15″ MacBook Pro (Early 2006)

To the pleasant surprise of the Mac community, Apple began shipping the MacBook Pro (MBP) the week of 2006.02.14 – and with faster CPUs than originally announced. The US$1,999 MBP ships with a 1.83 GHz CPU instead of 1.67 GHz, and the US$2,499 MBP has a 2.0 GHz CPU instead of 1.83 GHz.

MacBook Pro

For those clamoring for even more speed, there’s a 2.16 GHz build-to-order option at a US$300 premium. This is the first time in Apple history that a computer has been released with a faster CPU than originally announced, and it’s also the first time Apple has offered a faster CPU as a build-to-order option in a notebook.

Apple marked the transition to Intel by discontinuing the well-known, long-respected PowerBook name. The Intel-based pro laptop is known as the MacBook Pro, a name that met with a less-than-enthusiastic reception at the Expo keynote.

Built around Intel’s Core Duo CPU, the new ‘Book offers up to 4x the performance of the old one. That’s a lot of power!

The new MacBook Pro looks a lot like the old 15″ PowerBook G4 at first glance, but its 15.4″ 1440 x 900 display (up from 15.2″ and down from 1440 x 960) is the brightest Apple has ever used on a notebook. It is a bit larger and thinner than the 15″ PowerBook G4.

There are two other visual clues that this ‘Book is different. There’s a black square above the display for the iSight webcam. And there’s a round spot on the front, a receiver that works with Apple’s remote.

Just like the iMac, the MacBook Pro comes with Front Row.

New with the MacBook Pro is the MagSafe power connector, which is designed to detach itself when someone trips over the cord, thus preventing your ‘Book from crashing to the floor.

Other changes include built-in dual-DVI support for Apple’s 30″ Cinema Display, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics, an ExpressCard/34 slot (replacing the older PC Card), elimination of FireWire 800, and a “downgrade” to a 4x single-layer SuperDrive.

Note that the built-in display is only capable of 18-bit color, not the full 24-bit color you might expect.

What You Need to Know

Using the 32-bit only Core Duo CPUs allowed Apple to introduce Intel-based Macs before the Core 2 Duo, which supports both 32-bit and 64-bit operation, came to market. Because OS X 10.7 Lion is a 64-bit only operating system, Core Duo Macs do not support it, making OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard the end of the Mac OS road for the earliest Intel Macs.

With a 2 GB memory ceiling, this MacBook Pro wouldn’t run Lion decently anyhow, but the first generation Intel Macs run Snow Leopard very nicely with 2 GB of RAM. If your Early 2006 MacBook Pro has 512 MB, upgrade immediately. You really need 1 GB to get okay performance from OS X 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard. As of August 2014, you can get 2 GB for $23 from Other World Computing, and with Snow Leopard just $20 from Apple, take this MacBook Pro as far as it will go with RAM and operating system.

Early MacBook Pros used decent 5400 rpm hard drives, but newer drives will provide much snappier performance. 7200 rpm notebook drives start at $59 these days (August 2014), and for a serious speed boost, Other World Computing offers a 44 GB solid state drive (SSD) for just $50, although you’ll probably want something with more capacity.

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.

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.

The Intel-based Macs use a new partitioning scheme known as GPT. Macintel models can only boot from GPT hard drives; APM (Apple’s old partitioning scheme) hard drives cannot be used to boot them. Further, Power PC Macs running any version of the Mac OS prior to 10.4.2 cannot mount GPT volumes.

On the plus side, Macintel models are the only Macs that can boot OS X from a USB hard drive. That should make a lot of Mac users happy, although it may be the beginning of the end for external drives with dual FireWire 400/USB 2.0 support.

The MacBook Pro initially shipped with an Intel-only version of Mac OS X 10.4.4 Tiger and iLife ’06, which is a universal binary. Like other Core Duo Macs, it cannot run OS X 10.7 Lion or later.

Battery life is comparable to the 15″ PowerBook G4.

As of April 2006, there were five revisions of the MacBook Pro, A-E. Serial numbers of the original begin with W8608.

  1. W8607/8, Rev. A.
  2. W8609, Rev. B.
  3. W8610, Rev. C.
  4. W8611, Rev. D.
  5. W8612, Rev. E.

We wonder what went wrong here, as this is a very fast and unusual hardware revision schedule for Apple. The models demonstrated at Macworld Expo were preproduction prototypes, and shipping models have had reports of whining, AirPort problems, flickering displays (esp. at maximum brightness), and excessive heat. Perhaps the combination of Intel designing the motherboard and Apple designing an even slimmer enclosure have both been contributing factors, but these issues should have been worked out before Apple began shipping the MBP, not worked out in the hands of guinea pig customers during the first six weeks or so of sales.

Apple has begun replacing logic boards to solve “whining” problems. Models with the new logic board require 10.4.6 or later.


  • Introduced 2006.01.10 at US$1,999 (1.83 GHz) and US$2,499 (2.0 GHz); began shipping 2006.02.14. Build-to-order 2.16 GHz model available for US$2,799. Speed bump 2006.05.15 to US$1,999 (2.0 GHz) and US$2,499 (2.16 GHz), glossy finish screen a new CTO option. Replaced by Core 2 Duo model 2006.10.24.
  • Part no.: MA090 (1.83 GHz), MA091 (2.0 GHz)
  • ID: MacBookPro1,1

Mac OS

  • Requires Mac OS X 10.4.4 Tiger (10.4.6 with new logic board) to 10.6 Snow Leopard; not compatible with OS X 10.7 Lion
  • Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard compatibility
    • Grand Central Dispatch is supported.
    • 64-bit operation is not supported with Core Solo or Core Duo CPUs. Upgrading with a Core 2 Duo CPU will not change that.
    • OpenCL is not supported with the Mobility Radeon X1600 GPU.

Core System

  • CPU: 1.83/2.0/2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo (Yonah), soldered in place, no upgrade options
  • Level 2 cache: 2 MB shared cache on CPU
  • Bus: 667 MHz
  • RAM: 512 MB (original 1.67 GHz, later 1.83 GHz) or 1 GB (original 1.83 GHz, later 2.0 and 2.16 GHz), expandable to 2 GB using PC2-5300 DDR2 RAM
  • performance, Geekbench 2 (Leopard): 2588 (2.16 GHz), 2388 (2.0 GHz), 2210 (1.83 GHz)
  • performance, Geekbench 2 (Tiger): 2684 (2.16 GHz), 2482 (2.0 GHz), 2307 (1.83 GHz)
  • performance, Xbench 1.3 (1.83 GHz)
    • overall: 93.12
    • CPU: 67.79
    • memory: 106.15
    • Quartz graphics: 106.16
    • OpenGL graphics: 123.46
    • Hard drive: 25.12


  • GPU: ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 on PCI Express with dual-link DVI support
  • VRAM: 128 MB on low-end model, 256 MB on high-end model.
  • Video out: DVI connector (VGA supported with included adapter; S-video and composite video supported with optional adapters)
  • display: 15.4″ (38 cm) 16-bit 1440 x 900 110 ppi color active matrix
  • supports 1280 x 800, 1152 x 720, 1024 x 768, 1024 x 640, 800 x 600, 720 x 480, and 640 x 480 pixels at 16:10 aspect ratio; 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, and 640 x 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; 720 x 480 at 3:2 aspect ratio
  • allows mirroring to external display or extended desktop mode


  • Hard drive: 80 GB 5400 rpm SATA on low-end model, 100 GB 5400 rpm drive on high-end model
  • optical drive: 4x SuperDrive writes DVD±R and 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
  • expansions bays: none


  • USB: 2 USB 2.0 ports, one on each side
  • FireWire 400: 1 port
  • FireWire 800: none
  • Ethernet: 10/100/gigabit
  • WiFi: 802.11g AirPort Extreme built in
  • Modem: optional v.92 56k external USB modem
  • Bluetooth: BT 2.0 built in
  • IR receiver: supports Apple Remote
  • ExpressCard/34: 1 slot
  • expansions bays: none


  • size: 9.6 x 14.1 x 1.0″ (259 x 357 x 25.9 mm)
  • Weight: 5.6 pounds (2.54 kg)
  • battery: 60 watt-hour lithium-polymer
  • AC adapter: 85W MagSafe

Online Resources

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