14/12/2011 18:13 | By Cliff Joseph, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch review

It doesn't come cheap, but this is a laptop of rare quality and class.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (© Apple)

What is it?
The big brother of the slimline MacBook Air - heavier, faster and even more expensive.

What's great?
The quad-core i7 processor makes this one of the most powerful laptops currently available.

What's not?
It's hideously expensive, and almost twice the weight of the MacBook Air

Bottom Line:
A quality piece of kit, but you'll need a banker's bonus to pay for it.

The success of the iPhone and iPad has overshadowed Apple's Mac computers in recent years, to the point where the latest MacBook Pro models barely even merited a press release from Apple when they were released recently. That's a shame, as the MacBook Pro can still knock spots off most of its PC rivals - if, that is, you can actually afford to buy one.

As the name implies, the MacBook Pro range is primarily aimed at people who want a laptop for use at work, so they're bigger and more powerful than the lightweight MacBook Air. They also include features, such as a DVD drive, that simply won't fit into the MacBook Air's slimline chassis.

One reason for the high price is the fact that Apple turns its nose up at the affordable Intel i3 processor that you generally find in our list of sub-£600 laptops. In fact, there's only one model in the entire range that even comes in at less than £1000 - a 13-inch model with an i5 processor that costs £999. The rest of the range uses the state-of-the-art quad-core Intel i7 processor and will set you back the best part of two grand (which probably explains why Apple is sitting on a $70bn pile of cash at the moment).

We got our hands on the mid-range 15.4-inch model, which costs a whopping £1549 with an i7 processor running at 2.2GHz, 4GB of memory and 500GB hard disk. There's also a more expensive model costing £1849 that runs at 2.4GHz and has a 750GB hard disk and more powerful graphics card. And if you're feeling really flush you can step up to a 17-inch screen for a whopping £2099.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (© Apple)

Those prices may leave your jaw scraping on the ground but the MacBook Pro does work hard to earn its keep. Apple's elegant brushed metal design is widely copied by other laptop manufacturers, and the components are all top-quality. The high-definition screen is bright and sharp, and works a treat when watching video. The glowing, backlit keyboard is solidly built and comfortable, and Apple's slick trackpad design uses 'multi-touch' finger gestures to replace the buttons found on conventional trackpads.

Apple even designs its own batteries. I got five full hours out of the MacBook Pro when streaming full-screen video off the BBC iPlayer, and lighter work such as browsing the web or word-processing will probably give you closer to six hours.

Mind you, menial tasks such as those are almost an insult to a machine like this. The i7 processor means that the MacBook Pro is more powerful than most desktop Macs and PCs, and has more than enough raw horsepower for professional-level audio and video-editing work. It's also got two separate graphics chips - the power-efficient Intel HD 3000 for general use, and a more powerful AMD Radeon for 3D graphics and video work.

If you need a top-of-the-range laptop then the performance and quality of the MacBook Pro do justify its price. It's just a shame that Apple no longer seems interested in making laptops for ordinary mortals who don't have an executive expense account to play with.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch is rated four out of five stars by MSN Tech & Gadgets

Essential info:
Price: from £1549
URL: www.apple.com/uk
Screen: 15.4 inch, 1440x900 resolution
Processor: Intel i7 at 2.2GHz
Memory: 4GB
Hard disk: 500GB
Weight: 2.54Kg

Also consider:
Lenovo B570 - a smart, businesslike laptop with i5 processor for less than £600
Samsung Series 9 - less powerful than the MacBook Pro, but with a striking slimline design.

What you said:
"Certainly one of my best purchases." JamesPywell
"Would I recommend the MacBook Pro? Without a shadow of a doubt." pilotjack
(user reviews based on older MacBook Pro models)