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New MacBook Pros

April 19, 2010
By Dave Hecei, dhecei@post-journal.com
Hot on the heels of a new tablet device, the iPad, Apple has released updated MacBook Pros. The aluminum MacBook Pro 13, 15, and 17-inch models have all been updated with either faster Intel Core 2 Duo processors or with the new Intel i-Core processors. They also have faster graphics processors and longer battery life. In the low-end of the Pro series, the 13-inch model received a nice performance boost. You have a choice of either a 2.4 or 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, up from 2.26 and 2.53GHz. The previous 13-inch used the integrated GeForce 9400M graphics processor. The smallest Pro now has the nVidia GeForce 320M. This is still an integrated design but according to Apple, its gaming performance is up to 1.8 times faster than the 9400M model. Even though the 13-inch is the smallest Pro model, it has the best battery life. Apple states the battery life is up to 10 hours. In the past, one would take this claim with a grain of salt. Recently, Apple’s battery claims have actually been either spot on or even slightly conservative. The new iPad is stated to have a 10-hour battery and users are reporting they are getting up to 12-hours of steady use. The design of the 13-inch has not changed from the previous model. It still has a 13.1-inch LED backlit LCD screen (1280 by 800), a large multi-touch trackpad, slot-load DVD burner, wireless 802.11n, Bluetooth, and backlit keyboard. For ports there are – a MagSafe power port, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0, an SD card slot, and a single audio in/out. The upper MacBook Pro models (15 and 17-inch) now have either the new Intel Core i5 or the faster Core i7. The i-series processors are the latest and greatest from Intel and have some new technologies to make them perform even better. First is the chip design itself. The Core i-series processors uses the new smaller 32-nanometer design process. They also have Hyper-Threading, a feature that Intel has used in the past allowing a processor core to work on two things at the same time. In essence, the Mac OS sees a Core-i as a quad-core processor instead of a dual-core. The Core i-Series also has the ability to shift gears. They have a cruising speed, what they are rated for, plus they also have a Turbo Boost mode that allows them to jump up to a faster clock speed. There is even a super boost where it turns off one of the cores and runs a single core even faster. The 15-inch Pro is available in three speeds – 2.4GHz Core i5, 2.53GHz Core i5, or 2.66GHz Core i7. The 17-inch Pro is available with a Core i5 2.53GHz, but can be special ordered with a 2.66GHz Core i7. Both of these have 4GB of RAM standard. The 15-inch Pro comes with either a 320GB or 500GB hard drive. The 17-inch has a 500GB hard drive. The 15-inch ports are as follows – MagSafe power, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0, SD card slot, audio in and audio out. The 17-inch Pro is identical except for an added USB port and an ExpressCard/34 expansion slot instead of the SD camera card slot. The 15-inch Pro has a screen resolution of 1440 by 900 and the 17-inch Pro shows a full HD resolution of 1920 by 1200. Like the previous models, the 15 and 17-inch Pros have both an integrated video system and a discrete video system. The idea behind this design is for power conservation. When running on battery power you have the choice of either higher graphics performance and lower battery life, or longer battery life with less graphics performance. It is an innovative design that allows the user to choose speed over power conservation. The new 15 and 17-inch models have the new nVidia GeForce GT 330M discrete graphics processor. They also have the new Intel HD integrated graphics processor. Amazingly, Apple has found a way to allow switching between these two different video processors on the fly. You don’t have to reboot your system to get better battery performance. You could be working hard editing video or playing Call of Duty and when you are done doing that, quickly switch graphics settings to check out the web or your E-mail, which obviously doesn’t need super-fast graphics performance. The new Pros can be set up to sense when you don’t need the graphics performance and switch over for you, automatically. While not as impressive as the 10-hour battery in the 13-inch, the batteries in the 15 and 17-inch Pros are rated by Apple to last for 8 to 9 hours. With the added screen size, faster processors, and discrete graphics this is still pretty impressive. Like the previous models, the batteries in the MacBook Pros are not user replaceable. To battle this, Apple has made these batteries super efficient allowing them to have 2 to 3-times more recharge cycles than most laptop batteries. The 2.4GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro with 4GB of RAM and 250GB hard drive is $1199. The 2.66GHz model is $1499. The 15-inch with a 2.4GHz Core i5 and 320GB hard drive is $1799. The 2.53GHz with a 500GB hard drive is $1999. The 2.66GHz Core i7 with 500GB hard drive is $2199. The 17-inch with a 2.53GHz Core i5 and 500GB hard drive is $2299.

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