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Review: Apple's 15-in. MacBook Pro delivers on speed, battery life

Michael deAgonia | Dec. 17, 2013
The move to faster PCIe flash storage offers a noticeable boost in performance

Storage on the entry-level MacBook Pro can also be upgraded to 512GB for $300 extra and to a whopping 1TB for $800. Here's where the move to PCIe flash that began with the MacBook Air reveals itself. When I reviewed the MacBook Air last summer, I found impressive performance; the benchmarked speed was nearly double that of last year's MacBook Pro.

The Blackmagic Disk Speed Test app shows how fast the MacBook Pro's flash storage is for reads and writes.

I'm happy to say that the move to PCIe-based flash delivers a discernible performance jump. Benchmarks using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test app show that this machine consistently hits read/write speeds of over 700 Mbps. That's a big improvement over last year's average read/write speeds, which were 457Mbps and 414.5Mbps, respectively. The difference is noticeable even for common tasks like launching apps.

As for the built-in RAM, 8GB is fine for now, but 16GB will be better down the road. It's important to remember when you purchase a MacBook Pro that memory is fixed. What you buy is what will be in the machine for its life span. As a result, I advise getting the most memory you can afford. The $200 you'll spend for 16GB of RAM is worth it.

The high-end MacBook Pro comes with a pretty significant leap in price: $2599. In this configuration, you get a 2.3GHz quad-core i7 with Turbo Boost speeds of 3.5GHz; 16GB of 1600MHz memory; 512GB of storage; the integrated Intel Iris Pro Graphics and a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory. (You can also upgrade to faster processors and more storage if you need extra horsepower.)

As before, OS X decides which graphics card to use on the fly based on performance needs, but you can choose to always use the more powerful NVIDIA chipset by going to Apple Menu> System Preferences> Energy Saver and making sure Automatic graphics selection is unchecked. Depending on how you use the laptop, this may affect battery life. More about this in a bit.

Both MacBook Pro models support dual external displays with a resolution up to 2560x1600 pixels for extending your desktop and for video mirroring.

Peripheral connections
When it comes to peripherals, the MacBook Pro offers a variety of connectivity options. On the left side of the laptop, next to the MagSafe 2 power connection, are two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack. (The headphone jack is compatible with the Apple headsets that ship with the iPhone, and supports digital and analog audio out.) Thunderbolt 2 offers the latest generation of wide-bandwidth I/O technology, supporting everything from external drives to displays on a dual-channel 20Gbps bus.


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