Future MacBook chips will look like this

Low-power versions of Intel's "Sandy Bridge" processors are showing up in the chipmaker's database--a preview of future MacBook processors.

Low-power versions of Intel's latest and greatest "Sandy Bridge" processors are populating the chipmaker's database, giving a pretty clear view of the chips small MacBooks will use in the future.

MacBook Air
MacBook Air Apple

Small, in this case, could be anything from a future 13-inch MacBook Pro (currently 4.5 pounds, 0.95 inches thick) to an updated MacBook Air (currently no more than 2.9 pounds and 0.11 to 0.68 inches thick)--the latter expected in the summer timeframe.

The "launch date" for the low-power chips highlighted in the graphic below is listed in Intel's database as "02/20/2011."

It bears repeating that Sandy Bridge combines the graphics function (previously a separate slice of silicon) with the main processor--a first for Intel in its Core series of products. So, a power-efficient Sandy Bridge processor rated at 17 watts is comparable to older, less-integrated Core 2 Duo 10-watt chips.

Which leads to a sore point for some prospective 2010 MacBook Air buyers (or current users). The 11.6-inch Airs use the old 10-watt Core 2 Duo combined with Nvidia's GeForce 320M graphics-based chipset, as I've pointed out before. (In Intel nomenclature, the wattage rating is called TDP, or thermal design power--see graphic). The 13.3-inch Airs use slightly less power-efficient Core 2 Duo processors with Nvidia's chipset.

The use of older Core 2 Duo chips is probably not an issue for the vast majority of people who buy the new Airs but for some (like me) it is a bit vexing that Apple essentially uses the same Intel processor technology as the original MacBook Air introduced three years ago.

Low-power Sandy Bridge chips highlighted in black
Low-power Sandy Bridge chips highlighted in black Intel

But on a more positive note, these upcoming MacBooks are certainly something to look forward to. And Intel is just now getting ready to push these power-efficient versions of Sandy Bridge out the door in volume, packing goodies like Turbo Boost 2.0 and Hyper-Threading.

And on another optimistic note, we may see new MacBook Pros before the Air updates. Chips going into Pros would also include--in addition to the Core i7 Sandy Bridge chips listed above--Core i5 versions with the same launch date of 02/20/2011. These include the 2.6GHz i5-2540M (35 watts), the 1.4GHz i5-2537M (17 watts), and the 2.5GHz i5-2520M (35 watts).

And let me end with some wishful thinking: the sooner, the better--though I'm pretty sure Apple isn't listening.

Featured Video
6
This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?
Sorry, you are not old enough to view this content.

The problem with hoarding photos on your phone

Do you have hundreds (or thousands) of photos on your phone? This one's for you.

by Sharon Profis