Fans of the 17-inch MacBook Pro can finally enjoy the new design first introduced to the 15-inch models in 2008. But has the wait been worth it and should you look to upgrade? We managed to get a play with the new model at this year's Macworld conference in San Francisco to find out.

As you might expect from a laptop that sports a 17-inch screen, the 17-inch MacBook Pro is a big beast. Strangely however, not as big as we or you might expect. That screen might be huge, but Apple has worked hard to make sure the rest of the device is thin and compact.

The result is a design that follows the same themes and lines as the 15-inch model announced last year. You'll get an all metal uni-body design, an array of ports and sockets down the left hand side and that button that lets you easily see how much charge you've got left on the battery with glowing green lights. The black keyboard set into the silver aluminium design is spaced out (no more so than the 15-inch version) with the extra space either side being used up by two large speakers that produce good sound.

Below the keyboard is a lot of spare space for the large multi-touch trackpad to sit. Like the 15-inch model it is void of buttons. Instead you can click anywhere or use multiple finger gestures and swipes to interact with the screen in front of you. We especially like the ability to clear the desktop by swiping with four fingers in an upward motion.

Get to the screen and the extra space really gives you plenty of desktop. The screen will offer 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution, 700:1 contrast ratio, 60% greater colour gamut than the previous model, and come with the option of a non-glossy screen for those looking to avoid glare. It's a nice addition and clearly one that's aimed at the design fraternity, but begs the question that if Apple can do it here, why can't it do it for the 15-inch model as well?

Graphics, like the 15-inch version, are powered by two Nvidia graphics cards, one for daily use and one for more power-intensive applications like games or photo editing and you can switch between the two depending on your needs and demands.

Other features include a webcam at the top of the screen for video calling, the Magsafe power socket and a magnetic catch for keeping the lid closed.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro is powered by a built-in battery that isn't hot swappable. The good news, say Apple, is that you'll get a whopping 8 hours of juice from a single charge (something we were unable to test in our brief play) with a promised total battery life of around 5 years (1000 cycles). The bad news is that you'll have to send your laptop back to Apple to get them to replace the battery (it will cost £139 in the UK or $179 in the US).

It's not yet certain as to what applications Apple was running to achieve this 8-hour claim and whether or not heavy use of Wi-Fi and the DVD drive would drastically reduce this number, but we suspect so.

Inside and you get all the usual bells and whistles that you've come to expect from the Cupertino based company. The 17-inch MacBook Pro is a formidable powerhouse. A 2.66GHz Intel processor, 8GB of memory, a Combo SuperDrive, and 320GB hard drive are just some of the key techs with the option to go solid state as well.

Price when reviewed:
First Impressions

It wasn't the netbook that Mac fanboys were hoping for, however for those who need a big screen and long battery on the move this is a great improvement over the previous model bringing in features that new 15-inch MacBook Pro users have been enjoying for some time.

If the promised 8 hours delivers (Apple says you'll get a 60% improvement on the previous version), it will impress, however personally the thought of lugging around something so large to use on the train or plane means this isn't likely to be one for us.

The trouble is, if you’re just planning on using this as a desktop replacement, the need for a long battery life and screen are negated by power sockets and cheap monitors around the home or the office.

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