Product Notes: Apple MacBook Pro
February 24, 2011
On February 24, 2011, Apple announced updates to its MacBook Pro notebook line. Specific changes include Thunderbolt I/O technology, Intel's Sandy Bridge chipset, and Core i5 and Core i7 processors for the 13-inch.
Notable in what is not included in any new MacBook Pro are new case designs, 16:9 displays, integrated WWAN capability, USB 3.0, or Blu-ray drives. The likelihood of these last two features appearing on any Apple system appears quite low.
Also, there is still no matte screen option for the MacBook Pro 13-inch, which matters to some users for both color precision and ergonomic reasons. Finally, the 13-inch display remains at 1280 x 800 pixels, unlike the MacBook Air 13-inch's 1440 x 900 resolution.
This update (significant for the MacBook Pro 13-inch and moderate for the MacBook 15-inch and the MacBook Pro 17-inch models) follows previous updates to the MacBook Pro line in April 2010. The incremental change in much of this generation suggests that there may be another revision later this year.
Design and Changes
The new MacBook Pros closely resemble the previous generation 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch MacBook Pros with a few changes (such as the SDXC card slot newly added to the MacBook Pro 13-inch).
The biggest connectivity change is the addition of Intel's Thunderbolt I/O technology (originally code-named Light Peak). Thunderbolt integrates the PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols over the same connector and is intended for storage and display peripherals. As of early 2011, there are very few Thunderbolt peripherals (though current DisplayPort peripherals are expected to function) and the success of this technology will be determined by how quickly these products arrive.
Inside, all three MacBook Pro sizes now feature Intel's Sandy Bridge chipset, the second generation Core i technology. For the MacBook Pro 13-inch in particular this a major upgrade - the previous generation 13-inch used the aging Core 2 Duo chipset.
These systems also transition from NVIDIA integrated graphics to Intel's HD 3000 integrated graphics, while the 15-inch and 17-inch move from NVIDIA discrete graphics to AMD discrete graphics. Previous generations of Intel integrated graphics have been substandard in performance, but early testing results at the University show that these new integrated graphics should suffice for most users.
Base RAM on all MacBook Pros is 4.0 GB, so no MacBook Pro needs to be upgraded to meet the RAM specifications in the Notebook Purchasing Guide. Apple has reduced their claim of battery life from 10.0 hours back to 7.0 hours.
All MacBook Pro models have received an EPEAT Gold rating and are Energy Star 5.0-certified.
Configuration and Ordering Notes
Several notes when ordering a MacBook Pro:
See ISC's Notebook Purchasing Guide and ISC's "Desknote" Buyer's Guide for more configuration hints. As of February 2011, configuring a MacBook Pro 15-inch to the Mid-Weight Notebook specification can be done for approximately $1,950 to $2,350 while configuring a MacBook Pro 17-inch to the Mainstream "Desknote" specification can be done for approximately $2,550 to $2,600. A MacBook Pro 13-inch can be built to the Lightweight Notebook specification for approximately $1,300 to $1,500. The University's Computer Connection has multiple MacBook Pro configurations available to order.
ISC sees the new MacBook Pros as being a solid choice among notebooks and desknotes available in early 2011. They remain Apple's only choice for Mac OS notebook users who require either significant peripheral connectivity capabilities or discrete graphics cards (in the 15-inch and 17-inch models).
ISC will follow up with a full review of these products as soon as testing is completed.
MacBook Pro graphic courtesy of Apple
--John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services (February 24, 2011)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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