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March 07, 2006

Review: Apple MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is clearly poised for the next generation of laptop use, with faster architecture and more refined details than previous models.

Personal Tech Pipeline

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Call me Homer Simpson. I stand before the apotheosis of Apple's new computer architecture direction, a MacBook Pro containing an Intel Core Duo, and all I can say is, "Cord goes in, cord goes out, cord goes in, cord goes out."

Why? Because one of the MacBook Pro's many new features is MagSafe, a magnetically coupled power cord connection that can withstand powerful yanking without taking the computer with it. Mechanical connections wear out; this withstands Simpson-scale idiocy.

Fortunately, Lisa Simpson kicks in at some point, and I start reveling in the speed, design, light weight, and thin form factor of this completely overhauled computer which started shipping to consumers in February.

According to Apple, the PowerBook line became out of date due to what the company said was IBM and Freescale's inability to produce substantially faster PowerPC G4 and G5 chips that didn't also produce enormous additional amounts of heat -- which was impractical for laptops. The switch to Intel allows this new model to leap a generation beyond PowerBooks while, through emulation, still supporting most existing software applications as programmers update them.

Speeding Up
Apple's benchmarks show a speed boost of four- to five-fold for certain numerical operations. In normal use, you won't see anything like this. But in a real-world comparison between my workhorse two-and-a-half-year-old 15-inch PowerBook G4 (1 GHz) and the MacBook Pro, the Intel system simply blows away the earlier device's performance. (Newer PowerBook G4s run nearly twice as fast and have other improvements, but still fall far short of the MacBook Pro's specs.)

Part of the speed, weight, and thickness improvements are due to Intel's Core Duo processor, which packs two separate computing cores into a single chip without a dramatic increase in power or heat. Apple also redesigned their system around a 667 MHz system bus and PCI Express; the former increases RAM and storage performance, and the latter improve graphics and networking speed.

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