Apple's 13in MacBook Pro is the smallest notebook in the company's "Pro" range, but it still packs quite a punch. This laptop is a fantastic compromise between size and power, though its upgrade options could be cheaper.
The 13in MacBook Pro can be configured with either a 2.26GHz or 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a choice of either a conventional hard drive (up to 500GB at 5400rpm) or a solid-state drive (128GB or 256GB). Upgrading its RAM is disappointingly expensive; price-conscious buyers may want to purchase third-party memory modules instead. The notebook has an NVIDIA 9400M embedded GPU; there is no option to get the beefier 9600M graphics processor available on larger MacBook Pro notebooks.
Our review unit came with the 2.53GHz CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 5400rpm hard drive. With this configuration the 13in MacBook Pro scored 3463 points in Geekbench; the 2.8GHz, 15in MacBook Pro scored 3772. The notebook took 58.3sec to convert 53min of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3, which is about the same speed as Alienware's 2.8GHz Area-51 M17X gaming notebook.
Using the same aluminium "unibody" manufacturing process as the 15in, 2.4GHz MacBook Pro, the 13in MacBook Pro has a gorgeous design. It is also extremely sturdy; the display's shell isn't flimsy and the case is surprisingly resistant to scratching. Though there is admirable competition from the likes of Dell's Adamo, we prefer the MacBook Pro's design and construction .
The 13in MacBook Pro's display uses LED backlighting, which consumes 30 per cent less power than CCFL-backlit LCD screens. Colour quality is exceptional but the glossy coating can be distracting in bright environments. Professionals who need a colour-neutral display may be turned off by the lack of an antiglare coating.
Connectivity includes Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800 and two USB 2.0 ports. Apple's proprietary mini DisplayPort is also included, but it can only be connected to the company's 24in LED Cinema Display unless an adapter is used. An SD card slot has been included and it can be used to boot from removable media. There is a slot-loading SuperDrive, and 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
A non-removable lithium-polymer battery is integrated into the enclosure. Apple claims this battery can last seven hours off a single charge and has a five-year lifespan. In our tests the battery ran for 3hr 26min while playing a DVD with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off. The inability to swap the battery for another one might leave you with a dead notebook if you are away from a power point for an extended period.
Users of Apple or Sony VAIO notebooks will be familiar with the 13in MacBook Pro's keyboard. It has isolated keys that feel spongier than a standard keyboard's, but they are well-spaced and comfortable to type with.
The touchpad is quite large considering the notebook's size. You can individually enable or disable a number of preset multi-touch gestures including "tap to click", which registers single taps as a primary mouse click; it's a relatively new feature for Apple notebooks. Unfortunately, this feature is extremely sensitive and often led to inadvertent mouse clicks during testing. Fortunately, this gesture can be disabled. You can assign the secondary button to either the bottom-right or bottom-left corner of the trackpad.
The speakers located beneath the keyboard are surprisingly loud but excessively accentuate treble frequencies and lack any real low mid-range or bass frequencies.
Though we have qualms about the glossy display and the embedded battery, the 13in MacBook Pro is still a fantastic notebook. The attractive unibody design, lengthy battery life and powerful components all make for a portable powerhouse.
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