Giving the 17″ MacBook Pro Laptop a Try


I’ve been greatly enjoying the HP dv6 that I recently upgraded to Windows 7, and that got me wondering about Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6). Dan was evil kind enough to send me a link to the latest Apple refurb sales last week, and I couldn’t help myself…after perusing the wares, I bit.

So now I am the proud new owner of a unibody 17″ MacBook Pro. I didn’t wind up ordering a refurb after all; instead I configured one to my needs. I upgraded the base 17″ (which is already quite nice) to the 3.06 GHz Intel Core Duo Processor ($300), added the 500GB ATA 7200 RPM hard drive ($50). I stopped short at upgrading the 4GB RAM to 8GB – sorry, I just don’t think that the extra $1,000 makes any sense at all – not for me, anyway. I also got the anti-glare wide screen display ($50) because I’ve never tried it on any of my prior Macs; so far, I really like it.


  • 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2X4GB
  • 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
  • SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Resolution Antiglare Widescreen Display
  • Backlit Keyboard (English)

I’m still in the setup stages, and just starting to really take note of the laptop’s features, but one thing that is already greatly impressing me is its speed and the real estate available on the 17″ high resolution screen (1920 x 1200). It’s mind boggling to suddenly have this kind of room; I am basically working on a monitor the size of my old desktop’s, well – from back in the day when I still used one.


Something I can’t get over is the fact that this laptop is slightly thinner than Kevin’s last generation (non-unibody) 15″ MacBook Pro, but of course the 17″ laptop is slightly longer and deeper. Unlike the 15″ MBP and the Air, there are no ports on the right side – just the CD/DVD tray…errr “slot-loading Superdrive” and a Security Slot.


On the left there is a MagSafe power port, Gigabit Ethernet Port (10/100/1000Base-T), Firewire 800 port, three USB 2.0 ports, a Mini Display port, audio in and headphone out ports, and an ExpressCard /34 slot.


The little round button at the end activates the battery status LEDs.


I like that it’s not necessary to flip the laptop over to see the battery status, as I had to on the 15″ MBP. Of course, the trade-off with the new unibody design is that there is a non user-replaceable laptop battery. With a reported 8 hours of battery life (which I will believe when I see it), it might not be too big of a deal that I can’t buy a swappable battery. My two Air’s batteries never gave me trouble; I would imagine that I’ll do just fine with this one, as well.

The new trackpad took a little bit of getting used to – it’s slightly larger than the 15″ pro to begin with, but since there is no 0.75″ wide single click bar on the bottom it seems even bigger. Not having a click bar threw me for a loop at first, I’ll admit. I was so used to the “right click = two fingers + single click” motion that is completely unnecessary now – you just tap on the right side to summon an automatic right click.


This new method is seriously elegant, esthetically pleasing, and in case I haven’t mentioned lately how much I love Apple’s hardware…well, I just do. Independent of the OS, independent from anything that has anything to do with the OS wars; their hardware is just so freaking nice. Infallible? Of course not. Gorgeous? Yes.

I’m running XP through VMware Fusion for the two or three Windows specific applications that I need. While I would have preferred to install Windows 7, it doesn’t really matter since I’m running in Unity and can’t see the Window’s features like I would on a regular desktop, anyway.

Check this out – Microsoft Money on Mac…it’s so easy to do that I’d wager with proper instruction, a 5th grader could set it up.


Obviously this 17″ laptop is a little big for travel, but it is substantially thinner and lighter than any other 17″ laptop I’ve seen…which means I might just drag it along when I take a trip that doesn’t require absolute portability. Would I bring it to CES? Probably not. Would I tote it to a conference where I had a table to sit at and take notes? Most definitely. I’ll give it a try the next time I am invited to a Möbius conference.

It will be a lot of fun to write the third part of my series on moving back to Windows, since I now have the latest OS upgrades on both to compare. But I guess that I can’t really say I’m moving back to Windows…it’s more like I’m maintaining even more of a balance between two operating systems that I have grown to genuinely like.

On a side note – if any of you know where I could pick up a reasonably priced 8GB RAM set, I might be willing to bite. 🙂

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

8 Comments on "Giving the 17″ MacBook Pro Laptop a Try"

  1. Judie:

    Other World Computing, about half the Apple price and a rebate for your old memory.

    One choice, anyway. Enjoy.


  2. Joel McLaughlin | September 6, 2009 at 7:24 pm |

    Wow. Nice laptop. Just checked Crucial and even they are high. For 8 GB it’s 799. OUCH.

  3. Travis Ehrlich | September 6, 2009 at 8:13 pm |

    That is a beautiful machine Judie! I am sure you will love it!

  4. Bill, that price is GREAT!! Now I am looking for info on how to get the rebate. I might have to go for it. 😛 ACK…

  5. Usually it’s Jenn over at Pocketables that we’re threatening with an intervention, but I think you’re catching up Judie! All these new gadget additions – you realise that with your new house you were allowed to bring the old stuff across, you don’t have to fill it from scratch?

    Seriously, though, the 17-incher looks glorious, and the screen size/length makes the thinness incredible. I’m gurgling at the though of an SSD in there; okay, for around the same price OWC are offering that 8GB RAM upgrade you’re only getting 256GB of Crucial SSD, but I think I’d go for that and the 4GB you’ve already got, slap the standard 500GB HDD into a USB caddy and use it for offloading video. Since you’re not going to be too mobile with the MBP the bag/desk space for the caddy will be negligible.

    Just my two-cents 🙂

  6. Chris, I talked myself down from the memory upgrade last night…you’d be proud of me. 😉

    I am going to wait on SSD until the 500GB version is affordable – I’ve decided I want as much space as possible right there with me (from the days of wrangling with the Air’s limited memory, I suppose), and 500GB is starting to feel like it should be minimum.

  7. I’m with you Judie. I have the 15″ MBP (bought the last one before the permanent battery version on purpose-still not convinced on that front) with the 320GB Hitachi Serial ATA @7200 RPM but really wanted a large SSD. I agree that you need at least 500GB though, and the current price is beyond reality right now. BTW, I have the 4GB SDRAM and I’ve had no issues with it – plenty fast and streams video beautifully.

  8. I think the wisest tactic would be to wait and see if I ever notice any lags, and maybe then beef the 17″ up to 8GB.

    I dunno, so far I think it might just be overkill. Not that there is anything wrong with that!! ;-))

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