New MacBook Pro models are here

Capping off months of rumor and speculation, Apple today announced several new versions of the popular MacBook Pro laptop, bringing Core i5 and i7 processors and better Nvidia graphics.

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Capping off months of rumor and speculation, Apple today announced several new versions of the popular MacBook Pro laptop. This line, which includes 13-, 15-, and 17-inch models, hasn't been updated since June 2009, leading industry watchers to predict the timing was right for new components, if not a new outright design.

Since the last MacBook Pro models were released, we've seen some significant changes to common laptop components. Most significant is the release of a new family of Intel processors, including the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7, all of which offer better performance and battery life than the standard Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs found in current MacBooks (and in fact, in most non-Netbook laptops released in the past couple of years).

The biggest change to the MacBook Pro line is the inclusion of two of those new CPUs, which bring Apple's laptops in line with the rest of the laptop marketplace in terms of processing power. Both the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros now offer Core i5 and Core i7 processors from 2.4GHz to 2.66GHz.The 13-inch MacBook Pro is keeping the older Core 2 Duo, but upping its default clock speed from 2.26GHz to 2.4GHz.

The MacBook Pro's iconic unibody aluminum construction remains, as does its large glass multitouch trackpad, but the graphics capabilities of all the MacBook Pros have gotten a significant upgrade. The 13-inch MacBook Pros now have new Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics, which should provide a boost over the previous 9400M graphics.

The 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros have "automatic graphics switching," an Apple-engineered variation on Nvidia's Optimus graphics-switching technology , which we've liked in the handful of systems we've seen it in. No manual switching between discrete or integrated graphics is required (as in previous MacBooks); the MacBook Pro handles it all seamlessly, switching between Intel integrated graphics and a Nvidia GeForce GT 330M processor on the fly. Also, the 13-inch MacBook Pro finally includes 4GB of RAM in its base configuration.

The 15-inch model has the same default 1,440x900-pixel resolution as before, but $100 will get you a higher-resolution 1,680x1,050-pixel display, and $50 on top of that adds an antiglare coating.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro specs:

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 / 2.5GHz Core i5 / 2.66GHz Core i7
  • 4GB of RAM (upgradable to 8GB for an extra $400)
  • 320GB or 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive (upgradable to 500GB at 7,200rpm, or an SSD up to 512GB)
  • 1,400x900-pixel glossy display (upgradable to 1,680x1,050 pixels for an extra $100, and antiglare for an extra $50)
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 330M with 256MB of memory, using automatic graphics switching (512MB memory in highest-end Core i7 configuration)
  • Preset configurations are $1,799 for 2.4GHz Core i5/4GB RAM/320GB HDD; $1,999 for 2.53GHz Core i5/4GB RAM/500GB HDD; $2,199 for 2.66GHz Core i7/4GB RAM/500GB HDD

Apple claims 8 to 9 hours of battery life when leaving automatic graphics switching on. Another small detail is a thinner, redesigned magnetic power cord, adopting the smaller design that's on the MacBook Air. This should result in fewer accidental cord pull-outs, and creates less power cord jut.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro has only one preset configuration at $2,299:

  • 2.53GHz Core i5 (upgradable to 2.66GHz Core i7 for $200)
  • 4GB RAM (upgradable to 8GB)
  • 500GB hard drive, 5400rpm
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, 512MB memory
  • 1,920x1,200-pixel LED-backlit glossy display ($50 extra for antiglare)
  • 8-9 hours of claimed battery life

As for the well-loved 13-inch MacBook Pro , the most significant addition besides the aforementioned Nvidia GeForce 320M GPU and base-end spec bump is a battery life that Apple claims will now run to 10 hours, which is accomplished, according to Apple, through a combination of more-efficient CPU usage and battery chemistry.

The available 13-inch preset configs:

  • $1,199/$1,499
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo/2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo
  • 4GB RAM (upgradable to 8GB)
  • 250GB/320GB hard drive (upgradable to 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive or up to 512GB SSD)
  • Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics

Despite some wild predictions bordering on wishful thinking, there are a few other features that were widely discussed but not included in this update. There's no HDMI output, Blu-ray options, or 3G antenna. We also never thought Intel's new Wireless Display technology was a realistic inclusion, so we're not surprised to that it did not make the cut.

We're currently testing the high-end Core i7 version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, so stay tuned for hands-on impressions, benchmark results, and video.

Comparing the specs for the old and new MacBook Pro lineups, as shown on Apple's Web site.

 

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