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Manufacturer: Apple

MacBook Pro 2.16 GHz (15 Inch)
April 13, 2006 | Eddie Park

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The MacBook Pro is the first laptop I've ever owned, and the first new Mac to grace my hands since the G4/867 Quicksilver I bought way back in college. While the 867 has served me well, it has been getting a little long in the tooth lately, particularly when it came to running the latest games, and the moment to upgrade I've been putting off for the last few years finally arrived when Apple dropped the Intel bomb.

My IMG compatriots know I've been tooling around the last few MacWorlds with an IBM Thinkpad, which is a laptop provided to me by my current employer. While it's a respectable laptop, it's not something I would refer to as cool, fun, or sexy. All the "extras" it comes with seem to be tacked-on afterthoughts rather than integrated components, and I don't recall ever actually enjoying the use of it.

I think I did some kind of crazy war dance when the MacBook finally arrived, much to the amusement of my mail carrier. Apple certainly knows how to make an impression not only was the box the MacBook came in eye-catching, but even the styrofoam packaging was designer, embossed with a pattern and the words "MacBook Pro," as if Apple wanted to make sure I knew exactly what I had blown nearly three grand on.

I have to admit that my love of Apple computers has faded a bit over the years, mainly because I felt compelled to continue using my old desktop workhorse and play the waiting game to see whether or not a significant hardware update would compel me to make the purchase. I'm happy to say that the MacBook has completely restored my faith in Apple, and it took a good deal of resolve to tear myself away from playing with it long enough to do some benchmarks and pad out this review.

Here's a basic rundown of what I'm currently working with:

MacBook Pro 15"
CPU: Intel Core Duo 2.16 GHz
L2 Cache: 2 MB
Memory: 1 GB
Bus Speed: 667 MHz
Max Screen Rez: 1440 x 900
GPU: ATI Radeon X1600, 256 MB
Storage: 100 GB 5400 SATA HD

Shiny box
At first glance, the MacBook doesn't differ to greatly in design from the PowerBooks. Weighing in at 5.6 pounds, the outer casing is still the familiar shiny aluminum that Apple favors. The expected interface slots can be found on either side, including USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 400 port, Ethernet, optical/digital input and output minijacks, and an ExpressCard slot. Apple's official specs list the height, width, and depth at 1.0 x 14.1 x 9.6 inches.

What specs alone can't convey is the sheer attractiveness of the overall package. I like the way the aluminum feels on my hands. It's much cooler and slicker than plastic, and it makes me feel like I'm actually working on some serious hardware, rather than a downsized computer slapped into a flimsy container. The keyboard is placed much farther up on the bottom half than what I'm used to, which leaves plenty of wristrest space. I am absolutely in love with the backlit keyboard, a feature that is not only automatic, but actually adjusts its own brightness based on ambient light, a feature that I gleefully tested for several minutes via the dimmer switch on my lamp. This is one of those areas where Apple always shines it adds features that not only make perfect sense, but ramp up the cool factor to a degree where even a hardened Mac-hater will take more than one look.

Other notable cosmetic improvements that PowerBook owners have pointed out to me include the vents, which reside on the back of the computer rather than on the sides, and the wireless antennas, which are placed in the hinge area rather than on the display. While it's all new to me, I am reassured that these changes are generally for the better.

Many stories on the net have mentioned problems with both 3rd party RAM and buzzing noises coming from MacBooks. While I have yet to order new RAM, I can say that I don't hear any buzzing, nor have I had any issues with my laptop to date. It does get very hot on occasion, so I don't recommend prolonged lap activity without some sort of protection. Not sure yet if it gets hot enough to fry an egg, but I don't care to try that particular test either.


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