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First Look: Pairing the new 2010 17 inch MacBook Pro with iPad

Disadvantages of the 17" MacBook Pro

Apart from being $300 more, the 17" version is a pound heavier than the 15" model and 1.1" wider and 0.7" deeper (it's also a hair thicker). It won't fit into sleeves for 15" models, and won't fit into a variety of bags or backpacks intended for "regular sized" laptops.

If you want a highly mobile notebook, the 17" will test your ability to lug around that extra size and bulk just to enjoy a wider, denser screen. But again, depending on your circumstances and needs, you might be able to balance your desire for a larger display with the increased mobility of an iPad.

Apple also offers a cheaper 2.4GHz Core i5 520M version of the 15" for $200 less (it also ships with a smaller 320GB hard drive rather than a 500GB disk), while the 17" model is only available starting with a 2.53GHz Core i5 540M. Both models offer the option to upgrade to the even faster 2.66GHz, Core i7 620M for $200 more.

However, all models of the 17" MacBook Pro come with 512MB of graphics memory for the NVIDIA GeFore GT 330M. Only the high end i7 option on the 15" model includes 512MB; the first two models only provide 256MB of RAM. So there is a difference between the "similarly equipped" 15" and 17" MacBooks when it comes to graphics performance from dedicated video RAM, even if the CPU and GPU are the same.

The 17" model has a slightly larger battery but carries the same rating of "8-9 hours of wireless productivity." All together, the only real disadvantage to the 17" model is its size and weight and a slightly higher price tag. So if you've had your eye on the 17" notebook but were worried it was just too big to take everywhere, the $300 discount might convince you to pair it with an iPad and use them together to balance your needs for power and pixels with lightweight portability.

MacBook Pro and iPad

Build to order options on the 17" MacBook Pro

When ordering the 17" model, there are a few configuration options. The Core i7 processor costs $200 more. According to Anandtech, the i7 MacBook Pro upgrade delivers a noticeable performance boost of about 10-15%, thanks to its 11% increase in clock speed and a 33% increase in L3 cache, making it a reasonable option for users who want the most bang for their buck.

For an extra $400, Apple will replace the standard 4GB of RAM with a maxed out 8GB. Third party RAM dealers will sell you an 8GB kit for around $350, plus they're give you $50 back for providing your 2x2GB parts. That's about a $100 (25%) savings if you don't mind doing the simple upgrade yourself. Apple's RAM prices aren't egregiously ridiculous, so if you want to just pay for it and have it done in one step, you can do so at a premium that at least isn't completely absurd as was once the case, but if you're on a budget, you might want to get the stock RAM and upgrade later as RAM prices continue to drop.

Apple's disk storage options are slightly less reasonable and compelling, with the only hard drive option being an upgrade to a 7200 rpm, 500GB disk (the standard configuration is a 5400 rpm, 500GB drive) for $50. The only reason for using a 5400 rpm disk would be power consumption or perhaps heat, because a 7200 rpm drive really only costs about $30 more. Either Apple is being cheap about the stock configuration, or its offering an overpriced upgrade option, or both. For $120, you can buy a faster replacement disk and keep the drive you notebook shipped with for use in an external USB or Firewire enclosure.

Apple's upgrade fees for SSD drives are very expensive, but that's largely because the drives are still very pricey. Even so, the company's upgrade prices are close to the component costs of drives you can find online, so if you pay Apple's upgrade fees, you're essentially throwing away the value of the stock drive (nearly $100). If that doesn't matter to you, then you might want to shell out $200 for the 128GB SSD, $650 for 256GB drive, or a whopping $1300 for a 512GB SDD. Otherwise, you might try to make do with your conventional HDD and wait for SSD prices to come down.

If you prefer the matte finish screen to Apple's default super glossy display, you can order that for a $50 premium. On the 15" model, you have to opt for the high resolution display in order to get the matte finish screen, so all together it costs a $150 premium over the base price.

MacBook Pro BTO options

More about the MacBook Pros

For a general overview on the common features of the unibody MacBooks see: Apple's unibody MacBook Pro: an in-depth review.

Compare the entry level 13" MacBook in: Review: Apple's redesigned, late 2009 13-inch MacBook

Watch for the AppleInsider full review of the latest generation of MacBook Pros, their new Arrandale Core i5/i7 CPUs, and the new Intel HD and NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics architecture.

Where to Buy

Several Apple Authorized Resellers are offering discounts of up to $250 on Apple's new MacBook Pros through the addition of rebates and instant discount coupons exclusively for AppleInsider readers, all of which can be seen in our Mac Price Guide. The segment of the price guide listing the current MacBook Pros can be seen below, though resellers are also offering up to $450 off previous-generation models as detailed in the Previous Generation Macs (2009) section of the guide.