Outwardly identical to the last MacBook Pro released in February 2011, Apple has bumped the processor speed a smidgeon for this MacBook Pro 15in (Late 2011)

That first Sandy Bridge-equipped model had a choice of two processors, the top-spec off-the-shelf model having a quad-core Intel Core i7-2620QM processor, clocked at 2.2GHz (and running up to 3.3GHz in Turbo Mode). 

Now, the Apple MacBook Pro 15in (Late 2011) takes an Intel Core i7-2760QM, nominally clocked at 2.4GHz, but with a Turbo speed up to 3.5GHz

We’ve looked right around the latest model, and couldn’t find any other difference between this revision and the model we gave a Gold award to last spring. 

Except the graphics. The AMD discrete graphics card on the top model is now an AMD Radeon HD 6770M, replacing the AMD Radeon HD 6750M fitted earlier. 

The 6770M is of the same generation as the 6750M, but is running slightly faster: up to 750MHz for the core speed of its 480 stream processors, against the 600MHz of the 6750M.

Apple has taken the cooler option, though, and pegged this AMD chip at 675MHz.

Performance

In our usual WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, the Late-2011 model scored 133 points. That’s a sterling result, and as we commented before, one that was until recently only the preserve of performance-tuned desktop PCs.

But in the context of its predecessor, it’s only one point higher. So first results suggest that the CPU/GPU tweak has only wrought a subtle change in overall system performance.

Larger gains were recorded in pure gaming though. The new AMD graphics architecture has already pulled far away from the previous nVidia solutions that Apple was using; and we saw some measurable gains again here.

Playing FEAR at Maximum detail, this model averaged 98 frames per second, against the 92fps of before.

STALKER: Call of Pripyat is a DirectX 11-based game that showed a similar delta here, from 53 to 58fps, when set to our low-spec test of 1280 x 720-pixel resolution and Medium detail. At native resolution and Ultra detail (plus tesselation and contact hardening shadows on), this moved from 35 to 39fps.

Our low-spec Crysis test (1024 x 768, High, DX9) played through at 44fps.

Battery life – as measured in Windows 7 Home Premium with MobileMark 2007 Productivity – was practically the same, this time 5 hrs 11 mins (311 mins) against the previous model’s 318 mins. 

Back to the Mac operating system, we tried Geekbench to get an idea of processor, integer and memory performance. We don’t have previous figures to compare to, but the Late 2011 MacBook Pro 15in averaged 11443 points here.

Apple MacBook Pro 15in (Late 2011): Specs

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-2760QM (Turbo Mode to 3.5GHz)
  • 6MB shared level 3 cache
  • 15.4in (1440 x 900) 16:10 glossy LED-backlit display
  • OS X 10.7 Lion
  • AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB GDDR5 VRAM & Intel HD Graphics 3000, auto-switching
  • 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333MHz RAM
  • 750GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1 x Thunderbolt
  • 1 x FireWire 800
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • SD/SDXC card slot
  • gigabit ethernet
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • 8x DVD±RW DL slot-load optical drive
  • backlit keyboard
  • FaceTime HD webcam
  • mic, stereo speakers
  • audio line-in (analogue and Toslink digital), headphone/line out (analogue and Toslink digital)
  • multi-touch trackpad
  • IR remote control sensor
  • 77.5Wh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • 85W MagSafe power adaptor
  • iLife software
  • 364 x 249 x 24mm
  • 2.550kg
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-2760QM (Turbo Mode to 3.5GHz)
  • 6MB shared level 3 cache
  • 15.4in (1440 x 900) 16:10 glossy LED-backlit display
  • OS X 10.7 Lion
  • AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB GDDR5 VRAM & Intel HD Graphics 3000, auto-switching
  • 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333MHz RAM
  • 750GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1 x Thunderbolt
  • 1 x FireWire 800
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • SD/SDXC card slot
  • gigabit ethernet
  • dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • 8x DVD±RW DL slot-load optical drive
  • backlit keyboard
  • FaceTime HD webcam
  • mic, stereo speakers
  • audio line-in (analogue and Toslink digital), headphone/line out (analogue and Toslink digital)
  • multi-touch trackpad
  • IR remote control sensor
  • 77.5Wh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • 85W MagSafe power adaptor
  • iLife software
  • 364 x 249 x 24mm
  • 2.550kg

OUR VERDICT

Apple didn’t even press release the changes in this gentle speed bump for autumn 2011’s MacBook Pro. But small increases in performance are there to be had, over what was already a spectacularly fast laptop. We’re still holding out for a complete revision to the design, though, to improve on the poor default glass-fronted screen – and maybe even a slimmer, lighter chassis, more in line with the demand for ultraportable mobile computing that Apple itself has helped engender with the MacBook Air.

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