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Friday February 25, 2011 2:22 pm

New MacBook Pro teardown gives us a look at Thunderbolt

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Apple, Design, PC / Laptop

THunderbolt port

The teardown crew at iFixit got its hands on Apple's new MacBook Pro, providing a sneak peek at a new connection technology known as "Thunderbolt."

The new MacBooks are the first Apple portable to include a quad-core processor, Intel's Core i7. The devices also include more RAM, iFixit discovered. Thunderbolt, meanwhile, combines PCI Express and DisplayPort into a single connector.

On the new machines, you can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. For comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices. But as iFixit noted, this might not be an issue since "we're not even aware of six products that support Thunderbolt yet." But if the connection becomes more popular, it might become a problem.

The RAM in the MacBooks is PC3-10600. That's the same RAM found in the 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs released last year, but different from earlier Apple laptops, iFixit said. PC3-10600 can be used in older MacBook Pro machines, but the RAM found in those older machines - PC3-8500 - will not work in the new MacBook Pros.



IFixit also discovered that the new machines include four antennas instead of three. Apple didn't mention this upgrade, "but perhaps Apple's silently improved things under the hood," iFixit suggested.

On the battery front, the laptops include a 77.5 Watt-hour battery. Reported battery life has dropped from 8-9 hours to 7 hours, prompting iFixit to speculate whether performance has actually decreased or whether Apple is just more realistic about its estimates. "We'll have to leave that investigation to someone with a fully-assembled unit," iFixit said.

Overall, the new Macbook Pro earned a 7 out of 10 repairability score. The battery can be disconnected without removing it from the laptop, which iFixit said was a "nice design choice" since you have to disconnect a battery before making any repairs. The main board also lifted out with the heat sink attached, which means you only have to remove the heat sink and re-apply thermal paste if you're completely replacing the logic board.

"Unibody design allows for easy access of most components with minimal amounts of extra work needed to get to them," iFixit said.

One thing that worried iFixit was quality control. "A stripped screw near the subwoofer enclosure and an unlocked ZIF socket for the IR sensor should not be things found inside a completely unmolested computer with an $1,800 base price," the site wrote.

IFixit also noted the "absurd amounts of pre-applied thermal paste," which may cause problems down the road. Tri-wing screws also limit the average person from replacing their own battery, while LCD replacement is still very tricky.

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

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