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  • A Brief History of the Apple MacBook Pro

    I'm typing this blog today with my trusty Apple MacBook Pro - a 17" laptop with matte display and 16GB of RAM, but don't stereotype me as an Apple fanboy because I also own the fantastic Samsung Galaxy Note II phone (aka phablet). Some industry pundits would have us believe that desktops and laptops are going extinct like the Dodo bird, while tablets and mobile phones are ramping up volumes. The MacBook Pro line of laptops from Apple came onto the scene in 2006 and are instantly recognized by the iconic white Apple logo, thin profile, and use of aluminum construction. For many tasks you simply need a real keyboard and mouse to get the job done, along with portability for convenience.

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    13", 15" and 17" MacBook Pro laptops

    The MacBook Pro laptops are priced at a premium, about 2X the price of any PC-based laptop. What you get for that premium is:

    • An aluminum laptop construction that doesn't flex and twist like plastic
    • Ultra-thin profile (what PC makers now call Ultrabook)
    • High-end audio speakers, built-in
    • Choice of glossy or anti-glare displays (my favorite)
    • Battery life to last four to eight hours, depending on work load and screen size
    • The intuitive Mac OS X operating system (largely cloned by Microsoft Windows)
    • Quiet operation with minimal fan noise
    • BSD Unix for the geeks that need to use a command line


    Generations

    There have been three generations of MacBook Pro laptops, all using CPU chips provided by Intel. The big question for the future is, "Will Apple stick with Intel CPU chips, or switch to it's own A-series CPUs also used in the iPad and iPhone products?"

    First generation MacBook Pros came with: 15" and 17" displays, webcam, optical drive, ExpressCard/34 slot, USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11 a/b/g for WiFi. Updates added FireWire 800 port, increased RAM, and Intel cores with 45nm processing in 2008. At that same time Apple launched the MacBook Air laptops which replaced the hard drive with SSD, thinner profile and lighter weight, removing the optical drive. ATI and Nvidia provided the graphics processing from 2006 to 2008, often alternating vendors each release.
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    MacBook Air, 11" and 13" Displays

    Late in 2008 the 2nd generation of MacBook Pros were launched, and the aluminum body was called "unibody" construction, instead of multiple pieces screwed together. By 2009 you could get three display sizes: 13", 15" and 17". The battery became non-removable, a trend against any user-replaced parts which unfortunately continues today. In 2010 the CPU was an Intel Core i5 or Core i7. A new high-speed connector called Thunderbolt came out in 2011, and so far mostly Apple and Intel are promoting this. Sadly in 2011 Apple also discontinued the 17" model, instead offering only two display sizes 13" and 15". Graphics vendors switched again to Nvidia, then Intel.

    2012 was the year Apple decided to promote higher pixels per square inch, also called Retina Display with a 15" display holding 2,880 x 1,800 pixels, starting the 3rd generation. The optical drive is now removed, so you have to buy an external unit for any spinning media like CD or DVD. Oddly enough the Ethernet and FireWire 800 ports were also removed, requiring you to buy more adapters to get these features back. RAM is soldered to the motherboard, so choose your model wisely because there is no field-upgrading any more. SSD drives became available for higher performance. Intel swept the graphic processors in this generation. The Intel CPU is the Core i7 with four cores, 8 threads, clocked at 2.6 GHz.
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    Intel Core i7. Source: Legit Reviews

    Summary

    Apple does think different when it comes to laptops, because they offer two models in the MacBook Pro with 13" and 15" displays, and two models in the MacBook Air with 11" and 13" displays. If portability is your number one factor, then consider the MacBook Air. If biggest display and performance are deciding factors, then go for the MacBook Pro series.

    I'm personally waiting for Apple to bring back the MacBook Pro in a 17" size with Retina Display. Until then, I'm happy to use my 3 year-old MacBook Pro daily. One legacy app that I run on Windows 8 is Quicken, so I use the Parallels virtualization software on my MacBook Pro. I've even run Redhat Linux on my laptop using Parallels. If you agree that Apple should bring back the 17" MacBook Pro, then join my Facebook page to show your support.

    Further Reading