back to article Apple MacBook Pro 17in 2011

A slap across the face is what I need. It’s the only language I understand. My problem is that I have played with too many Apple MacBooks over the past 18 months. They were starting to look similar, a little standard perhaps, maybe even ordinary. Apple MacBook Pro 17in Quad core as standard: Apple's 17in MacBook Pro So I took …

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Silver badge

Firewire

I use it a lot. Beats USB2 hands down for file transfer.

The express port is also damm useful.

I'll probably be upgrading my 4yr old 17in MBP as a chrissy present to myself.

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+1 for the Firewire

I also use Firewire 800 for external hard drives because they are so much quicker than USB 2, but I've never used the Express port.

Although I'm going to upgrade my trusty 17-inch MBP at some point soon, I think I'm going to wait for the rumoured MBP "Air" refresh where they get rid of the optical drives and make the MBP range slimmer and lighter. However, that Apple is switching computer displays from 16:10 ratio to 16:9 is concerning as I wish to retain 1920x1200 and not have to downgrade to 1920x1080.

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+2 for Firewire

I use it for keeping raw HD footage on prior to editing (not enough room on the internal drive). USB2 really isn't fast enough in sustained transfer to be usable.

I suspect Apple skipped USB3 as Thunderbolt has the potential to make it look a bit old and silly for things where data tx rates matter. For uses that don't, USB2 is fine.

Here's hoping Apple and Intel don't mess up the marketing and licensing of Thunderbolt in the same way Apple did with the original Firewire.

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Also

FireWire Target Disk Mode can also be an absolute life saver in a range of situations. Not sure if there is a technical reason you can't do the same with USB though, or if it is just Apple being Apple.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Target_Disk_Mode

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Another Firewire user

Darn quick and useful. My sons are getting into a lot of video stuff and I'll take Firewire over USB2/3 because of the latter's "chip-drag" any day of the week.

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Meh

Only one thing to say - KEYBOARD!

Looks lovely. Until you open it and voila! Crappy scrabble-tile keys. I'm serious about this; I like Apple gear, but what's with this new trend across the entire laptop industry for rubbish keyboards?

My buying decisions are now heavily influenced by whether a machine has a comfortable, elegant scissor-switch keyboard with sculpted key caps, or horrendous little tiles a la Spectrum. In my opinion the slight advantage of fewer moving parts & crumbs under the keys just isn't worth the sacrifice.

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JDX
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Notebook?

Isn't a notebook a term for a small laptop? How can a 17" laptop be called a notebook?

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Noetbook

You're probably thinking of a Notebook. Windows 7 looks gorgeous on those too.

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Thinking of netbook

A notebook is used instead of 'laptop' as they aren't meant to be used on laps (risk of the manufacturer getting sued when it cooks your groin).

A netbook is a mini-notebook.

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Pint

You're thinking of netbook.

Anyway, nice laptop. Good to see 1920x1200 making a return.

That said, I'm no fan of Apple's keyboards. For windows use they lack too many buttons, which seems stupid given the sheer amount of space on this laptop. Another thing that is stupid given the sheer space on this laptop is of course the relative port poverty. It'd be nice to see USB3.

Not quite perfect.

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laptop?

After newspaper reports of people being burned in the groin by laptops Apple called their range notebooks. Coincidence I am sure.

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Happy

nope

You're thinking "netbook". "Notebook" is a generic term for a laptop computer.

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re: Notebook?

No JDX, you're thinking of Netbook. Notebook is just another term for all laptops, because most people don't use them on their laps these days (not since they started generating so much heat, really).

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Flame

they stopped calling them laptops

when they started burning peoples laps.

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Agree on keyboard

From the looks of it, not enough keyboard,

Tons of space, couldn't be bothered to have a numpad?

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Gimp

@keyboard

You must be new here...

Apple has exactly the same keyboard on every single lap^H^H^Hnotebook. They want the user experience to be the same when you change to a different machine.

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Stop

Numeric keypads a bad idea on notebooks

The problem with numeric keypads on notebooks is that the main keyboard is then shunted to the side of the screen. Makes the things bloody awkward to use.

Have a look next time you're using a full size standalone keyboard -- I bet it's not placed centrally to your screen.

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Anonymous Coward

Keyboard

The killer issue for me too - don't care about central placement relative to screen, do care about the keypad etc.

Otherwise looks like an excellent (albeit costly) Windows laptop.

Games benchmarks would be nice too for those of us that waste our time in that way.

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"slightly marred by costs"?

A mere £2100? Surely not...

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Ports & screen

I was considering the 17" model for the expressport slot; it's good for SATA adaptors or video adaptors for a 2nd (or 3rd) screen. However when you use the thunderbolt output, the expresscard slot is turned off :(

I got the 15" model in the end; it's more portable and I only really use the internal screen when out with it anyway. As for adaptors for DVI / HDMI, they are only cables or adaptors; if you don't buy them in the Apple store they cost about £10 or less.

You also forgot to mention the essential screen option; there is an anti-glare version available to order which means you can still see the screen contents wherever you are; even outside! (I can't see the point of a laptop that you can't take anywhere and use because you can only see the screen when setup in one position in a room).

Oh and if "no-one will convince me that it’s money badly spent", why didn't you buy one for your daughter? :p

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Erm

You say that its performanve is amazing compared to other laptops then list it with a bunch of other machines that make it look decidedly average. I took a quick look at the acer and can get it from tesco for under 900 quid. Being as i use my 17" pavillion as a replacement desktop that i can take with me to clients i could buy the acer and an apple 27" cinema display. That way i get huge screen silly resolution kick ass performance usb3.0 and change left over to buy a moch choca pony and trapacino instead of peripherals to make my mac talk to run of the mill components.

Hell i could even buy 2x 27" dell screens instead and have one at home and leave one on client site.

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Big fan of Macbooks

I'm a big fan of Macbooks and use a Macbook pro 15" myself. This review seems like a waste of a time though. It's pretty much repeating the same thing that everyone already knows about Macbooks.

The 17" has beefed up CPU and GPU. Great. There's nothing new with it that isn't with all the rest that have been out for a couple years. There's really been no major changes for awhile. Just upgraded hardware inside.

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Anonymous Coward

80%

Shock and horror, is 80 the only number The Register knows?

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Anonymous Coward

75%

For everything non-Apple the score of choice is 75%

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Go

Firewire Sound

For some of us Firewire is essential for external sound card usage. USB just does not cut it, especially on older MacBooks I have used.

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Tim

Yes, this

All the kit in my little bedroom studio uses firewire. USB audio gear doesn't really work properly (ie reliably at low latency.)

USB 3 may change this, but the music tech industry moves quite slowly. Firewire will stay for a while.

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Linux

+1 Firewire audio

USB audio doesn't cut it on anything.

There are a few USB audio devices that come close to the low- or mid-range firewire audio devices but as soon as you want more channels or a higher sample rate then you can forget it.

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Ted
Happy

But remember Intel is killing off USB 3

Intel's entire focus is now Thunderbolt for I/O. They will no longer promote USB 3.0 since it's an obsolete "Hub & Spoke" topology.

You can learn how it works here:

http://www.intel.com/technology/io/thunderbolt/index.htm

-

I think USB 2.1 has a good 10 years, but nobody really used 3.0, so Intel is removing it.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

And they are beautiful indeed. People slate Apple for the premiums charged for their portables, but in essence the are the best looking and best made portable systems on the market, albeit the most expesive.

Sure I'd like one, but I am still reeling from the financial milking I underwent buying my son an MBP 13" for his 21st birthday.

Maybe one fine day, but until then, I'll have to make do with my flimsy plastic 17" that emulates Chernobyl when working hard and creaks like a geriatric gymnast when placed upon anything but a flat surface. Oh, and I still get surprised with the occasion blue screen too...

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Ted
Happy

Yes, the fine quality of Apple products...

Sure people pay a bit more up front for Apple's higher quality hardware and software, but they also retain their value far longer, so it's better "purchase" compared to non-Apple kit.

Apple just represents the people that are "good with money" and those who "are not". Smart people get Apple product each time if you look at the data.

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Gorgeous laptop - really fast, but hot

I bought one of these a couple of months ago, and it's FAST. I get 6 hours of light usage from a full battery, or a couple of hours of Handbrake - which tears through files like they weren't there.

One other thing apart from the weight (which I was expecting), is how HOT it gets when it's working hard.

The screen is gorgeous, the trackpad a joy to use. Fantastic machine. Just be aware that if you're doing anything CPU-intensive that your legs will get uncomfortably (almost painfully) hot if you use it on your lap.

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Useful comment.

Thanks.

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Firewire

If you want to attach any sort of professional sound card, you need Firewire.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm

Plus points - the case and screen resolution

Negative points - price, no usb3, no hdmi, no card reader, medium spec gpu and only 4gig ram and a 5,400rpm hard drive at that cost ?

Missing info - Is a matte screen extra cost, and what's the colour gamut ? Can I swap out to a faster hd or ssd myself (I think I read somewhere they're wired in somehow and the fan will go crazy)? I'm interested in a highspec laptop but I'm thinking something like a Kobalt would be better for me.

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HDMI via adapter

Although there's no built in HDMI, you can use a minidisplay port to HDMI adapter or thunderbolt to HDMI adapter. Either will work since the thunderbolt port is backwards compatible with mini display port adapters. You can buy this adapter for 5-10 pounds on ebay.

I use HDMI out via this method to carry audio and video to my TV in a single cable.

It has a card reader on the side..

I agree with you about the slow HD. You'd think on a machine this expensive you'd at least get 7200.

What you read about the fan is on the big mac desktops, not the laptops. You can swap out the HD without any problem. I swapped my boot drive to an SSD and then moved the original HD into the place of the dvd-drive thanks to a caddy I bought on ebay for a tenner.

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Linux

Some of those things aren't missing

You can opt for a faster disk and more memory, although it's cheaper to put your own in (as I did with my 15" MBP). Instructions for replacing disk and adding memory came with my machine, you can check for yourself with the on-line manuals and whatnot.

HDMI is present by virtue of the display port/thunderbolt connection.

If you're keen to know the colour gamut in detail, look it up :-) I can tell you though that the colours knock anything else into a cocked hat: you can be sure that what you see is what the print shop will print. Last time I looked, a matte screen was £50.

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Meh

Just another macbook.

So what do we have here? Oh look, another Macbook, just like every other Macbook, only bigger and shinier. It still doesn't have enough useful ports, and the reviewer doesn't apparently know what one of the ports is used for, but it's shiny and made by Apple, so he can't mark it down.

I get the feeling that there's so much that could be done to this to make it amazing, and STILL make huge profits from the £2100 price. Dual SSD and hard disc drives? Number pad? Conventional video port? USB3? Built-in quality sound card?

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MeJ
Meh

Why Firewire? Music Hardware as well as video

Most musos (who commonly use movable Macs since PCs require braincells already otherwise occupied or defunct) that have been making music for some time will have a collection of thousands of pounds/dollars worth of Firewire connected sound cards, samplers, I/O, disks. effect units and so on... they will use the ExpressCard/34 with another Firewiree adaptor to get more ports.

Video semi-pros are in a similar position.

If Apple leave out Firewire and ExpressCard/34 they will be excommunicating a significant part of their professional user base.

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Bronze badge
Gimp

house of macs

I'll be sticking my 2009 3.06hz core 2 duo on ebay in the next few days after finding the upgraded 2011 air meets my needs now (along with my 2010 air).

It's a great piece of kit though, lovely screen, I stuck a flash multicard reader in the expresscard slot - better than just an SD card job.

Mine was about 2600 all specced up, Certainly a lot of cash for a laptop, but you get what you pay for imho. It makes even the vaios looks plasticy.

currently providing a home to:

imac 17 2007 core2duo

imac 27 2011 3.4 i7

mbp17 2009 3gz

mba 11" 2010

mba 11" 2011

macmini 2006 2.33 coreduo

macmini 2009 2 core2duo

I believe with my next mac I get a gold 'fanboi' badge from Steve

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Stop

Firewire and Expresscard

Sigh. We get the "what is firewire and Expresscard for" arguement wheeled out every time. Who is it for? Video editors! It was only a few months ago I was sitting in a room with 25 video editors, 20 of which were kitted up with Macbook Pros.

Expresscard is used for new solid state video cameras. Sony's XDCAMEX series shoot onto Express card. If you use genuine Sony SxS cards you can't just use a USB adaptor unless you fork out for a specialised adaptor for a couple of hundred sovs or go through the camera (not ideal).

Firewire is needed for older cameras (pleanty of editors still sweating their HDV assets). Also Firewire 800 is ideal for external hard disks as its much faster than USB2.

I have a 3 year old MBP 15" and use Expresscard and Firewire 800 every day as well.

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Thumb Down

I'll take a tank over a sports car any day

An alienware tank for that price.

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Anonymous Coward

Alienware

Think I agree - better keyboard, better performance (particularly for gaming) and just as good a screen.

I'm unsure about the combination of sleek design and high performance (i.e. hot) parts, Alienware look like boxy toys but are designed first and foremost to run all that top end kit.

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Bronze badge

I don't get it

17" laptops should be like portable desktop computers. a 17" MBP should be the pinnacle of this kind of machine. So even though it doesn't look neat it should have 4 USB ports and a VGA port. DVI and HDMI adapters should be included. The optical drive should read and write bluray it should come with 8GB RAM as standard along with a 128GB SSD and a 1TB spinning disk.

Whilst I kind of applaud Apple for trying to stick it out with thunderbolt, they need to learn from past history. In many respects firewire is much better than USB, it was way better than USB 1 but the interface you find on everything is USB, firewire has its home with video and audio gear. From what I've seen USB3 is better than firewire 800 for harddrives and the cost of thunderbolt drives is always going to be high because the connection isn't going to be on anything but really high end computers.

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Expresscard is to put your SSD into

I slapped a WinDisk (?!) 96gb SSD into my 15" Macbook's SSD slot, and it's like having a new computer. I symlink things like Music over to the spinning-platter drive, and the rest stays on the SSD. It's fantastic.

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Expresscard SSD

I did the same thing with a 2007 MBP 17" recently. It's a really good way to add a boot SSD and also retain a large data drive. Not sure how this will work with this new MBP however as a previous post eludes to the fact that you can't use this port while the lightspeed one is also being used?

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Ted
Happy

Lack of Ports? it's wireless!

The author is clearly living in the 1990's... why would he still want "ports" when everything is wireless over 802.11n or Bluetooth? - Yeah, sure everyone still loves FireWire, but but even that fast connection will be replaced by ONE CABLE.

Apple is gearing everything for the day that Intel's ThunderBolt provides every port through ONE port... Power, FireWire, USB, Ethernet, Video of course, audio, etc... Intel is killing USB 3.0 so the future is clear.

So again the author isn't thinking like how Apple thinks, he is stuck in the past.

People can learn how the future is going to work in terms of tethered "cables" right here:

The goal is ONE cable for EVERY connection type...

http://www.apple.com/thunderbolt/

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WTF?

So he sends his kid off to uni with a HP and enjoys the Apple all to himself. What a tight b****rd.

And to compare a mid-range HP with a premium Apple line is like saying my kids skoda is nowhere near as nice as my Jag.

Reviewer is a tosser.

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Come on!

Have you SEEN what kids are like with objects? Particularly ones they don't buy?

I swear, young males can break anvils. It's not until they are on their own and break something they bought that you start to see them take care of stuff. And not just laptops: cars, tools, phones, furniture, etc.

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Gimp

"slightly marred by cost"

... in the same way that the Titanic was slighty marred by a leak.

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Get real...

Your daughters laptop didn't cost over £2000.... poor comparison.

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