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What are the differences between the 15-Inch and 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo models?
Please note that all Macs mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The "Unibody" MacBook Pro systems were replaced by the "Mid-2009" MacBook Pro line on June 8, 2009.
Upon first glance, apart from the obvious physical dimensions -- naturally, the 17-inch model is larger to accommodate the 17-inch display, as well as heavier -- one would be unlikely to notice major differences between the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 17-Inch (Unibody) and the 15-Inch MacBook Pro models.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc (15-Inch -- Left, 17-Inch -- Right)
All of these models have a black and silver case design milled from a single block of aluminum providing greater strength and a superior finish than previous systems and all include backlit keyboards, a "no button" glass "multi-touch" trackpad with support for "four finger" gestures and programmable "zones", and have LED-backlit displays.
By default, the 17-inch model has the same type of "glossy" display at a larger size, but also it is offered in an "anti-glare" configuration (with a silver "frame") for an additional US$50. Although professional designers -- and fans of "matte" displays -- may not be thrilled to have to pay a premium, most would agree that having the option is considerably better than not having it.
The 17-inch model also has a different battery design, and unlike the 15-inch models, this battery is built-in (i.e. it is not swappable, just like the battery in the MacBook Air models). It does provide an estimated eight hours of battery life (when using the slower "integrated" graphics), however, compared to five hours for the 15-Inch models, so swapping the battery may be less necessary for many users. Ultimately the market will decide whether or not a built-in battery is acceptable, but it likely is of greater concern to the types of "heavy" professional users attracted to a large powerful system than the "lightweight roadwarrior" types attracted to the MacBook Air.
Connectivity between the 15-inch and 17-inch systems is similar as well, but the 17-inch has a third USB 2.0 port. The 17-inch model also comes equipped with the same ExpressCard/34 slot, AirPort Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Gigabit Ethernet, single Firewire "800" port, optical digital/analog audio in/out, and "Mini DisplayPort" supporting an external display at 2560x1600.
Internally, the models use similar logic board designs and 45 nm "Penryn" Intel "Core 2 Duo" processors -- the 17-inch model has a faster processor -- with two independent processor "cores" on a single silicon chip, a 1066 MHz frontside bus, support for 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM (PC3-8500), support for Serial ATA hard drives, an 8X DL "SuperDrive", and dual graphics processors -- a NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT with dedicated GDDR3 SDRAM and a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256 MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory. However, the 17-inch model officially supports 8 GB of memory, whereas the 15-inch models officially support 4 GB of memory (third-parties like site sponsor Other World Computing have been able to upgrade the "Late 2008" models to 6 GB and the "Early 2009" model -- the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 15" (Unibody) -- to 8 GB.
The major differences between the 15-Inch and 17-Inch "Unibody" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo (Late 2008/Early 2009) models -- size, display, battery, connectivity, configuration, and price -- are summarized below:
|MBP "Unibody"||2.4 15.4"||2.53† 15.4"||2.66 17"|
|Processor Speed:||2.4 GHz||2.53 GHz*†||2.66 GHz**|
|Level 2 Cache:||3 MB||6 MB||6 MB|
|Hard Drive Size:||250 GB||320 GB||320 GB|
|Standard RAM:||2 GB||4 GB||4 GB|
|Maximum RAM:||4 GB (6 GB)||4 GB (6 GB/8 GB†)||8 GB|
|Ded. GDDR3 VRAM:||256 MB||512 MB||512 MB|
|SuperDrive:||8X DL||8X DL||8X DL|
|USB 2.0 Ports:||2||2||3|
|Display Size:||15.4-Inches||15.4 Inches||17.0-Inches|
|Display Options:||Glossy Only
|Est. Battery Life:||5 Hours||5 Hours||8 Hours|
|Width x Depth (In):||14.35 x 9.82||14.35 x 9.82||15.47 x 10.51|
|Weight:||5.5 lbs (2.49 kg)||5.5 lbs (2.49 kg)||6.6 lbs (2.99 kg)|
|Apple Part No:||MB470LL/A||MB471LL/A†||MB604LL/A|
* By custom configuration, the 2.53 GHz 15-Inch model also was available with a 2.8 GHz "T9600" processor.
** The 17-Inch model is available with a 2.93 GHz "T9800" processor for an additional US$300.
† On March 3, 2009, Apple quietly replaced the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.53 15" (Unibody) with the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 15" (Unibody), which is officially identical apart from a faster 2.66 GHz processor (T9550) and a new order number of MC026LL/A, however it also unofficially supports an additional 2 GB of memory (8 GB up from 6 GB). It additionally could be upgraded to a 2.93 GHz processor (T9800) for an additional US$300.
†† The 17-inch model is available with an "anti-glare" display option for an additional US$50.
Please refer to the Ultimate Mac Comparison feature to dynamically compare any MacBook Pro model to any other G3 or later Mac.