The latest crop of MacBook Pro laptops from Apple has several new features, such as a new generation of Intel processors, improved dual graphics and increased battery life. Most of the changes, however, are relegated to the 15in and 17in models.

The latest crop of MacBook Pro laptops from Apple has several new features, such as a new generation of Intel processors, improved dual graphics and increased battery life. Most of the changes, however, are relegated to the 15in and 17in models. The 13in models remain the least expensive of the Pro line, but also remain the most similar to the previous generation.

What's changed

Both new Apple 13in MacBook Pro laptops include nVidia's GeForce 320M integrated graphics, which shares a minimum of 256MB of main memory. This replaces the GeForce 9400M integrated graphics in the previous generation (which shared the same amount and type of RAM). In our testing, the new 13in models achieved much better framerates on our Call of Duty test. For example, at 38.9fps, the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro did 15.2fps better than the higher-end, 2.53GHz 2009 model - an improvement of 64 percent. They still lagged way behind the new low-end 15in MacBook Pro, which garnered 68.4fps thanks to it discrete graphics.

In battery life, Apple claims a three-hour increase over the previous 13in MacBook Pros - the new laptops offer up to 10hrs of battery life, instead of seven. Part of the longer life is due to a slightly higher capacity built-in battery - 63.5Whrs versus 60Whrs in the previous model. But Apple credits most of the improvement to the greater efficiency of the GeForce 320M graphics over the 9400M. Our standard battery test, which plays a looped video in QuickTime until the battery dies, showed a life of 4hrs and 19 mins for the 2.4GHz model and 4hrs and 33 mins for the 2.66GHz model. Those compare favorably to the 2009 13in 2.26GHz (3hrs and 30 mins) and 2.53GHz (3hrs and 38 mins) models, as well as the current MacBook model (3hrs and 45 mins). In simple terms, the batteries do indeed last longer.

The new Apple MacBook Pro laptops have the same multitouch glass trackpad as before, but the line adds a new trick. All of the new MacBook Pros (including the 13in models) now have inertial scrolling. Just like on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, swipe your finger down to scroll through a long web page, for example, and the momentum continues the scrolling until it gradually dies off. The feature seems right at home on the MacBook Pro and will be familiar to anyone who has used Apple's iPhone OS devices.

Another new feature, common to the entire MacBook Pro line, is the ability for the Mini DisplayPort connection to output multichannel audio in addition to the video signal it has always carried (the MacBook Pro supports mirroring or extending your desktop on an external display up to 2560x1600 pixels, but the adapters needed are all optional accessories). To test it out, we purchased a Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter and connected the MacBook Pro to an HDTV using an HDMI cable. Although it worked for video (letting us play beautiful 720p video without problem) the audio didn't play through the TV, instead coming out of the MacBook Pro's built-in speakers. Apple recommends higher-quality cables, saying that some lower-priced cables don't work.

What's the same

Although the 15in and 17in Apple MacBook Pro laptops include Intel's new Core i5 or Core i7 mobile processors, the 13in MacBook Pro continues to use a Core 2 Duo chip. In the 13in size, Apple offers a 2.4GHz dual-core processor in the £999 model, and a 2.66GHz dual-core processor in the £1,249 model (up from 2.26GHz and 2.53GHz in the previous generation, respectively). Each has 3MB on-chip L2 cache shared between the two cores.

Some users have wondered why Apple decided to stick with Core 2 Duo processors instead of using the new Intel Core i3 in the MacBook Pro 13in line. Although one could cynically speculate that it's designed to 'cripple' the low-end MacBook Pro with old technology to force people to spend more, it seems more likely that Apple didn't want to use the Intel HD integrated graphics that such a move would require (the 15in and 17in models include Intel HD graphics, but have dedicated nVidia graphics processors as well).

Laptop reviews

Laptop Advisor

>> CONTINUES

The latest crop of MacBook Pro laptops from Apple has several new features, such as a new generation of Intel processors, improved dual graphics and increased battery life. Most of the changes, however, are relegated to the 15in and 17in models.

Both models now include 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM, and support a max of 8GB (previously, the £999 Apple MacBook Pro came with only 2GB). Just as before, there are two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, a Mini DisplayPort graphics connection, a Gigabit ethernet port, 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR wireless technology, an SD Card slot, a full-sized backlit keyboard, an eight-speed slot-loading dual-layer DVD SuperDrive, built-in stereo speakers (which sound quite good), a single port for audio-in and -out (including support for digital output) and a built-in iSight webcam. The new laptops include a 250GB or 320GB 5400rpm hard drive (up from 160GB or 250GB respectively).

The new Apple MacBook Pro 13in laptops use the same LED-backlit 1280x800 glossy screen as the previous models (there are no antiglare or high-resolution display options, as there are on the 15in and 17in models). The display are very bright, and the viewing angle is respectable in the horizontal direction, but not that great vertically - you really need to adjust the angle of the display to achieve optimum viewing.

New 13in Apple MacBook Pro: Speedmark scores

We performed ours standard bevy of tests on these new Apple MacBook Pro models, and compared them to the previous generation of 13in MacBook Pro, the new 2.4GHz 15in MacBook Pro and the 13in unibody MacBook.

In our Speedmark 6 suite, the new MacBook Pro 13in laptops scored 118 for the 2.4GHz model and 126 for the 2.66GHz model (compared with 107 and 123 for the previous generation respectively, and 112 for the MacBook). The difference was mostly due to the improved framerate scores, thanks to the nVidia 320M graphics.

Other tests showed rather negligible deltas, with the new Apple MacBook pro 13in models generally doing slightly better than their same-price counterparts from 2009. The one big anomaly was our Compressor test on the 2.4GHz 2010 13in MacBook Pro, which took longer to complete than even the white MacBook. And in our folder duplication and Parallels WordBench 6 multitask tests, the old higher-end 13in model beat even the new model with a faster processor by a little bit.

In some hands-on testing running Adobe Photoshop CS3 and CS4 and Aperture 3, we found even the Apple MacBook Pro 13in 2.4GHz model to be adequate. And while running Windows XP in Parallels Desktop 4, encoding an HD MKV file for Apple TV using VideoMonkey and playing a streaming Netflix TV show episode in Safari simultaneously (with the computer sitting flat on a desk), the back of the MacBook Pro got warm where the battery is, but not uncomfortably so. After running for about 15 minutes, the max external temperature (at the very back, near the serial number) was 107 degrees as measured by an infrared temperature device used to monitor HVAC systems in our office.

Laptop reviews

Laptop Advisor

Macworld US

Apple MacBook Pro 13in (Spring 2010): Specs

  • 2.4/2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 1,066MHz frontside bus
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6
  • 2 x 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 250/320GB 5,400rpm SATA or 128/256/512GB SSD
  • 13.3in (1280x800) LED-backlit glossy LCD screen
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 320M graphics
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • ethernet
  • Bluetooth
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 8x DVD drive
  • SD Card slot
  • iSight webcam
  • multitouch trackpad
  • MagSafe
  • FireWire 800
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • DVI
  • VGA
  • audio-in/-out
  • Kensington lock slot
  • 63.5Whr lithium-polymer battery built-in
  • up to 10hrs wireless productivity (claimed)
  • 325x227x24mm
  • 2kg
  • 2.4/2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 1,066MHz frontside bus
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6
  • 2 x 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 250/320GB 5,400rpm SATA or 128/256/512GB SSD
  • 13.3in (1280x800) LED-backlit glossy LCD screen
  • 256MB nVidia GeForce 320M graphics
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • ethernet
  • Bluetooth
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 8x DVD drive
  • SD Card slot
  • iSight webcam
  • multitouch trackpad
  • MagSafe
  • FireWire 800
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • DVI
  • VGA
  • audio-in/-out
  • Kensington lock slot
  • 63.5Whr lithium-polymer battery built-in
  • up to 10hrs wireless productivity (claimed)
  • 325x227x24mm
  • 2kg

OUR VERDICT

If you already have the previous 13in Apple MacBook Pro, there's not a lot of reason to upgrade unless you simply must have the newest version of everything. The changes to the 13in line-up are mostly to do with improved graphics and battery life, and they aren't all that different from the year before - and it's somewhat hard to justify the £1,249 model based only on its larger hard drive and slightly faster processor, which didn't translate to much difference in our tests. To get the most from the new generation of MacBook Pros, you'll need to step up to the larger sizes, which take advantage of the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and their own graphics improvements.

Find the best price