2011 Apple MacBook Pro 15" With Thunderbolt Review

2011 Apple MacBook Pro 15" With Thunderbolt Review

Joel Pirela
Apr 18, 2011

Name: Apple MacBook Pro

Price: $2499 

Rating: Strong Recommend*

It has been less than a year since the latest MacBook Pro update, but we were looking forward to the latest Sandy Bridge CPU upgrade, the new Thunderbolt connection and also the switch to the new AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU video card paired with Intel's built in HD Graphics 3000. All these upgrades guaranteed a boost in video performance, but equally important, an increases battery life big time. But how did this upgraded model perform in real world use?

From a quick glance of the exterior design you'll be hard pressed to note much difference between this 2011 MacBook Pro model from the previous unibody designs. The only noticeable difference is a lightning bolt icon on a connector that looks just like the mini display port, indicating the inclusion of Thunderbolt. The same lilluminated keyboard and glass trackpad are still there, as is the "love it or hate it" glossy display. Battery is still non-replaceable and no Blu-ray option, per Mr. Jobs opinion about the media format.

So, while having the same look and feel than its previous predecessors, the performance has improved notably. This is the fastest laptop available now with the 2.3GHz quad core Intel i7; we upgraded the stock 4GB of RAM to 8GB and upped storage to the 500GB 7200 RPM hard drive option. The video cards have 1GB of memory and the battery life is around 7 hours during real world use.

(Benchmark courtesy of endgadget)


The jury is still out about the new Thunderbolt connection's performance, as more and more high speed enabled peripherals will finally start saturating the market really soon. But it does look promising: 10 Gbps, 12x faster than the old FireWire 800 and a whooping 20x more than standard USB 2.0. A big plus is the option to connect your MacBook Pro to a Apple LED Cinema Displays and other Mini Display Port Peripherals in one continuous connection, supporting up to 6 devices daisy chained, plug and play, with hot swapability and video plus 8 channel audio, along with HDMI, DVI and VGA connections.

Another thing greatly improved feature on this machine is the addition of a HD FaceTime Camera, which gives you 3 times the resolution of the previous camera, allowing 720p HD video calls from one laptop to another FaceTime capable device. This is a laptop that could get all the work done for you in one sleek package. That's before Apple upgrades the iMac lineup with the new Sandy Bridge CPU. Then the race is really going to get nasty. iMac or MacBook Pro? Or like my professional photographer friend said: "MacPro who?"

But how does it work in real life? One word: fast. expect everything to open almost instantaneously. Applications, windows, web browsers; there's no delay. Applying filters in CS5 is almost immediate. Sometimes we are waiting to the effect to finish and it was done already. No progress bar at all. If you don't have laptop and need/want one, this one is the one to get. In our case, we discovered a little bit of overlapping. We have at home a i7 2.93 Quad Core iMac with 12GB of RAM. That thing is fast, no matter what you throw at her and the 27" screen it's graphic design nirvana. We won't stop working on the iMac to switch to the MacBook Pro. Now, portability: At 5.6 pounds, it's on the heavy side; and we always end taking the 11" MacBook Air everywhere. See, for the type of work we do on the go; the Air is more than enough and a true performer: Type editing, light photoshop, web browsing. That would look like a waste for the MacBook Pro; but if the MacBook Pro ends being your primary machine, it would be the only machine you will need, for a long time.

Technical Specs:
Height: 0.95 inch (2.41 cm)
Width: 14.35 inches (36.4 cm)
Depth: 9.82 inches (24.9 cm)
Weight: 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg)

15.4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy or optional antiglare widescreen display with support for millions of colors

Processor and RAM:
2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with 8MB shared L3 cache
4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 1333MHz DDR3 memory; two SO-DIMM slots support up to 8GB

MagSafe power port
Gigabit Ethernet port
FireWire 800 port (up to 800 Mbps)
Two USB 2.0 ports (up to 480 Mbps)
Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps)
Audio line in
Audio line out
SDXC card slot
Kensington lock slot

*Our Ratings:

Strong Recommend


Weak Recommend

Don't Recommend

(Images by Joel Pirela)

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf.

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