Apple MacBook Pro 17in 2011

Flagship quad-core notebook

Making connections

A quick trawl through my den turned up some USB 3.0 peripherals but not a single item that required the ExpressCard/34 or Thunderbolt ports. So why does Apple not provide a USB 3.0 port? Don’t tell me USB 3.0 devices are a rarity (even if users may be), you can pick up a half-terabyte USB 3.0 portable hard drive for £60 at PC World, but there’s not a Thunderbolt peripheral in sight. Even the Apple store has only the Promise RAID arrays available and it's six months on since the rebranded Light Peak interface was announced. And if that wasn't bad enough, a Thunderbolt cable costs 39 quid!

Benchmark Tests

PCMark Vantage Results

Apple MacBook Pro 17in

Longer bars are better

Battery Life Results

Apple MacBook Pro 17in

Battery life in Minutes
Longer bars are better

As well as failing to support USB 3.0 – although you might get lucky finding a USB 3.0 ExpressCard/34 for the Mac – the MacBook Pro also fails to provide any VGA, DVI or even HDMI port, and lacks any camera card slot at all. An SD Card-to-USB adapter is cheap enough, but video adapters that plug into the Thunderbolt/Mini Display Port cost between £21 and £25 each.

Grumbles aside, the benchmark tests reveal the MacBook Pro 17in to be a pretty damn good notebook. Even Reg Hardware's utterly unreasonable battery life test, involving running our full-on benchmarks in a loop, saw the product last one hour 54 minutes. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s double the life of other notebooks I have tested in the same way.

Apple MacBook Pro 17in

You know how notebooks look and feel plasticky? Well this one doesn’t

More realistic usage should see the MacBook Pro 17in last a good four hours between recharges; general computing (rather than entertainment) would probably allow it to run even longer. However, I was not able to enjoy battery life of Apple’s claimed seven hours, or even six.

Verdict

I admit the MacBook Pro is not perfect – actually, it is bloody expensive at a mere quid short of £2,100. Add to that the cost of any of the aforementioned adapters, which might involve a new found love of the ExpressCard/34 slot, if you get really desperate. Yup, it is, quite simply, out of my price range. The Top Gear team spend less than that on second-hand Bentleys. Yet it does deliver an exceptional user experience. So ask your employer to buy you one, or get the next-best alternative: the 15in model. Either way, no-one will convince me that it’s money badly spent. ®

Thanks to Square Group for the loan of the MacBook Pro.

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Apple MacBook Pro 17in

Apple MacBook Pro 17in 2011

A beautifully built notebook, slightly marred by cost and lack of ports.
Price: £2099 RRP