We can't get the MobileMark 2007 battery test to run on Apple's latest generation of laptops with nVidia chipsets, so we tested this model with light use in Mac OS X, with 802.11 wireless on and screen at around 75% brightness. Graphics card was the default nVidia 9400M. Under these conditions, the Apple MacBook Pro stayed alive for 6 hours 47 mins, just shy of Apple's 7-hour figure.

This is short of what we're seeing on the latest long-life Windows laptops, notable the Acer Timeline 5810T, but still a more than useful improvement over every earlier Apple MacBook of any description. And it's worth noting that the Acer Timeline series of laptops are far slower machines, whether you're looking at graphics or overall system speed.

The other significant difference in the new Apple MacBook Pro range is the loss of the ExpressCard 34 slot, to be replaced by an SD card reader. While this may reduce flexibility for introducing new and assorted peripherals such as eSATA, flash memory and multi-format card readers, in practice most people will probably welcome the single-purpose slot.

Of the various memory cards used by digital cameras, for instance, the SD card has risen to near ubiquity, with capacities up to 32GB now readily available.

The SD card slot is connected internally by USB, and in our tests wth a Kingston Class 4 32GB SDHC card, we found reasonable read/write speeds were possible for file transfers: around 8MB/s writing and 16MB/s reading. It's only a shame that the card, once slotted in, does not sit flush with the unibodywork. Instead it sticks out enough that you wouldn't want to put the laptop in a case with the card loaded.

To test overall system performance, we used our usual WorldBench 6 benchmark test in Windows, using Boot Camp to install Windows Home Premium 64-bit. The Apple MacBook Pro sailed through with a score of 98 points, proving itself faster than the previous flagship 17in unibody Apple MacBook Pro. With a 2.66GHz processor, last season's model scored 94 points in WorldBench.

In Windows Vista graphics tests, the new 15in played FEAR at an average framerate of 55fps (Max quality), leading us to try our more ambitious Crysis test. Here the Apple MacBook Pro portable sustained 78fps (1024x768, Low graphics); moving resolution up to more closely match the screen's native pixel count, we averaged 25fps at 1400x960 (Medium setting) and 55fps (Low setting).

OUR VERDICT

It’s not the cheapest 15in laptop currently available, but the new Apple MacBook Pro is arguably the best that money can buy today. Only the poor screen quality really lets down an otherwise near-perfect machine. If you can overlook this, then the thoughtful industrial design and peerless build makes Apple's MacBook Pro the gold standard for all modern 15in notebooks.