Review: Apple's 15-in. MacBook Pro now faster -- and cheaper
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The slot works exactly as you'd expect. Just slide an SD card in -- metal contacts side down -- and an SD card icon pops up on your desktop. When I tested it, iPhoto promptly launched and quickly imported my photos. I then dragged the icon to the trash can to "eject" it, and pulled it out of the slot. There's no spring mechanism; you just slide it in and pull it out. If you don't see an icon show up on the desktop, you may have to try again. Apple recommends inserting it with a smooth sliding motion.
Another minor change -- one you'd have to look for to really notice -- is that the Mini DisplayPort video port is now sandwiched between a FireWire 800 port and two USB ports. All of the ports are on the left side of the case; the SuperDrive for playing and burning CDs and DVDs is on the right. Otherwise, the new MacBook Pro sports the same unibody aluminum-and-black look as before. The glass-coated one-piece trackpad/clicker button is back unchanged, and the laptop feels comfortably solid -- a credit to the unibody design.
Built-in batteries across the line
Less obvious is the non-removable lithium-polymer battery, which offers substantially more time on juice than earlier models. The 17-in. MacBook Pro, which comes with the same 2.8GHz processor as the top-end 15-in. model, was the first in the lineup to get the integrated battery back in January. Apple says it can power the 17-in. model for eight hours, and I easily got about 6.5 hours of use without trying very hard when reviewing that particular laptop earlier this year.
The 75 watt-hour battery that's in the 15-in. version is the same one used in the new 13-in. MacBook Pro I'll be reviewing soon. According to Apple, it will last up to seven hours. I've never been able to duplicate Apple's battery numbers, but I was able to use this MacBook Pro for just over five hours without plugging it in, mostly while surfing the Web wirelessly, text editing and watching the occasional video.
That's the most I've ever gotten on the 15-in. MacBook Pro, and I didn't even turn down the screen brightness as much as Apple does when testing. Others, too, are seeing seriously better time on battery.
It's disconcerting to spend a few hours working and then notice that the battery indicator is still showing the battery half full. That's doubly true if you've used Windows machines that can run through a battery in less than two hours. It's akin to speeding down the highway and glancing at a speedometer that indicates you're doing just 20 miles an hour.
Given that the battery is no longer removable, you won't be bringing extra batteries on cross-country flights. But Apple says the MacBook Pro will play full-screen DVDs at maximum screen brightness -- with the volume turned up to the max -- for 3.5 hours. It may not get you clear across the country, but if you turn down the brightness and lower the volume, you could still squeeze in two movies.
If you're concerned about not being able to replace the battery -- and one of my Mac guru buddies rushed to buy the last-generation laptop for just that reason -- Apple claims the built-in battery will last for about 1,000 charge cycles and shouldn't need replacing for five years.
Hard drive options abound