Apple was a little late in slipping Intel's new mobile processors into its notebook line. The first Intel Core i7 for mobile use appeared late last year, but only now do we see one offered in a MacBook Pro, the Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010) 2.66GHz Core i7. The reason for the delay is not too hard to find: Apple's wise reticence in fitting an ill-suited processor just to follow tech fashion.
In the desktop range, the Intel Core i7 pretty much rules the roost in high-end personal computing. It's a quad-core processor equipped with HyperThreading (to virtually double four cores into eight) and TurboBoost, which autonomously ramps up one or two physical cores' clock speeds at times of peak demand.
Problem is, the first Core i7s tuned for mobile use were still blighted with challenging power demands – which equals terminal battery life and excessive heat and noise. HP took the Core i7 plunge for its HP Envy 15 notebook, but that is one hot laptop that demands a huge strap-on battery pack to give half-decent mobile life.
The Core i7-720QM inside is a true quad-core architecture – but has a high thermal design power (TDP) of 45W to match. And its regular clock speed is only 1.6GHz. Then Intel released the 2.66GHz Core i7-620M in January, with the ability to impulsively overclock to 3.33GHz. Note, though, that Apple cites 3.06GHz as its peak speed.
Nevertheless, Turbo'd thus it's still the quickest clocking chip ever to grace an Apple notebook. Its maximum TDP? A more manageable 35W, the same as the former-fastest Core 2 Duo used by Apple, a 2.8GHz T9600. The only gotcha for quad-core fans is that this Core i7 inside the Apple MacBook Pro 2.66GHz Core i7 is actually a dual-core processor chip. Lucky, then, that despite the quadesque i7 badge, its proving to be one helluva way to power a performance laptop.
But before we look at those benchmarks, there's more to the new top-flight Mac portable than a new CPU.
All ports on the Apple MacBook Pro 15in are ranged along the left side: (from left to right) MagSafe power connector, gigabit ethernet, FireWire 800, Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0, SD card slot, mic input with Toslink digital optical in, headphone output with Toslink out, battery-level button and eight concealed LEDs
In essential form and running gear, the new MacBook Pro range is the same as last year's Unibody family – except for a new graphics switching engine, and with two entirely new graphics processors to switch between. In the case of the top-spec 15in model, fitted memory is still 4GB and storage is a 500GB, 5400rpm, hard drive. It is possible to specify faster 7200rpm hard drives, SSD storage, and up to 8GB of RAM.
Other material differences in the new line-up are a fractionally larger integrated battery in the Apple MacBook Pro 2.66GHz Core i7 (up to 77.5Wh, from 73Wh), and a trackpad that now features inertia scrolling. Like the iPhone, a good stroke of the fingers sends a page coasting along even after you remove your hand.
Construction of the Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2010) 2.66GHz Core i7 is still the best in the business. Hewn from solid metal block and finished in a natural satin aluminium, this Unibody chassis is stiff, lightweight and durable. No chippable paint or chintzy plastic trim interferes with the complete professional look.
We're still reeling from Apple's decision to fit a glare screen on its pro notebooks, though. There remains an anti-glare LCD panel as a build-to-order option, although this higher-resolution 1680x1050 matt panel now adds £120 to the price.