It's obviously a capable GPU, but it's a good thing the system automatically switches to the integrated Intel HD Graphics when it's not needed -- there's a serious decrease in heat and power usage. Unfortunately, reduced heat and power usage comes at the expense of raw capability. Intel's integrated graphics have never been much to write home about, and while HD Graphics is an improvement, it's still pretty slow. Apple told us Intel integrated graphics performance should equal or exceed the previous Pro's integrated NVIDIA GeForce M, but we found it to be slightly slower at every turn, although not enough so to be dramatically noticeable.
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It's not a huge problem on the and inch Pros, since you can fall back on that Radeon, but we wouldn't try to do more than average HD media playback or casual gaming on the entirely-Intel inch model. Playing a little Batman: Arkham Asylum while booted in Windows netted a smooth 60fps at native resolution while meandering about, with a dip to 55fps during fights. Needless to say, we had no problems getting through a workday on the new MBP -- we generally juggle Firefox, Chrome, email, a couple chat clients, and various image and video editing tasks on and off throughout a day, and things never felt sluggish or laggy at all.
Used this way, we also managed to get around seven hours of battery life, which is pretty impressive -- we imagine things would have dipped had we fired up the Radeon more often, but in day-to-day usage the Intel graphics did just fine. And fair kudos to Apple: That's a solidly consumer-friendly move, and one we definitely wish more PC manufacturers would make as well. Apple's been chugging along with VGA webcams on their machines for so long we were actually shocked when we found out the new MacBook Pro has an upgraded p FaceTime HD camera in the lid.
Image quality is obviously improved from the previous generation, and we noticed a slightly cooler cast. We'd love some fine-grained image controls at the system level for this camera -- even just white balance and exposure sliders would go a long, long way. There's just not much to say about Thunderbolt right now -- yes, the port is there, but there aren't any peripherals that use the new 10Gbps dual-channel interconnect just yet.
We'll note once again that this marks the first time we can remember Apple switching standards without switching connectors -- a watershed moment in the history of dongle purchasing. In any event, we're marking Thunderbolt as an incomplete right now -- until there are peripherals to support it, it might as well just be a Mini DisplayPort. That'll change soon, though, and we'll revisit the subject when that happens. Apple's forging headlong into its next era with the iPad and iPhone, and it almost seems like the company's forgotten about its Macs at times -- note that this MacBook Pro arrived in somewhat unheralded fashion just few days before the iPad 2.
But the new Pro is something of a wolf in sheep's clothing: It's twice as fast as the outgoing model, 2. It's hard to say anything bad about that. Something tells us the next revision of the MacBook Pro will offer a more radical external redesign to go along with Lion , but that's a long ways off -- until then, this MacBook Pro represents the best blend of power, portability, and battery life we've come across to date. We'll see how the PC world responds with its Sandy Bridge systems soon enough.
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