Review: Apple MacBook Pro 2011 13-inch notebook

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Intro
 
Staying true to tradition, Apple completed it's annual revamp of the MacBook Pro lineup in early 2011. The announcement came close to CEO Steve Jobs' birthday.
 
Although in appearance all the 3 MacBook Pros i.e., the 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch look identical to the previous generation, it's under the hood where these machines have truly been upgraded. So does the new hardware pack a punch or is the upgrade incremental? Read on to find out!
 
Packaging and Contents
 
The packaging and content is typical Apple with the aluminum unibody 13-inch MacBook Pro in the standard compact white briefcase-style box. Open it up and you have the device, below which rests the charger, manuals, a soft cleaning cloth and two Apple logo stickers.
 
First Impression

 
At first, the device appears to be exactly the same as its predecessor, as beautiful and as sturdy. Even in its simple design, the device is an eye catcher. The only new addition that you will find in the appearance of the device is a small lightning bolt symbol above the mini display port. This is the new high-speed Thunderbolt I/O from Apple. Although there are no devices available in the market that support this interface, they are expected to launch soon.
 
Performance
 
The first thing that you will notice in the performance of the device, especially if you are a MacBook Pro user, is that the device feels a bit snappier. Under the hood, this beast is powered by an Intel Core i7 2.7 GHz dual core second-generation processor. Apple has ditched the NVIDIA GeForce 320M that was present in the previous gen 13-inch for integrated graphics. The battery life has improved owing to the new age processors and the absence of a dedicated graphics card. But don't expect to get some serious gaming out of the device as the integrated graphics card will not give you the best of results. You can juice out anywhere between 5 to 7.5 hours of battery life depending on how you use the product.
 
The full size keyboard is great to type on and is backlit, making it very comfortable and easy on the eyes in the dark. The ambient light sensor on the device ensures that you never have to adjust the keyboard light or the brightness of the screen manually.
 
The legend-daddy of track pads too is present here. The 13-inch device houses Apple's glass multi touch touchpad, which is undoubtedly the best in the business supporting up to four-finger touch recognition.
 
The biggest addition to the performance - and, sadly, we can't test it - is the Thunderbolt port which occupies the same physical space as the display port. On paper, the Thunderbolt port can support speeds of up to 10Gbps, but we will have to wait and see if that is true in performance.
 
The left of the device houses the standard mag safe charging port, Ethernet port, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt/Mini Display port, Two USB 2.0 ports, SD card reader and a headphones port. The disadvantage (and this was there with the previous gen 13-inch pro as well) is the absence of a microphone port. Sure, the onboard mic is accurate but an option would have been nice. Also by now, we would have liked to see USB 3.0 on the MacBook pros. Even if it hasn't turned up as default, a customization option would have been truly satisfying.
 
The left of the device also houses the battery life indicator, similar to the previous generation Pro.
 
The right of the device houses the 8x Super Drive that can read/write dual layer DVD's. Again here, the option of a Blu-Ray drive would have been appreciated.
 
The web cam in the 13-inch MacBook Pro supports 720p HD video for video calls. Apple's FaceTime app also comes pre-installed on the device, which is otherwise available for $0.99 on the App Store for previous generation devices. FaceTime is a great app and works really smoothly. We chatted between the MacBook Pro and an iPhone. The experience was smooth, audio was clear; there was virtually no lag and this reviewer was made dizzy by his colleague constantly rotating the iPhone and changing the orientation on his screen!
 
In terms of testing the device, it took about 3 min and 30 sec to copy a 8GB .mkv file to the device via USB from a portable HDD.
 
Converting the same video, which was 1hour 50 minutes in duration and had a resolution of 1920x818 via the free software Handbreak to .m4v (same resolution) took us a whopping two and a half hours!
 
On GeekBenck (64-bit), the device has an overall score of 7500 as compared to the 2010 model that scored 4012. (Higher score = better performance)
 
On Xbench the 2011, the 13-inch MacBook pro scored 178.09 as compared to the 2010 model that scored130.99. (Higher score = better performance)
 
Multimedia
 
Apart from the regular typing and web browsing, multimedia is what you will primarily use this for. The 13.3-inch LED backlit display has a 1280x800 resolution, which is great for watching 720p HD movies. However, if Apple could give theMacBook Air's display a resolution of 1440x900, why not integrate the same with the new generation 13-inch MacBook Pro?
 
HD movies stream smoothly on the device. Although 1080p movies ran smoothly on the device we really couldn't take full advantage of the video, as the screen isn't full HD. We watched a bit of Megamind, Iron Man, Tangled and some music videos and the colours were vibrant and the picture detailed. Although, if you sit with the device in an out door coffee shop, you will have some trouble with the glare on the screen.
 
The sound quality from the in-built speakers is good but the volume could have been better. You can however use third-party software like Perian to improve the audio output. Like its predecessors, the speakers are clear and the audio doesn't distort at high volumes but the speakers lack bass. For everyday music and video needs, the speakers perform very well.
 
iTunes and iLife comes pre-installed on the device. iLife comprises of the latest version of iPhoto, GarageBand and iMovie. iPhoto is very engaging especially if you are a photos buff. The app is among the best photo managers and it is easy to sync with your iPhone, iPod andiPad with absolute ease.
 
 
 
Verdict
 
Apple has once again produced a winning notebook. It has great ergonomics, upgraded hardware, superb battery life and the integration of an HD webcam is nice for video chatting. We do wish they had bumped up the screen resolution as they did on the MacBook Air and the option of USB 3.0 and Blu-ray would have been nice as well. But if you around Rs. 85,000 to spend on a new 13-inch laptop, you might want to consider the Dell Alienware M14x or the HP Envy 14.
 
Specifications:

2.7 GHz dual core Intel Core i7 processor (sandy bridge)
4MB shared Level 3 cache memory
500GB 5400rpm HDD
13.3-inch LED backlit display with a resolution of 1280x800
Intel HD graphics 3000 processor 384MB DDR3 SDRAM shared with the main memory
Built in 720p webcam
8x Super Drive slot
Thunderbolt I/O port
SD card slot
Two USB 2.0 ports
Wi-Fi
Bluetooth
Backlit keyboard
 
Pros
Strong ergonomic build
Upgraded second generation Core i processors
Great battery life
Well laid out keyboard
Large Multi-touch trackpad
 
Cons
No dedicated graphics card
Screen resolution could have been better
Thunderbolt cannot be used to its potential yet
No option for USB 3.0 or Blu-Ray
 
Price: Rs. 84,900
 
 
RATINGS:
Performance: 4
Price: 3.5
Ease of setup: 5
Ergonomics: 5
Wow Factor: 5
 
Overall: 4 

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