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Thursday February 24, 2011 2:59 pm

Apple updates MacBook Pro with Sandy Bridge processors, HD cameras, and Thunderbolt

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Apple, PC / Laptop

MacBook Pro thunderbolt

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.



The Macbook Pro 13-inch is the smallest laptop to partake in these updates, as it will have an option for the 2.3GHz or 2.7Ghz Intel Core i5, accompanied by a 320GB and 500GB hard drive, respectively. Memory will be expandable to 8GB of DDR3 memory as with the previous version, except the memory speeds can ramp up to 1333MHz. The graphics envrionment is no longer Nvidia-based, as Apple has given up on this integrated platform in favor of Intel's Sandy Bridge processor graphics. If our 3D tests on our Sandy Bridge unit are any indication, the 13-inch's new graphics subsystem will be as powerful as the Nvidia GeForce 320M of past.

The MacBook Pro 15-inch comes in two configurations, both of which are based on a quad-core Core i7. Yes, you heard right. This is the first time Apple is using a quad-core processor in its laptops. As with the 13-inch, it can be configured with up to 8GB of memory. But unlike the 13-inch, the 15-inch will graduate to an AMD Radeon HD 6490M or 6750M graphics chip, ditching Nvidia altogether. When this discrete chip is not being used for 3D intensive games, video transcoding, and CAD applications, it'll switch to the integrated graphics solution via Apple's Automatic Switching Graphics (ASG).

Lastly, the Macbook Pro 17-inch has been the most neglected, but this time it gets an entire makeover internally. It has one configuration, featuring a 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7, AMD Radeon 6750M GPU, and a 750GB hard drive. And it'll have the same graphics-switching capability, but this time controlling the AMD GPU.

Prices for the two Macbook Pro 13-inch are $1,199 and $1,499. The Macbook Pro 15-inch will cost $1,799 and $2,199 for its two configurations, while the 17-inch Macbook Pro will start at $2,499.

This article, written by Cisco Cheng, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc..

Read More | MacBook Pro product page

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