MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.4GHz [2008] full review - Page 3

The MacBook Pro's glossy screen and graphics cards

Opening up the new MacBook Pros reveals a bright, glossy, 15.4-inch (viewable) widescreen LED-backlit monitor that’s pure joy to behold. The 1,440-by-900-pixel screen is no longer encased in a metal bezel, but rather seems to float on its own, ringed by a deep black frame. It’s all glass. There’s only the thinnest hint of a bezel if you view it at a particular angle. These displays are just beautiful, and a lot more attractive than previous ‘Books. They are also ecologically friendly, being both mercury and arsenic free.

There’s no longer a choice of screen finishes, unfortunately, and many will be unhappy about the glossy screen. Personally, the more we look at glossy screens (especially on laptops where they don’t remind me of a huge negative mirror) the more appealing they become. Not only is the graphical contrast visually striking, but these new screens show grayscale gradations that are virtually undetectable on matte screens. They also have a 3D quality that makes everything on-screen burst with energy and vivid colour.

But some people – especially professional designers – do not like glossy screens. Many Macworld readers complain that they do not offer the same level of colour calibration and that they are less suitable for print and photographic work. Others complain that they cause eyestrain; and yet others simply dislike the reflective nature of glossy screens that act like a mirror – especially on dark surfaces. We think Apple has made a mistake in not offering a matte option on its professional machines.

MacBook Pro's NVIDIA 9600M power

It’s the brand new graphics chips that make the difference in how the laptop handles high-intensity graphical applications such as 3-D, video, professional imaging and design applications, and games. The new MacBook Pros employ Nvidia’s Hybrid SLI technology, a pairing of two graphics chips–one integrated in the motherboard (GeForce 9400M) and the other discrete (GeForce 9600M GT). The 9400M has 16 parallel processor cores and is capable of 54 Gigaflops, while the latter has 32 parallel processor cores and is capable of 120 Gigaflops. As for video memory, the 9400M uses 256MB of main memory. The 9600MGT has dedicated video memory; the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro gets 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM, and the 2.53GHz model has 512MB of DDR3 SDRAM.

You can switch off between these two chips to get either better video performance or longer battery life. While you have to log out and then log back in to switch graphics chips—and some people might complain that you can’t simply switch on the fly—it seems like something you’d decide beforehand depending on how you’re planning to use your ‘Book. For people who use their MacBook Pro in a home or office setup, plugged in and attached to large monitor and separate keyboard, the higher performance graphics mode makes sense because they’re not concerned with battery life. However, when travelling, say, on the plane working or watching a movie, then switching to the integrated graphics chip will conserve battery life. For gaming or other graphics intensive operations, the Higher Performance mode would be the way to go, regardless. You can change your settings via the Energy Saver preference (whose icon has changed from a standard light bulb to a cute energy-saver style compact florescent).

The glossy screen offers vibrant image quality, but some Macworld readers prefer the old matte option

Next: The glass trackpad, keyboards and casing

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