Dedicated graphics card makes a big difference in latest 13-inch MacBook Pro

It may look just like the previous model but inside there are quite a number of differences that, taken together, make the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro from Apple a very interesting proposition indeed.

Published: Sun 27 Mar 2011, 12:19 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:05 PM

If we start on the outside, the only way you can tell it is the updated model is a different icon next to what used to be the Mini DisplayPort. Previously, this port was only used to connect a Mac to an external monitor, TV or projector. From now on, it will also use it to plug in other accessories, like hard drives, scanners, printers, etc. Apple has developed what it calls ThunderBolt in partnership with Intel and it is a technology that supports speeds of up to 10Gbps, far beyond what FireWire and USB currently offers (the Mac has one FireWire 800 port and two USB 2.0 ports). There is also an SD card slot for reading memory cards from cameras or just expand storage.

The base model of the 13-inch MacBook Pro has an Intel Core i5 2.4GHz processor, giving it plenty of speed for even demanding tasks. Without stating benchmark numbers I can tell you there is a definite difference especially in processing video in iMovie, exporting to PDF with Indesign, and other similar tasks. The 4GB RAM is enough for most users but you can go up to 8GB if you like. There’s 320GB of storage, which is easy to upgrade later. For those who need more power, there is also a Core i7 model of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple didn’t change the display at all but the graphics behind the display has changed. A dedicated graphics card has given away to the processor graphics offered by the Sandy Bridge processor. Intel HD 3000 processor graphics gives considerably better performance than previously integrated graphics options so even for moderate gamers it should be a decent option. Sure, it’s not the most demanding game in terms of graphics but I did a quick test run of World of Warcraft and I was impressed with the quality I could achieve.

In terms of this MacBook Pro being a mobile workstation, Apple claims seven hours of battery life. I’d say that in reality that is optimistic by about 1-2 hours. Reducing the brightness of the screen and trying not to stress the processor make real differences on useful battery life. Although you may not be able to use it for a complete work day without plugging in, you can count on it for many hours of effective use without having to reach for the charger.

To sum up, if you have the previous MacBook Pro 13-inch, there’s little reason to upgrade other than some more speed. ThunderBolt is nice to have, but it will be a long time before it becomes a must-have. Apple’s smallest MacBook Pro is at Dh5,699 the best example yet of the perfect balance between portability, flexibility and performance.

Magnus Nystedt talks and writes about technology as much as he can. Follow him on Twitter as @mnystedt for the latest on consumer technology in the Middle East.

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