It's rare that an entire line of MacBook Pros is updated all at once, but sometimes new technology warrants this occasion. Apple, as expected, announced updates to the MacBook Pro 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch. They all get Intel second-gen Sandy Bridge Core processors and all the technology associated with them, including dual- and quad-core versions. In addition to new internals, each MacBook Pro will be equipped with a FaceTime HD webcam and a lightning-fast connection technology called Thunderbolt. The 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros will also have a new graphic partner in AMD, ditching Nvidia after several years.
The MacBook Pros keep their shape and form for the most part, since most of the changes occur within. Their metal frames are still an inch thick, carved from a slab of aluminum, the same as their predecessors. A FaceTime HD webcam replaces the standard one on all the MacBook Pros, and when used in tandem with the native FaceTime app, users can video chat in 720p. They didn't get the flash SSD that allowed the MacBook Airs to resume and boot up instantly, but the hard drive capacities have ramped up to 500GB, with a 750GB option, depending on the system. And there will be SSD options (512GB) available, albeit for an obscene price.
The newest and most out-of-the-ordinary addition is the mini-Display port that now doubles as a superspeed I/O port. Thunderbolt, formerly known as Intel's Light Peak technology, is a new connection technology that supports transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps (that's twice as fast as USB 3.0) between the laptop and a Thunderbolt peripheral. Problem is, peripherals that can take advantage of this new technology haven't surfaced yet. But with a huge backer in Apple, these peripherals will surely be available soon. The Thunderbolt port, according to Apple, can deliver PCI Express to external peripherals and can support FireWire and USB devices. Since it's also a mini-Display port, the same port can output to external displays.
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Intel today officially announced the availability of Thunderbolt, its new PC connection technology capable of running at speeds of 10Gbps—more than twice the speed of USB 3.0, and fast enough to transfer a full-length HD movie in less than 30 seconds.
First introduced at IDF 2009 under the code name "Light Peak," Thunderbolt is based on fiber optics and was originally designed to transmit data over thin glass cables rather than traditional electrical ones. (Intel announced last month, however, that the initial iterations would use copper rather than fiber-optic cabling.) Powered by an Intel controller chip, it unites the PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort protocols to send data and video transmissions in two directions at once over a single cable.
Thunderbolt's first commercial application is on Apple's just-released refresh of its MacBook Pro laptop line. There had been speculation for a while that Apple would introduce the technology commercially, as Steve Jobs declared in October that because of lackluster support the company would not implement USB 3.0 right away.