Quick update. Just took delivery via FedEx of a brand new MacBook Pro 15 yesterday morning. I have not been this happy with a new machine since my PowerBook G4 Ti in 2001 or maybe my dual 1.42 Ghz PowerMac G4 with 2 GB of RAM in 2002. Of course I have had the consistent march of ever more powerful machines. I was happy with my PowerMac G5 (solo) and my PowerBook G4 Al 1.25 Ghz with 2 GB but they were incremental and gave me a little bit more of the same. The 2001 PowerBook was like nothing else out there from every point of view - a quantum leap. Same with the PowerMac G4 dual and 2 GB (compared with the machine it replaced).
I was happy with my PowerBook Al, My first MacBook Pro 15 was of the first generation Core 2 variety. Maxed out at 3 GB and was really not that much better than my PowerBook. The build quality was off compared to the PowerBook and I really never warmed up to it. I should have splurged and upgraded the graphics. Well it started getting a little flakey last week, probably the HD. I will fix that and give it to somebody in the family or keep it in my stock pile of Macs dedicated to being annexed by my next girl friend or something.
I have really liked the new unibody MacBook Pro's from a build quality standpoint but couldn't really justify spending the money to replace a 2 year old laptop just for build quality. Well the new pricing and spec bumps announced recently combined with the flaking out of my older Core 2 hard drive - WTF - I fired up the old credit card and hit the buy button in the online Apple Store.
I am now the proud owner of a new unibody 15" MacBook Pro 2.8 Ghz 8 GB RAM (finally) and the good graphics (512 MB). This thing is fantastic, that battery really does last 7+ hours. It is way way way way faster than my last MBP, in fact I think it may even smoke my 1st gen MacPro quad core in some very common things. I have done any scientific testing yet but Aperture screams, and CS4 is unbelievable with my 4000DPI 16bit medium format scans (a single layer file is over half a GB). This really is the first laptop that I have had that I have been blown away by since my 2001 PB G4 Ti. Oh and the build quality is fantastic - the bar has been raised.
Recommendation - If you are in need of a new laptop the new top of the line 15 with 512 MB VRAM and the 500 GB harddrive is the ticket - especially with the lower price. I am an idiot and have been wanting a laptop with serious RAM for a long time so I jammed the 8 GB in there. This is totally irrational and would not recommend this for non-idiots until the 2 GB chips come down in price. Find yourself a student get the stock model for about $2100 and be very very happy.