17″ MacBook Pro (Early 2011)

The Early 2011 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro models moved from dual-core CPUs to quad-core, which makes them a lot more powerful despite lower clock speeds. As with last year’s models, these CPUs support TurboBoost, which lets individual cores run beyond their rated speed, and hyperthreading, which lets the each core appear to the operating system as two cores. This was the last 17″ MacBook Pro.

Unibody 17" MacBook ProThe hot new technology this generation is Thunderbolt, a 10 Gbps data connection that uses the Mac’s Mini DisplayPort. Thunderbolt is 12 times as fast as FireWire 800, over 20 times as fast as USB 2.0, and twice as fast as USB 3.0, which Apple may never adopt if Thunderbolt takes off. Thunderbolt can be used for video, hard drives, and networking, and adapters let you connect FireWire and USB devices.

Base CPU speed is 2.2 GHz, and there’s a 2.3 GHz build-to-order option for those who demand the most power.

Apple has improved AirPort performance by building three WiFi antennas into the Early 2011 MacBook Pros, allowing three channels with 150 Mbps bandwidth for a maximum bandwidth of 450 Mbps.

The new models are rated at only 7 hours of battery power, down from 8-9 for last year’s models, due to changes in the way Apple measures battery life. In testing, the Early 2011 models generally match or outperform the 2010 models.

These are the first Macs to use Intel HD 3000 Graphics, and for the first time it’s coupled with AMD Radeon HD graphics. As before, it automatically switches between GPUs on the fly. The Intel GPU uses 384 MB of system memory, while the Radeon GPU has 1 GB of dedicated video memory.

The new 17″ MacBook Pro retails at $200 more than the previous model, and you can get an antiglare display for an additional $50.

As before, 4 GB of RAM is standard, and it supports up to 8 GB of RAM. This is the only remaining Mac notebook with ExpressCard/34 and was the last to include it.

Apple uses a true 24-bit display on all 17″ Unibody MBP models.

Editor’s note: The next paragraph is from the profile of the previous version of the MacBook Pro. At this time we do not know if it applies to the new model.

Unlike pre-2007 models, where every USB port could provide 500 mA of power, only a single high-powered device can be attached to the USB ports, and software will enable one of its downstream ports to supply 500 mA of power. If a second high-powered device is attached, it will behave like a normal bus-powered hub and only provide 100 mA per downstream port.

The Apple Remote is a US$20 option.

Closed Lid Mode: All Intel ‘Books support “lid closed” (or clamshell) mode, which leaves the built-in display off and dedicates all video RAM to an external display. To used closed lid mode, your ‘Book must be plugged into the AC adapter and connected to an external display and a USB or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard (you might also want to consider external speakers). Power up your ‘Book until the desktop appears on the external display and then close the lid. Your ‘Book will go to sleep, but you can wake it by moving the mouse or using the keyboard. The built-in display will remain off, and the external monitor will become your only display. Since all video RAM is now dedicated to the external monitor, you may have more colors available at higher resolutions.

To resume use of the internal display, you need to disconnect the external display, put the computer to sleep, and then open the lid. This will wake up your ‘Book and restore use of the built-in display.

Intel-based Macs use a partitioning scheme known as GPT. Only Macintel models can boot from GPT hard drives. Both PowerPC and Intel Macs can boot from APM (Apple’s old partitioning scheme) hard drives, which is the format you must use to create a universal boot drive in Leopard. Power PC Macs running any version of the Mac OS prior to 10.4.2 cannot mount GPT volumes. PowerPC Macs won’t let you install OS X to a USB drive or choose it as your startup volume, although there is a work around for that.

Details

  • introduced 2011.02.24 at US$2,499; add $250 for 2.3 GHz i7 build-to-order option; add $50 for anti-glare option; replaced by slightly faster model 2011.10.24.
  • Part no.: MC725

Mac OS

  • requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard or later
  • Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard compatibility
    • Grand Central Dispatch is supported.
    • 64-bit operation is supported.
    • OpenCL is supported.
  • OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion compatibility
    • AirPlay Mirroring is supported.
    • AirDrop is supported.
    • Power Nap is not supported.

Core System

  • CPU: 2.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
  • Level 2 cache: 6 MB shared cache
  • Bus: 1066 MHz
  • RAM: 4 GB, expandable to 8 GB using DDR3 SO-DIMMs
  • Performance (2.2/2.3 GHz)
    • 64-bit Geekbench: 9860/10115
    • Speedmark 6.5: 210/

Video

  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 3000 and AMD Radeon HD 6750M with automatic graphics switching
    • VRAM, Intel HD: used 384 MB of system memory
    • VRAM, HD 6750M: 1 GB
  • Video out: Thunderbolt port, which is backward compatible with Mini DisplayPort (VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort supported with optional adapters)
  • display: 17″ (43 cm) 1920 x 1200 133 ppi color active matrix
  • supports 1920 x 1200 (native), 1680 x 1050, 1280 x 800, 1152 x 720, 1024 x 640, and 800 x 500 pixels at 16:10 aspect ratio; 1280 x 1024 pixels at 5:4 aspect ratio; 1280 x 1024 pixels at 5:4 aspect ratio stretched; 1600 x 1200, 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, and 640 x 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; 1600 x 1200, 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, and 640 x 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio stretched; 720 x 480 pixels at 3:2 aspect ratio; 720 x 480 pixels at 3:2 aspect ratio stretched; allows mirroring to external display or extended desktop mode

Drives

  • Hard drive: 500 GB 5400 rpm Serial ATA standard; 7200 rpm SATA drive and 128 GB and 256 GB SSDs optional on 6 Gbps SATA bus
  • optical drive: 8x dual-layer SuperDrive writes DVD±R at up to 8x, DVD±RW at up to 4x; reads DVDs at 8x (double-layer at 6x), writes CD-R at 24x, writes CD-RW at 10x, reads CDs at 24x on 3 Gbps SATA bus
  • drive bus: SATA 2 (3.0 Mbps)

Expansion

  • Thunderbolt: 1 port
  • USB: 3 USB 2.0 ports, only 1 high-powered device device allowed
  • FireWire 400: none
  • FireWire 800: 1 port, backward compatible with FireWire 400
  • Ethernet: 10/100/gigabit
  • WiFi: 802.11n AirPort Extreme built in, three antennas support up to 450 Mbps bandwidth
  • Modem: No longer offered by Apple
  • Bluetooth: BT 2.1 built in
  • ExpressCard/34: 1 slot
  • SD Card Slot: 1
  • expansions bays: none
  • IR receiver: supports Apple Remote

Power

  • battery: 95 Watt-hour, 7 hours of wireless productivity
  • AC adapter: 85W MagSafe

Physical

  • size: 10.51 x 15.47 x 0.98″ (267 x 393 x 25 mm)
  • Weight: 6.6 pounds (2.99 kg)

Online Resources

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