As widely expected, Apple's new fleet of MacBook Pros ship with the latest generation of Intel Core CPUs plus Thunderbolt (aka Light Peak), revamped FaceTime HD cams and lots more.
The new MacBook Pro spec has been called an evolutionary leap by some - as opposed to a revolutionary one - and while we agree to a point (in that, physical design-wise, not heck of a lot has changed) at the same time we'd have to call eradicating the ageing Core 2 Duo CPU from the lineup and rolling out Sandy Bridge processors across the entire range a pretty significant step up performance-wise
. More on that below, plus everything else you need know about the new features of the MacBook Pro.
1. Sandy Bridge makes its Mac debut
Yep, as was widely rumoured, Intel's second-generation Core CPU ships across all the new MacBook Pro models. (According to Apple's web site, all the new models utilise "Intel's recently refined chipset", so the Cougar Point chipset errors
shouldn't be an issue.) Apple hasn't released the exact CPU model numbers for now (we did ask), but what we do know is that the entry-level 13-inch model features a 2.3GHz dual-core Core i5 (and will set you back $1,399), while the beefier 13-inch offering includes a 2.7GHz dual-core Core i7 (for $1,698). For the 15-inch models, $2,099 nets you a 2.0GHz quad-core Core i7, while $2,499 bumps this up to a 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7 (upgradeable to 2.3GHz for $300). At the top of the heap, the 17-inch MacBook Pro ships with a 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7 and will set you back $2,899 (also upgradeable to 2.3GHz for $300).
Apple's making the most of the performance numbers with the transition to Sandy Bridge.
All models feature a minimum of 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM (upgradeable to 8GB), and hard drive capacity ranges from a default 320GB in the dual-core 13-inch model to a default 750GB in the 17-inch Pro. (Solid state drives are also available across the range - more on this below.) With Turbo Boost speeds of up to 3.4GHz, Apple is claiming performance boosts across the range as being up to twice as fast as the previous generation of MacBook Pro.
2. Thunderbolt: the speedy thorn in USB 3.0's side
Formerly known as Light Peak, Intel's new next-gen high-speed connector is making its first appearance today in the new MacBook Pro range. It supports both data and display on a single cable and can carry information at 10Gbps. That's a full-length HD movie transfer in less than 30 seconds, and as Apple's marketing points out, it's 12 times faster than FireWire 800 and up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0. It's also theoretically twice as fast as USB 3.0. In any case, today's
launch of Thunderbolt as a major competitor to USB 3.0 means we may well
have another connector format war on our hands...
3. Adios Nvidia, hello there AMD
Apple has ditched Nvidia graphics and rolled out Intel HD Graphics 3000 across the entire range of new MacBook Pros. As we've seen before
, this new integrated graphics capability delivers hugely speedy performance for tasks like video encoding, and for 3D gaming or design work (or more graphically intensive pursuits generally) the 15 and 17-inch Pros now include AMD Radeon HD graphics (a 6490M with 256MB GDDR5 in the 2.0GHz 15-inch model, or a 6750M with 1GB GDDR5 in the 2.2GHz 15-incher and the 17-incher) and will automatically switch over to this when required. Apple claims the new Radeon setup offers up to 3X faster performance than the previous-generation graphics.
4. Widescreen web chat: Apple's new FaceTime HD camera
Doing away with the iSight, Apple has upgraded the front-facing webcams across the MacBook Pro range with the new FaceTime HD camera. FaceTime HD supports video calls with iOS devices and other Macs at up to 720p (triple the resolution of the previous camera and with improved low-light performance) and offers widescreen, which purportedly will make it easier for more than one person to gather around a single cam on video calls. To take advantage of the new camera, Apple today released the FaceTime for Mac app on the Mac App Store, which retails for $1.19 (free with new Pros however) and is already number one on the paid Mac App Store chart.
5. Solid state options: sizeable but ouchy
One of the rumours in the leadup to today's MacBook Pro refresh was that the new models would offer across-the-board solid state drives, following the lead of the MacBook Air. That didn't happen of course, but the solid state options available to the purchaser are at least broad (if not particularly affordable). Each model has the option of upgrading the default SATA hard drive to solid state drives in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB configurations. But, like we said, it's not cheap. For the entry-level 13-inch model, upgrading costs $320 for the 128GB SSD, $820 for the 256GB SSD and a whopping $1,670 for the 512GB SSD (which keen-eyed readers will note more than doubles the price of the machine in a single customisation!). Still, if you were tempted by the lightweight Air but weren't too keen on sticking with Core 2 Duo, this might just be the option for you.
Nope, it's not as slim as the Air, but it comes with Sandy Bridge and an optical drive (and you can still ditch the mechanical hard drive if you've got the cash).