The MacBook Pro is Apple’s new Intel-based notebook computer aimed at the “professional” market. It’s light, sleek, and surprisingly fast. Sporting Intel’s Core Duo dual-core processor with speeds up to 2.16GHz, this computer runs OS X or Windows as fast as any laptop on the market. For the DJ or music producer this means a “no compromise” portable workstation that looks great on stage and holds its own in the studio.

The MacBook Pro comes in two sizes and three configurations: One has a 15-inch widescreen display and a 1.83 Core Duo processor (check prices), a second 15-inch model has a 2.0GHz Core Duo processor (check prices), and the third has a 17-inch widescreen display with a 2.16 Core Duo processor (check prices). There are several other variations between the three models, but for the DJ these are the most important considerations.

The screen on the 15-inch MacBook Pro has a maximum resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels. The 17-inch screen has a resolution of 1680 x 1050, giving you a greater viewing area than the 15-inch model. Both of these screens are brighter and sharper than the previous Powerbooks, and both are more than sufficient when using DJ software such as Serato Scratch Live or Native Instruments Traktor DJ Studio 3 (the software component of Stanton’s FinalScratch). These programs feature a large, one-window interface designed to be easily readable from a distance in a traditional DJ setup. Where the extra space of the 17-inch screen really becomes useful is when using music production software that makes use of multiple windows, pallets, and plug-ins. Being able to arrange and view these various windows on one big screen really streamlines and speeds up the creative process. If you’re planning to use software that makes use of multiple windows, you may want to consider the 17-inch MacBook Pro.

The next most important consideration is the processor speed. To be perfectly honest, all three of the available processors are more than enough to get you through even the most demanding projects. When choosing a processor speed, don’t think about the software you’re using now – think about the software you’ll be using three years from now. As software developers begin to take advantage of the computing power offered by these new chips, the minimum system requirements to run that software will increase. Two years from now, you might be really glad you have that extra .16GHz. If, on the other hand, you’re someone who upgrades their machine every year or so, the least expensive MacBook Pro will probably hold you over just fine until your next upgrade.

The MacBook Pro features a dedicated ATI Radeon X1600 graphics processor with either 128 or 256MB of VRAM. Unless you’re a serious gamer or plan to run other graphics-intensive applications, the 128 MB version will be more than enough for your music making apps.

The MacBook Pro comes with a FireWire 400 port and 2 USB 2.0 ports (add a FireWire 800 and an extra USB 2.0 port on the 17-inch), so adding an external soundcard, midi controller, and hard drive is a snap. Another great feature that comes standard on all models is the backlit keyboard with automatic ambient light sensor. As the lights in the room dim, the keyboard backlight gets brighter. This is extremely useful when performing at a dark club or a venue with swirling, pulsating lights. It’s much cooler than having a clip light hanging over your laptop.

The most obvious downside to purchasing a MacBook Pro at the current time is that the introduction of the Intel-based Macs was relatively recent and took many software developers by surprise. As a result, not all DJ and music software is able to run natively on the Intel Macs. While most software can run on the Intel Macs under PPC emulation, music and audio applications take a significant performance hit, and therefore it’s not recommended to run them this way. The upshot of all this is… make sure that the software you’re planning to use is available as a “universal binary” that runs natively on Intel Macs, before you buy a MacBook Pro.

For the DJ who is looking for the ultimate in speed, style, and flexibility, nothing out there can beat the MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro Pros:

  • Super-fast dual-core Intel processors up to 2.16GHz.
  • Bright, sharp widescreen displays.
  • Runs Mac OS X or Windows (via Apple’s Boot Camp software).
  • Backlit keyboard.
  • Sleek aluminum case looks great on stage.

MacBook Pro Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • Not all music software runs natively on Intel Macs (yet).

Recommended for:

  • Professional DJs or musicians who travel and perform frequently.
  • DJs who use graphics-intensive design or video production software.
  • DJs who are avid gamers.
  • Really, anyone else who can afford one.

Nor recommended for:

  • DJs who make their living using software not available as a Universal Binary.
  • Bedroom DJs / hobbyists who never travel outside of their home studio.
  • Anyone who needs to sell their first-born child to afford one.
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