Apple’s 15″ MacBook Pro: Points to Ponder for Photographers


Photographers considering the new 15″ MacBook Pro should note several features in the new aluminum-slab design. The 15.4″ LCD is covered by an all-glass front that is designed not only to look good giving you a seemless edge-to-edge feel but also to minimize flex in the lid. And thanks to the front glass you get quite a bit of glare for free. Of course there are many that enjoy the improved contrast and ‘pop’ in color and Steve Jobs is one of them. The LCD has a LED backlight and so is very slim but thanks to the front glass the lid is rigid.

Ars Technica’s Creative Director Aurich Lawson has this to say about glossy displays in general: “In a properly light-controlled environment… with all tech specs being equal, and with properly calibrated screens, a glossy LCD is going to outperform a matte one every time.” He points to higher contrast thanks to deeper blacks in glossy displays. Aurich also states that “… a matte screen… is actually distorted. The matte coating that diffuses glare and reflections… [also reduce] contrast and saturation.”

Ars Technica’s Contributor and Magazine Creative Director Dave Girard likes all the improved performance of glare displays except for the glare: “It’s distracting and for someone like me, who’s constantly retouching images and scouring images for dust… [a] glossy screen would make my work a nightmare of squinting and head-bobbing.”

It really does depend on how you work, where you work and your personal tolerance for glare. Fortunately, the 17″ MacBook Pro does come with a matte LCD option: you just need to pony up an additional $50 for it.

The LED backlight is illuminated by white LEDs that replace the traditional CCFLs. LEDs are more rugged, light up instantly and are more environmentally friendly (no Mercury) compared to CCFLs. The are also a bit more expensive.

According to Rob Galbraith, “the display quality is comparable to what we’ve seen before in earlier editions of the LED-backlit MacBook Pro 15 inch.” In Galbraith’s article titled “A look at the evolving laptop display” he mentions a few things:

“Screen brightness is impressively even…”: Which means Apple did a good job of working with LCD manufactures to diffuse the LED light source evenly to all corners of the 15.4″ LCD–a difficult task.

“…[impressive] black and white photo rendering…”

“…overall colour accuracy is decent.”

“Deep shadow posterization… is present but kept to a minimum.”

“…reds and oranges… are considerably skewed in both hue and saturation and really don’t look right on this display.”

“…slight yellow and blue shifts in open shadows [are noticeable].”

“…a very good 15.4 inch… 1440 x 900 pixel screen… for a laptop.”

Galbraith’s comment on the front glass reflects my opinion on glare: “…the glossiness is either a minor irritant or a major distraction…” He also mentions that the glare on the MacBook Pro is “…by far the most reflective.”

This next feature is very important if you use a camcorder that has FireWire 400: If you’re looking for a FireWire 400 port, it’s not there. Instead, you’ll find a FireWire 800 port. I don’t know that many peripherals that make use of FireWire 800 so you’ll likely need a connector that converts your FireWire 400 device connections work. Does the MacBook Pro come with such a connector? Nope. Sonnet has a “FireWire 400-to-800 Adapter” and that will cost you $14.95 from Sonnet.

Under the hood, the MacBook Pro has two GPUs that power graphics: NVIDIA’s GeForce 9600M GT with 256MB-512MB GDDR3 and an integrated GeForce 9400M. The 9400M is for when you don’t require a lot of GPU horsepower and when you do you can switch to the more powerful 9600M GT. The 9600M GT should keep Aperture working quickly with the large RAW files and Final Cut Pro humming nicely with massive 720p or 1080p HD files.

[tags]15″ MacBook Pro, Front Glass, Glossy LCD, Matte LCD, Glossy MacBook Pro, Matte MacBook Pro, LED Backlight, MacBook Pro, 15.4″, 1440 x 900[/tags]

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