Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (June 2009)

Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro makes only minor tweaks to the previous version, but cutting prices and swapping the ExpressCard slot for an SD card slot are enough to make it a solid improvement over its predecessor.


8.2
CNET Rating
9.4
User Rating


NB: the 15-inch MacBook Pro is available in three configurations:
Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M+ 512MB 9600M GT — AU$3699
Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M+ 256MB 9600M GT — AU$3199
Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz, 4GB RAM, 250GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M — AU$2699

The latest round of MacBook revisions are nowhere near as radical as the aluminium unibody construction rolled out in late 2008. Instead, the 13-inch MacBook has been promoted to the Pro family, while the 15-inch MacBook Pro gets a handful of minor component upgrades. More important than that, however, is a series of price cuts for all of the base model MacBook Pros, including this AU$3699 version — the comparable 2008 version originally cost AU$300 more.

Now that the 13- and 15-inch models have the same basic feature set, including Nvidia's excellent integrated GeForce 9400 graphics, a high-capacity (if unremovable) battery, an SD card slot and FireWire connection, the main points of differentiation are minor CPU speed boosts, a bigger screen, and the availability of a separate discrete GPU (the GeForce 9600) that can be turned off if needed to improve battery life. Our AU$3699 review unit had the 512MB version of the GPU, while the AU$2699 version has a 256MB version.

Most users will be ably served by the less expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro, which starts as low as AU$1899, but the combo of a faster CPU, better battery, larger 500GB hard drive, the SD card slot, and a AU$300 price cut makes the new 15-inch MacBook Pro a solid improvement over its predecessor.

Design

The aluminium chassis is essentially identical to the last 15-inch MacBook Pro. The construction starts with a solid block of aluminium, which is carved down, rather than a thin outer shell, which has had support struts added to it. The result is a light and thin, yet strong, chassis that feels solid and substantial. Except for the AU$1599 white polycarbonate MacBook, Apple's entire laptop line now uses this type of body.

We're especially fond of the larger trackpad that uses multi-touch gestures similar to those found on the iPhone. It offers a much larger surface area than most laptop trackpads, thanks to the elimination of a separate mouse button. While the entire trackpad depresses like a button, simple tapping, as on a Windows laptop, will also work once you turn that option on in the settings menu. Of the multi-touch gestures, most useful perhaps is sweeping four fingers: left or right brings up the application switcher, while up hides all your active windows. Once you get used to that, going back to a regular trackpad is difficult.

The 15.4-inch widescreen display offers a 1440x900 native resolution, which is standard for premium 15-inch screens (cheaper 15-inch models are often 1280x800). All of the MacBook Pro screens are backlit LEDs, which allow for thinner lids and provide some power-saving benefits. We like the look of the edge-to-edge glass over the screen, but it's also very reflective, and we wish Apple would offer a matte screen option on all its systems, not just the 17-inch MacBook Pro.

The biggest news is probably that Apple has at long last embraced the simple joys of the SD card slot. After claiming for years that photographers could just use an external USB adapter to access their SD cards, the 13- and 15-inch Pros now include this very common component. The cost, however, is the ExpressCard slot, which is now found only on the 17-inch Pro. Most people used their ExpressCard slots, if at all, for card-reading adapters or mobile broadband antennas. While we use SD cards, even in our dSLR camera, several pro photographers have reminded us that Compact Flash cards are their preferred format.

Features

The 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU in our review unit is a bump up from the 2.5GHz version we saw in the last high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro. If that's still not enough grunt for you, an extra AU$436.36 will add an optional 3.06GHz processor — the fastest one you can get in an Apple laptop. While our MacBook Pro had a clear advantage over both the 13-inch MacBook Pro and previous 15- and 13-inch MacBooks, most users can feel comfortable using any of the current Intel processors Apple offers for basic web-surfing, productivity and multimedia playback.

Performance

Besides that dedicated GeForce 9600M, the new Pro also included the same integrated GeForce 9400 GPU found in the 13-inch MacBook. The settings menu has two power options: for high performance or for longer battery life. Choosing high performance turns the 9600 chip on, while choosing longer battery life turns it off, leaving you with just the integrated chip. The switch made virtually no difference in our standard benchmarks, although those interested in high-end video and photo editing may see a more practical benefit.

One frustration remains about this entire process: switching between GPUs is simple, requiring only a button press on the power options menu, but the changeover isn't totally transparent. You have to log out and log back in, requiring you to close all your apps and save your data.

The new battery in the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros is non-removable, but Apple claims the system can last up to seven hours while surfing the web, and somewhat less for DVD playback. To assuage concerns about the sealed battery, the company says the new models are good for at least 1000 full recharge cycles — which they estimate to be about five years of use. We were able to run the system for five hours and five minutes on our video playback battery drain test, with the GPU set for the better battery life option. That's about an hour longer than last year's 15-inch MacBook Pro, and an impressive result.

Apple has an above-average reputation for support, along with a series of easy to access retail stores (as long as you live in a market served by one). But MacBooks continue to include a standard one-year parts and labour warranty, with only 90 days of toll-free telephone support. This, along with the proprietary nature of Apple's products, makes purchasing an extended Apple Care warranty almost a necessity, at AU$579 (or AU$419 for 13-inch laptops) for three total years of coverage.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT)
390
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)
396
Apple MacBook (2008) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.4GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)
431
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.26GHz
472
Apple MacBook (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.13GHz
506
Dell Adamo
1864

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT)
116
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)
120
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.26GHz
137
Apple MacBook (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.13GHz
145
Apple MacBook (2008) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.4GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)
146
Dell Adamo
345

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)
135
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT)
135
Apple MacBook (2008) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.4GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)
158
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.26GHz
165
Apple MacBook (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.13GHz
178
Dell Adamo
357

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.26GHz
342
Apple MacBook Pro (June 200) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT)
305
Apple MacBook (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.13GHz
253
Apple MacBook (2008) Core 2 Duo 13.3-inch, 2.4GHz (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)
243
Dell Adamo
156

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Apple MacBook Pro (June 2009) Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch, 2.8GHz
OS X 10.5.7 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M/512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT; 500GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Apple MacBook Core 2 Duo, 2.4GHz/13.3-inch (2008 Edition)
OS X 10.5.5 Leopard; Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz; 2048MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M; 250GB Toshiba 5400rpm

Dell Adamo
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9300; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 779MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 128GB Samsung SSD

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craig posted a comment   

The Good:portability, great design, durable.

The Bad:Can't think of anything

I've had this 2.8ghz model since it came out last June. To date, not one issue. I love how fast it powers on, the speed while surfing and downloading. Its nice and slim so it fits in my case real easily and is easier to transport. I love this computer and will never again buy anything but Apple computers.

 

viciuos sloth posted a comment   

The Good:everything, especially the trackpad

The Bad:HDD and intel core 2 duo

an excellent notebook from apple, new macbook sld be out soon but because of blood steve jobs its gonna take weeks, maybs june at wwdc. Or released late april with the shitty ipads

Aquawhite
8
Rating
 

Aquawhite posted a review   

The Good:Slim Profile, Stunning Display, Extended Battery Life

The Bad:Price

A simply great machine with very minimal flaws.

Kivraj
10
Rating
 

Kivraj posted a review   

The Good:Eveything

The Bad:Not much

An awesome laptop with great attributes like amazing battery life and brilliant graphics.Go from windows to Mac initially was odd but it is easy to get over!Anyone out there looking for a 15 inch should definitely consider the Macbook Pro.

reviewmaster
10
Rating
 

reviewmaster posted a review   

The Good:Slim, portable, fast, easy to use, and many many more

The Bad:I cant seem to find any faults

Brilliant computer! Everyone seemed to be raving about Apple computers, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. By far the best laptop I have ever bought, and I am not going back to windows any time soon.

The angry inch
9
Rating
 

The angry inch posted a review   

The Good:Love the MacBook Pro does all I need without crashing

The Bad:Cost 2k

This is my first Mac and will not be going back to a PC anytime soon. Had a Acer Travelmate 4230 with Vista worst PC I have ever had!!!

 

DarthStig posted a comment   

You have compared the MacBook and MacBook Pro to the Dell Adamo. I ask why? The Adamo is an ultralight aimed at the MB Air market, there is no level playing field between it and a full featured laptop. Comparo's are great but make them realistic.

fulli_modied
10
Rating
 

fulli_modied posted a review   

The Good:Fast, Slim, Quiet, Reliable, Compatible

The Bad:Of course not, it's a Mac. No Blu-ray(but understandable)

Best laptop I have ever had. It is my first Mac and thats what i'll be using for a while! I changed from the HP Pavillion DV5-1010TX which had a 20 minute lasting battery and slow!




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User Reviews / Comments  Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (June 2009)

  • craig

    craig

    "I've had this 2.8ghz model since it came out last June. To date, not one issue. I love how fast it powers on, the speed while surfing and downloading. Its nice and slim so it fits in my case rea..."

  • viciuos sloth

    viciuos sloth

    "an excellent notebook from apple, new macbook sld be out soon but because of blood steve jobs its gonna take weeks, maybs june at wwdc. Or released late april with the shitty ipads"

  • Aquawhite

    Aquawhite

    Rating8

    "A simply great machine with very minimal flaws."

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