Apple’s update to the MacBook Pro family introduces Intel’s latest Core i5 and Core i7 processors, souped-up switchable graphics, up to 10 hours battery life – and a price cut!
Apple has revved its entire MacBook Pro line with faster chips, better graphics, longer battery life and bigger drives (both hard disk and solid state) – and dropped the price by between $100 and $400 over the just-superseded models.
The refresh doesn’t affect the look of Apple’s premium notebooks, which retain their innovative unibody aluminium design. There are no give-aways on the outside to tell a 2010 MacBook from last year’s models.
Under the hood, however, it’s a very different story. The 15 inch and 17 inch MacBook Pros now sport Intel’s latest Core i5 and Core i7 chips built on the new 32nm Westmere architecture.
(The 13 inch MacBook Pro remains on the previous-gen Core 2 Duo platform, but with a speed bump in both models.)
The Core i5 and Core i7 all dual-core processors rated from 2.4GHz through to 2.66GHz, with a Turbo Boost mode to temporarily raise the clock frequency for short but intensive bursts of work while keeping safely within the overall thermal parameters of the chip.
For example, the Core i5-540M lurking inside the mid-range 15 inch MacBook Pro has a base speed of 2.53GHz but can reach as high as 3.06GHz by shutting down one of its two engines and pushing the other core to the limit.
Apple has also pumped up the MacBook Pro’s graphics capabilities. The 13 inch model moves from Nvidia’s dated GeForce 9400M integrated graphics to the new GeForce 320M, with 48 processing cores to push the pixels up to 80 percent faster, according to Apple.
The 15 inch and 17 inch models fare even better. They’re all equipped with Nvidia’s discrete GeForce GT 330M (backed by 256-512MB of RAM), which co-exists alongside the Intel HD Graphics processors integrated into the Core i5 and Core i7 processors (the graphics core is actually baked onto the same die as the data cores).
True to its name, the HD Graphics engine supports 1080p video, as well as having its own Turbo Boost mode (to drop the frequency of the processor core and increases that of the graphics core) and the ability to access up to 1.7GB of RAM.
The best bit? Users can switch between Intel’s integrated graphics core and Nvidia’s discrete graphics chipset without the need to reboot the laptop.
Choosing Intel’s silicon affords longer battery life at the expense of more modest graphics, while the Nvidia chips provide optimum graphics grunt but draw more power (so they’re best for when the laptop is running off AC).
Speaking of battery life, Apple now rates the 13 inch MacBook Pro at up to 10 hours between recharges compared to 7 hours in the previous gen. The maximum battery life of the 15 inch and 17 inch models has also been upped from 7 hours to a slightly rubbery 8-9 hours.
Storage options across the range now include 500GB in hard drive and solid state drives, although the later will add another $1,800-$2,000 to your bill (depending on which MacBook Pro it’s for).
Here’s a run-through of the core specs across Apple’s refreshed lineup, all of which is available from today.
MacBook Pro 13 inch
Apple’s new entry-level MacBook Pro jumps from a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo to a 2.4GHz chip; RAM is doubled from 2GB to 4GB; and the hard drive goes from 160GB to 250GB. For all that goodness, plus of course the GeForce 320M graphics and 10 hour battery, the price drops from $1,599 to $1,499.
The next step up is the $1,899 (formerly $1,999) config, with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo (previously 2.53GHz), 320GB hard drive (previously 250GB) and the same 4GB of RAM.
MacBook Pro 15 inch
Two of the three versions of the mid-range MacBook Pro are built around Intel’s Core i5 processor, while the top shelf build runs a Core i7.
$2,199 – down $100 from yesterday’s MacBook Pro – gets you a 2.4GHz Core i5-520M (which redlines at 2.93GHz using Turbo Boost) and a 320GB hard drive, up from the previous model’s 250GB.
The Core i5-540M variant, which runs from 2.53GHz to 3.06GHz in turbo mode, packs a 500GB hard drive for $2,499 (the previous in-betweener model was $2,699).
$2,799 ($200 less than this time yesterday) kicks the powerplant into high gear with a 2.66GHz Core i7-620M, Intel’s fastest notebook chip, which has a nominal speed of 2.66GHz but peaks at 3.33GHz in turbo mode.
To step up from the standard 1440 x 900 panel to 1680 x 1050 will cost you an extra $140 for a hi-res glossy screen and $210 for a hi-res anti-glare display.
MacBook Pro 17 inch
At $2,899, Apple’s muscle-bound MacBook Pro doesn’t get the quad-core Core i7 mobile chip that some had hoped for, but with a dual-core 2.53GHz Core i5-540M (which reaches 3.06GHz using Turbo Boost) there’s still plenty of power on tap.
That’s a bargain when you consider that the previous model with a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo processor sold for $3,299.
And for an extra $290 you can option the 17 incher up to the same Core i7-620M powerplant as available in the best 15 inch build.Mac users: what’s your impression of this much-anticipated update? Was it everything you hoped for, or just a mid-life speed bump until the next major milestone for the MacBook Pro? Will you be upgrading to one of the new models?