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Inside Apple's New MacBook Pro
Apple today introduced a refreshed line of MacBook Pro notebooks, bringing several new features to the the company's popular aluminum-clad offerings. Here is a look at some of the changes included in the update:
Apple stuck with Intel Core 2 Duo processors for the 13" MacBook Pros, bumping the two standard configuration models from 2.26 GHz and 2.53 GHz to 2.4 GHz and 2.66 GHz. The 15" and 17" models, however, saw a bump from the Core 2 Duo line to Core i5 and i7 processors offering Intel's Hyper-Threading technology that allows for four virtual cores on the dual-core processor. While the processors run at slightly lower clock speeds than the Core 2 Duo in the previous generation, the smaller 32-nanometer process, Hyper-Threading, and other enhancements yield performance improvements of up to 50% according to Apple. The Core i5 and i7 processors also support Turbo Boost, pushing clock speeds for the i7 models as high as 3.33 GHz for single-threaded tasks.
On the new 13" MacBook Pro, Apple debuted the NVIDIA GeForce 320M integrated graphics processor that offers 48 processing cores, three times that of the previous generation. Apple claims a performance boost of up to 80% with the new graphics capabilities while also being able to deliver up to 40% less power usage. The GeForce 320M is reportedly a custom production for Apple, offering greater performance than NVIDIA's standard integrated graphics without building in discrete graphics capabilities.
The 15" and 17" MacBook Pro models utilize the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M with either 256 or 512 MB of dedicated memory, offering more horsepower while also delivering up 30% greater energy efficiency. The 15" and 17" MacBook Pro models also offer automatic graphics switching, allowing the system to seamlessly switch between the dedicated NVIDIA graphics processor and the included integrated Intel HD graphics processor for optimal balance of power and efficiency. Previous MacBook Pro models have required users to manually switch between integrated and discrete graphics and log out of their account for each switch.
All three MacBook Pro models offer greater battery life than their predecessors, a feat achieved through a combination of larger battery capacity and greater energy efficiency. The 13" MacBook Pro now offers up to 10 hours of power, while the 15" and 17" models boast battery life of 8-9 hours. The previous generation of the MacBook Pro offered 7 hours on the 13" and 15" models and 8 hours on the 17" model. The batteries in all three machine sizes are non-user-replaceable and are designed for up to 1000 full charge and discharge cycles. While designed to last five years for typical users, Apple offers a battery replacement service priced at $129 (13" and 15" models) or $179 (17" model).
The 15" MacBook Pro has gained a new option for a high-resolution display, offering users the opportunity to bump the standard 1440x900 screen to 1680x1050. The high-resolution display is available in both glossy ($100 extra) and anti-glare ($150 extra) versions. Notably, an anti-glare option for the lower-resolution display does not appear to be available. The 17" MacBook Pro continues to sport a 1900x1200 screen in either glossy (standard) or anti-glare ($50 extra). Apple also continues to offer a single standard glossy display running at 1280x800 for the 13" model.
Apple is offering up to 500 GB, 5400-rpm SATA hard drives across all three sizes, with the 15" and 17" models also offering the option of up to 500 GB, 7200-rpm drives. Solid-state drive capacities have increased with the addition of a 512 GB option, although it carries a hefty price premium of $1300-$1450 depending on which base hard drive the customer is upgrading from.
The new MacBook Pro offers an enhanced multi-touch trackpad supporting inertial scrolling. The feature, already present in similar forms on Apple's iPhone OS devices and the Magic Mouse, allows users to "flick" while scrolling as the trackpad senses the momentum of the gesture and smoothly scrolls through long documents and libraries.
In the U.S. and Canada, Apple's new MacBook Pro line is currently showing 2-4 business day shipping windows for standard-configuration 13" models, while base 15" and 17" models are showing availability within 24 hours. Apple's international online stores are showing shipping windows ranging from 24 hours to 5 business days for various standard-configuration models, with the 13" models and the mid-range 15" model most frequently seeing the longer delays.