Test Center review: MacBook Pro is built to last
If the unibody MacBook Pro were a car, it would be an eight-cylinder, hybrid, luxury SUV with full body armor
Apple has done a complete and meaningful redesign of its top-selling commercial notebook, the MacBook Pro, for durability, serviceability, energy efficiency, and eco-consciousness. A one-piece, rigid, machined aluminum frame ("unibody") forms the MacBook Pro's internal structure, a design feature it shares with the new aluminum MacBook and MacBook Air. As with the MacBook Air, the clamshell laptop that upended the thin-and-light PC notebook market, Apple made some marvelously unorthodox design decisions for the MacBook Pro.
The MacBook Pro looks grand, no doubt, but I take little notice of eye-catching gimmicks. In this case, all that makes the MacBook Pro prettier than its predecessor has irrefutably rational reasons for inclusion in the design. Mounting the display glass flush with the lid's rounded edges is a nice look, but there's also a larger purpose: A continuous rubber gasket seals the display to the domed aluminum lid and guards against shock and vibration. Unlike with a more rigid seal, the gasket eliminates stress points that would cause the lid to bow from crush pressure.
[ Explore the interactive Flash illustrations of InfoWorld's ideal notebooks in "The best notebook money can't buy." Discover what InfoWorld readers want in a notebook in "The perfect laptop, take two." ]
Now the MacBook Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Air share the gapless keyboard that debuted with the original MacBook. I thought that, next to MacBook Pro's silver, typewriter-like keyboard, the MacBook keyboard looked cheap and kid-friendly. If the plastic MacBook's keyboard is cheap, its implementation in the MacBook Pro is anything but. The key grid is machined into the unibody core; plus, the keys do not rattle, the caps cannot pop off, and the honeycomb frame grabs the keys so tightly that it's hard to jam a fingernail between a key and the aluminum around it, so dust and debris have little chance of getting in. As a bonus, the whole top surface, keys and all, wipes clean with a damp cloth.
My only gripe with the new keyboard is the backlight. Apple used light pipes on previous MacBook Pro models so that only the key legends were lit. Now the entire key bed is illuminated, and light leaks distractingly from around and beneath the keys. With large white legends on black keys, I don't use the backlight as much as the old white-on-silver required.
Apple replaced the MacBook Pro's trackpad, a component I consistently found problematic, with a larger pad that has a matte glass surface. As advertised, the new pad is smooth as silk, even slippery to the point that when you click, it's hard to keep your finger in the same place. This makes tap-to-click menus, as well as drag and drop, an extra challenge. It seems that Apple adjusted for this by turning the trackpad into a tactile button; you mash on the lower half of the pad to click. Dumping the button made room for a bigger pad; it works best to click near the horizontal center. The trackpad is now so large that it could double as a little graphics tablet, but Apple tells me that a stylus isn't in the cards.