Large trackpad with numerous multi-touch gesture choices
Faster top-of-the-line 15-inch model
Gorgeous bright glossy screen
Disappointing battery life compared to the last model
No choice of screen finishes
Trackpad button can be hard to press
Some multi-touch gestures more difficult to maneuver than others
Essentially a replacement for the 2.53GHz unibody 15-inch model released in the fall of 2008, this MacBook Pro features the same processor speed as the 17-inch laptop. Otherwise, this 15-inch model is no different than what came before, with two graphics chips-one integrated in the motherboard (GeForce 9400M) and the other discrete (GeForce 9600M GT)–and a glossy screen.
As far as upgrades go, the top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro’s makeover is far from extreme. But we’re not going to complain if Apple chooses to gently goose the processor speed a little bit without expecting a dime more for the effort.
Aside from the slight boost in processor speed from the model it replaces, the 2.53GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro (, which was $2,499 when it was released), the rest of the new 2.66GHz MacBook Pro’s specs remain identical, including the unibody case, ports, bus speed, hard drive capacity and more. (For more about the MacBook Pro specifications, read our original MacBook Pro review.)
When comparing just the rated processor speed specification, the new 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo processor is a little more than 5 percent faster than the 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo. That’s almost exactly the difference in Speedmark scores between the new and old top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pros.
The biggest improvements were, of course, in processor-intensive tests like our Cinema 4D Render test and Compressor MPEG Encoder test, where the new 2.66GHz MacBook Pro shaved 4 or 5 seconds off the time of the 2.53GHz MacBook Pro. Our test showed smaller improvements in tasks involving both processor and hard drive, and no difference in strictly storage-related tasks. The 2.53GHz model was a touch faster than new 2.66GHz model at Quake, but only by 1.5 frames per second.
The hard drive in the new 15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro appears to be a bit zippier than the 17-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro (), with the new 15-inch model beating the 17-inch model by a few seconds in several of our tests.
The full-sized, faster spinning hard drive in the new 2.66GHz 24-inch iMac kept that system ahead of the new 2.66GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro in all but the most processor-intensive tasks and our Quake 4 test.
And as we’ve seen before, the unibody MacBooks () hold their own very well against its Pro siblings. The new 15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro posted about a 10 percent faster Speedmark score than the 2.4GHz MacBook.
New 15-inch MacBook Pro/2.66GHz Speedmark scores
15-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo/2.66GHz benchmarks
Adobe Photoshop CS3
Cinema 4D XL 10.5
MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo
MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo
MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo
24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2.66GHz (March 2009)
MacBook 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
PowerBook 1.67 GHz G4 Power PC
Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics.
Speedmark 5 scores are relative to those of a 1.5GHz Core Solo Mac mini, which is assigned a score of 100. Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D XL, iMovie, iTunes, and Finder scores are in minutes:seconds. The MacBook Pro models and the iMac had 4GB RAM with OSX 10.5.6, the rest were tested with 2GB of RAM and OS X 10.5.5. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 14 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photoshop’s memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. We recorded how long it took to render a scene in Cinema 4D XL. We used Compressor to encode a 6minute:26second DV file using the DVD: Fastest Encode 120 minutes – 4:3 setting. In iMovie, we applied the Aged Film effect from the Video FX menu to a one minute movie. We converted 45 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes’ High Quality setting. We used Quake’s average-frames-per-second score; we tested at a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels at the Maximum setting with both audio and graphics enabled. We duplicated a 1GB folder, created a Zip archive in the Finder from the two 1GB files and then Unzipped it. To compare Speedmark 5 scores for various Mac systems, visit our Mac Hardware Guide.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Chris Holt, and Helen Williamson.
Macworld’s buying advice
Except for a minor boost in processor speed, the new 15-inch 2.66GHz MacBook Pro is identical to the 15-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro it replaces. The minor speed boost, without a similar boost in price, can only be good news. And if you bought the 15-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro when it shipped in Fall 2008, you won’t have a bad case of buyer’s remorse.
[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]
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