MacBook Pro 2.53GHz (13-inch, late 2009) full review

With the new MacBook Pro lineup, the features on Apple's latest 13-inch aluminium laptops have been brought up to equal those found on the new 15-inch MacBook Pros. And the unit has been renamed MacBook Pro accordingly.

And as we'll see in our speed test results, this particular model is a near match on performance to the 15-inch MacBook Pro, only £200 cheaper.

It's not just power though. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro has three features that were not found in the aluminium MacBooks that have been replaced. First, the new 13-inch laptops use a longer-lasting, non-removable battery, similar to the one first unveiled in the 17-inch MacBook Pro.

Second, Apple has re-implemented the 13-inch’s FireWire connectivity in the form of a single backwards-compatible FireWire 800 port. Hallelujah!

And finally, the new 13-inch MacBook Pros now feature a Secure Digital (SD) memory card slot. Having an internal SD card reader is obviously handy for photographers and videographers whose cameras record to the popular SD format, but that’s not its only function – it can be used as a startup disk. After using OS X’s Disk Utility to format and create a GUID partition on a 8GB card, we installed Leopard on the card and were able to use it as a startup disk.

Specs for the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2.53GHz

The £1,149 model features a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM, and a 250GB 5,400 rpm hard drive. As with the £899 MacBook Pro, it ships with the same Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphic chip (which was used in the aluminium unibody MacBook) that share 256MB of main memory.

The new laptops look nearly identical to the aluminium MacBooks they replace. They have the same precision-crafted aluminium unibody design as the aluminium MacBook, an iSight camera, and a glossy widescreen with a 1,280 by 800 pixel resolution. Apple claims that improvements made to the display and backlight have increased the color gamut by 60 percent. Looking at a batch of photos on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro models and the older 13-inch aluminum MacBook, bright colours like reds and oranges really stand out on the new laptops, making the previous display look a little muted in comparison. Interestingly, the viewing angle seemed a little better on the older screen, though only at fairly extreme angles. In everyday use, it’s hard to imagine the new system’s viewing angle being a problem. Unfortunately, there isn't an anti-glare (also known as “matte”) screen option for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

On the left hand side, the new 13-inch MacBook Pros have a MagSafe power connector, Gigabit Ethernet port, Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0 ports, and the previously mentioned FireWire 800 port (Amen!) and SD card slot. These two additions do come at the cost of separate audio in and audio out ports, which are replaced with a combined optical digital output/headphone out port that can be switched to be an analogue audio line in (it works with the Apple Stereo Headset that comes with the iPhone). Also, the Kensington lock slot has moved to the right side, next to the slot loading 8x SuperDrive.

We tested the two new 13-inch MacBook Pros using our overall system performance test tool, Speedmark 5. Compared to each other, the new 13-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro was just over 12 percent faster overall than the 13-inch 2.26GHz MacBook Pro. The 2.53GHz laptop was about 21 percent faster at Photoshop and Cinema 4D.

There’s a major difference in the amount of RAM installed in the standard configurations of these two laptops; the 2.53GHz model comes with 4GB of RAM, while the 2.26GHz model has 2GB of RAM. We levelled the playing field by adding 2GBs of memory to the 2.26GHz model, bringing it up to 4GB. Most of our tests, which are run one at a time, don't benefit much from additional RAM, and the underwhelming two-point improvement in the Speedmark score bears that out. The biggest performance difference with the additional RAM was in our Photoshop suite times, which improved the 2.26GHz MacBook Pro's score by about 10 percent.

The most interesting benchmark comparison is between the 13-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro and the 15-inch 2.53GHz MacBook Pro. These laptops had a less than one percent difference with their Speedmark scores; the specifications for these two laptops are nearly identical. The £150 price difference between the two buys you nothing more than an additional two inches diagonal of screen real estate.

NEXT: Checking out the MacBook Pro's built-in battery

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