graphics processors (GPUs); The Nvidia GeForce 9400M, and the Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT. The 9600M offers higher performance, at the cost of higher power consumption. Therefore Apple has given users the option to switch to the 9400M through a software setting (a user must log out when selecting the other GPU). The 9400M has a lower power consumption but also lower performance. The MacBook Pro model containing the 9600M graphics processor is actually the least expensive model available.
No matter which graphics processor you choose to run on, the battery lasts a long time. How long it lasts on one charge is, of course, dependent on what you do (watch videos vs. write documents vs. browse the web, etc). According to Apple, the battery will last 6 hours when running on the 9600M, and 7 hours on the 9400M. In our opinion, we found no reason to switch away from the 9600M, and it would have been just as effective with only one graphics processor due to the good battery life.
SD Memory Card Reader
At first, we were a little skeptical with the inclusion of an SD memory card reader. However, after testing the MacBook Pro in everyday scenarios, some benefits came to light. We used to carry a separate USB memory card reader or a USB cable for the camera, but there is no need with the MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz.
One use case opportunity occurred when an SD card taken out of our camera showed an error when reading some of the images. Hoping to solve the problem, we tried the MacBook Pro’s built-in SD card reader. As it turned out, the same SD memory card that returned errors in our USB card reader worked perfectly in the MacBook Pro.
We have already expressed appreciation for the unibody design and the quality feeling it brings. We would also like to highlight the low weight. At 5.5 pounds, the 15-inch model is easily transportable to school or the office.
The FireWire connection is a FireWire 800, i.e. capable of transfer rates up to 800 Mbit/s, which gives you a good base if you are working with video editing on external hard drives. Finally, the backlit keyboard is pleasant, and frankly, very cool to write on.
If there are things we could put on a wish list for the future, the MacBook Pro would have a built-in 3G or 4G cellular modem, an independent embedded system that retrieves email like the DELL Latitude Z (so your emails are always downloaded when you turn it on), and include adaptors for VGA and HDMI (they really should be standard).
If you haven’t guessed already, we can recommend the MacBook Pro for most users, hobbyists, and professionals. The computer is packed with power, and is easy to use thanks to OS X. Out-of-the-box it comes loaded with most features common users need. It’s also easy to add a multitude of software options and programs for customization and, just plain fun.
It’s worth noting that the model tested here is one of six MacBook Pro models currently offered. There are also 13-inch and 17-inch models available.