The Bottom Line
The 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro 2011 models received processor, graphics, and I/O updates that make them the choice for mobile professionals who need the capabilities of fast quad-core i7 processors and high-performance mobile graphics.
Choosing between the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro 2011 models really comes down to how much screen real estate you need. The 17-inch MacBook Pro is a must-see, with a gorgeous display. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is lighter (5.6 lbs. vs. 6.6 lbs.) and smaller. Both models are nearly identical in performance, so the final decision is based on your preferred screen size and budget.
- Intel Quad-Core i7 processors (Sandy Bridge).
- Dual graphics processors, Intel HD Graphics 3000, and AMD Radeon HD 6490M or HD 6750M
- Thunderbolt I/O.
- SSD options.
- Glossy or anti-glare displays.
- SSD options from Apple are still expensive.
- Only the 500 GB hard drive is available with the faster 7200 RPM speed.
- Only has 2 RAM slots.
- 2.0 GHz (15-inch model only), 2.2 GHZ, and 2.3 GHz Quad-Core i7 processors
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 and AMD Radeon HD 6490M or HD 6750M graphics processors
- 4 GB RAM upgradeable to 8 GB RAM
- 500 GB or 750 GB hard drive options
- 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB SSD options
- Thunderbolt high-speed data and video port
- FireWire 800 port and two USB 2.0 ports
- SDXC card slot
- 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- 10/100/1000 Base-T Gigibit Ethernet
Guide Review - Review of the 15 and 17-inch MacBook Pro 2011
The 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro 2011 models are destined to be the workhorses of the 2011 line of MacBook Pros. Both models offer quad-core Intel processors and dual graphics processors that will keep these laptops zipping along. To ensure the MacBook Pro has access to necessary data, both models can be configured with SSDs (Solid State Drives), and both have the new Thunderbolt I/O port, which can slurp up data at up to 10 Gbps.
Intel Quad-Core i7 Processors
The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers three processor options. The 2.0 GHz and 2.2 GHz Intel Quad-Core i7 options each have 6 MB of shared L3 cache. The remaining processor is a build-to-order option, with a 2.3 GHz quad-core i7 and an 8 MB shared L3 cache.
The 17-inch MacBook Pro is available with the 2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz processors used in the 15-inch model.
These quad-core processors not only provide multiple cores to speed processing, they also support Intel's Turbo Boost, which can speed up the processors to a 3.4 GHz clock rate. They also support hyper threading, which allows each core to process two threads at once. To the OS and all applications, the MacBook Pro will appear to have 8 cores to divvy up for data processing.
Depending on the processor options you choose, the MacBook Pro 2011 can as much as double the processing performance of the 2010 models.
MacBook Pro Gets Dual Graphics Processors
The 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros get dual graphics processors. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 handles basic graphics needs, while complex graphics are given a boost with the AMD Radeon HD 6490M (15-inch 2.0 GHz model) or HD 6750M (in the remaining 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models).
The MacBook Pro automatically switches between the available graphics options, depending on the task at hand. This helps stretch battery life by not using the AMD Radeon graphics engine except when needed. Apple claims that when configured with the HD 6750M graphics processor, the new MacBook Pro can provide a 3x boost in graphics versus last year's models.
The 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models offer both glossy and anti-glare display options. The 15-inch model can be configured with a glossy or anti-glare hi-res display (1680x1050). The stock glossy display has a resolution of 1440x900 pixels. The 17-inch model uses either a glossy or an anti-glare 1920x1200 display.
Thunderbolt is the new high-speed data port, capable of handling both video (using DisplayPort protocol) and data. Thunderbolt operates at up to 10 Gbps bidirectional; that is, it can send and receive data at the 10 Gbps speed simultaneously.
The Thunderbolt port, as supplied by Apple, will initially see the majority of its use as a port for connecting external displays.
Since Thunderbolt can be daisy chained, once third-party external drives and other peripherals become available, it will likely be used for high speed interconnects, such as RAID arrays and other data storage needs.