|Revamped MacBook Pro line delivers top-notch display quality - Continued|
17 inch glossy vs antiglare For
this article, we've looked at only the antiglare version of the MacBook
Pro 17 inch. We've separately set up and profiled a handful of glossy
units too, though never in a situation that permitted careful comparing
with an antiglare counterpart. A seat-of-the-pants assessment is
the glossy version has the same colour characteristics as the
antiglare, minus the glossiness, but it's possible there are other
differences that become apparent only in a side-by-side analysis. As
far as our eyeballs could tell, however, the LCD panel was the
same in each.
A conversation with an Apple spokesman familiar with the MacBook Pro
line supports this (we're complying with Apple press policy by not
identifying the spokesman by name). He says the standard glossy and optional antiglare versions of
the MacBook Pro 17 inch do in fact use the same LCD panel, share the
same LED backlight technology, the same colour filtering, the same
resolution and other attributes that define a laptop's screen. They
differ, he says, only in the panel's outer surface, which has either a
glossy or matte finish. And as the article's photos of the MacBook Pro 17 inch reveal, the antiglare version features a
silvery display bezel rather than a full glass front.
The model information, as shown in the metadata for the default Color
LCD profile for each display type, is not the same. That's only because, says the Apple spokesman, the company uses
two different models of the same panel in the MacBook Pro 17 inch: one
that's glossy and one that's not. The spokesman further notes that the
colour characteristics of each are so similar that Apple was able to
use the same colour data in the default Color LCD profile for both.
For the record, the display make and
model information for the MacBook Pro 17 inch glossy versions we've set up have been
610/9C99, whereas all MacBook Pro 17 inch antiglare versions have been 610/9CAC, including the unit tested for this article. The MacBook Pro 13 inch tested for this article: 610/9CBD. The MacBook Pro 15 inch tested for this article: 610/9CA4.
Profiled: A screenshot showing the MacBook Pro 17 inch antiglare display's make and model metadata
SD slot The MacBook Pro 13 and
15 inch models are the first from Apple to incorporate a dedicated
memory card slot (in the latter model it replaces an ExpressCard 34
slot). The new slot accepts SD/SDHC and variants such as MMC.
While we would have preferred a CompactFlash slot, Apple deserves
credit for both adding this photographer-friendly feature and for
incorporating specific support for SanDisk's 30MB/s SDHC card models.
This support, says Apple's spokesman, is not accidental: while the SD
slot was designed to be compatible with any SD/SDHC card that conforms
to the SD 1.x or SD 2.x specifications, the computer will also
recognize if a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s Edition or Extreme SDHC card
is inserted. It will then utilize the proprietary data transfer mode
unique to these two SanDisk card lines to give roughly a 50% bump in
Fast Company: A SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s Edition 8GB SDHC card inserted into a MacBook Pro 13 inch, plus Extreme SDHC cards. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
Using the same benchmarking method as for the CF/SD Performance Database, faster SD and SDHC cards from Lexar, Kingston and others allow data
transfer rates of between about 17-21MB/s. With a SanDisk Extreme 16GB
SDHC inserted, this jumps to almost 31MB/sec in our testing. (The 4GB
and 8GB Extreme, and 4GB and 8GB Extreme III 30MB/s Edition, test out to be similarly speedy.)
When used with these particular SanDisk SDHC, the card slot found in the
MacBook Pro 13 and 15 inch is in fact speedier at offloading
pictures to the computer than SanDisk's own ImageMate Multi-Card USB 2.0 Reader.
13 inch vs 15 inch Conventional
wisdom has it that a laptop in the 15 inch range will usually offer
photographers the ideal mix of features and size. Apple's press release
for the new MacBook Pros backs this up, saying the 15 inch model offers
the "perfect balance of performance and portability...."
The MacBook Pro 13 inch, however, might beg to differ. In its mid-2009
form, the 13 inch unibody laptop from Apple offers the key elements of the 15 inch, including a colour accurate display, FireWire 800
and more, only in a smaller, lighter and less expensive package. As we've used each model in the past 10 days, the one
we've kept gravitating towards is the MacBook Pro 13 inch. This could
well be the more enticing option of the two for Mac-based photographers
wanting to pay less and carry less.
If the thought of toting around a smaller laptop appeals to you too,
here's what you give up in bypassing the MacBook Pro 15 inch for its 13
That's a list of differences that, for us, don't add up in favour of
the MacBook Pro 15 inch. Particularly when you look at how much more
you have to spend to get some of the optional benefits above, and the
fact the computer is heavier and bigger. Looking at our own needs, the
MacBook Pro 13 inch, with a matte display courtesy of TechRestore, is poised to be a killer road machine.
A larger screen
The 15 inch's display measures 15.4 inches diagonally and has a
resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels. The 13 inch's display is 13.3 inches
diagonally and is 1280 x 800 pixels.
Dedicated audio line in The 13 inch combines audio in/out into a single jack, whereas the 15 inch has two separate jacks for this.
The option of faster graphics circuitry
The 15 inch can be ordered with a combo of the embedded NVIDIA GeForce
9400M and the discrete NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT, whereas the 13 inch is
available with the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M only. Apple Aperture becomes
more sprightly with a faster graphics card, and when comparing how
responsive the program is when layering RAW adjustments such as
Highlights & Shadows on a Nikon D3 photo that has also been
corrected to straighten a horizon, the GeForce 9600M GT definitely
makes Aperture feel snappy and responsive. But, the GeForce 9400M is no
slouch in this department; Aperture's interface does drag slightly by
comparison, but the difference is less pronounced than we were
In addition, the GeForce 9400M can play Canon EOS 5D Mark II
1080p video full screen on an external 1920 x 1200 pixel monitor,
without stuttering or hesitation. This camera's unedited video tends to cause
lesser video cards to collapse during playback, but is no problem for the MacBook Pro
Without question, the GeForce 9600M GT is the more powerful graphics
option, but the GeForce 9400M is none to shabby and seems more than
adequate for various photo and video tasks.
The option of a faster processor The 15 inch can be ordered with up to a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, whereas the 13 inch tops out at 2.53GHz.
The option of a faster hard drive Only the 15 inch can be ordered from Apple with a 7200rpm drive, the 13 inch is restricted to 5400rpm ones (plus SSDs).
Mini DisplayPort and DDC When
we tested the previous-generation unibody MacBook Pro 15 inch
earlier this year, it wasn't possible then for some and perhaps all
DDC-aware calibration and profiling packages to remotely adjust
the internal settings of a display connected via Apple's Mini
DisplayPort to DVI adapter.
Since then, something has changed. It's unknown what that something is, in as much as we're getting conflicting information
from Apple and one of the makers of a DDC-capable calibration and
profiling program. Whatever the reason, we're now able to use
Integrated Color's ColorEyes Display Pro to calibrate an HP LP2475w
desktop display, complete with direct software-to-monitor communication
that allows calibration to be done without user intervention. When we
last tried doing the same thing with a Mini DisplayPort-equipped Mac laptop several months ago, this wasn't possible.
With certain desktop displays, including this midrange HP model, DDC is
the only way to achieve a decent calibration. It's also more
convenient, since it means no fussing with the monitor's on screen
controls. Using ColorEyes Display Pro 1.5.2r26, we were able to
properly calibrate and profile the LP2475w when it was connected to any of the three current
The Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter in action. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
If Apple's take on this is correct, ColorEyes Display Pro should also
work just fine with earlier Apple laptops with Mini DisplayPorts, but
we don't have access to an earlier machine to try this out. Also,
other DDC-capable calibration and profiling packages should by
extension also function correctly on any Mini DisplayPort-equipped Mac
laptop, but as of this writing we've only tried ColorEyes Display Pro in recent times,
and only with the newest MacBook Pros.
For a laptop display to show colour as accurately as it can, a good
profile must be created and loaded into the system. We've never seen a
default profile that has come close to wringing out a display's full
colour capabilities, and the newest MacBook Pros are no exception.
In addition, while monitor calibration and profiling packages have definitely
gotten better over time, in 2009 there is still a
variation in the quality of measuring instruments and software. While
that's a topic for another time, please keep in mind for now that you
won't necessarily experience the same degree of colour accuracy we've crowed about here unless
you're using a profiling package that is of equal quality to what
we describe below.
Measure Up: The X-Rite Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer and MacBook Pro 17 inch with antiglare display. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob
Profilers These are the sensor + software
combinations we used to profile the MacBook Pro 13, 15 and 17 inch
(white point, gamma and white luminance is in parentheses):
And for the ThinkPad W700:
- X-Rite DTP-94 colorimeter and ColorEyes Display Pro (6000K, L*, 120cd/m2, both 16 bit and matrix profiles)
- X-Rite Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer and ColorEyes Display Pro (6000K, L*, 120cd/m2, both 16 bit and matrix profiles)
- X-Rite Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer and Eye-One Match (6000K, 2.2, max. luminance and 120cd/m2, Laptop mode)
And for the Eizo ColorEdge CE240W:
Built-in calibrator with included hueyPro (6500K, 2.2, max. luminance,
luminance subsequently lowered for an approximate visual match to
Gamuts Three dimensional gamuts for each display are below. Roll your cursor over a gamut rendering to see a comparison with the sRGB colour space. What you'll notice is
that the display in all three MacBook Pro models is very close in
gamut volume to sRGB. This is in line with Apple's promise of a 60%
increase in gamut relative to previous models.
- X-Rite Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer and Eizo ColorNavigator (6000K, 2.2 and 115cd/m2)
Three-dimensional gamut renderings for the four notebook displays
discussed in this article. Roll your cursor over each one to see a
comparison with sRGB
Final word You'll want to avoid
putting too much emphasis on how the hurdler picture looks in the photos of
the laptop displays in this article. You won't be able to
match up our comments about the display characteristics with what you
see in the photos, because shooting angles, lighting and the vagaries
of trying to make a picture of a picture on a computer screen all
The real photo is below, so you can see what the colours in it actually
look like. As long as you have a good monitor, good monitor profile and
a colour-managed web browser, that is.
The Real Thing:
Canon EOS-1D Mark II + EF 16-35mm f/2.8L (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)