Apple refreshes its MacBook Pro notebooks

A new set of MacBook Pros feature Intel's i5 and i7 processors, as well as faster Nvidia graphics.

Apple

Apple on Tuesday updated its MacBook Pro line of notebook computers with faster processors and new Nvidia graphics.

The biggest news amid the new MacBook Pro changes is that the 15-inch and 17-inch models now use Intel's Core i5 and i7 processors. The 13-inch model will continue to use Intel's Core 2 Duo processor.

The 15-inch and 17-inch models will also use Apple's graphics-switching technology, which allows the computer to automatically toggle between the Nvidia GeForce GT 330M and Intel's HD Graphics processors.

The graphics-switching technology is good for Apple's notebooks in several ways, including improved battery life. The 15-inch and 17-inch models, for instance, both have 8 hours to 9 hours of battery life because the computer is able to use the best graphics for the task you're doing.

David Moody, Apple's vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing, told CNET that Apple is not relying on a list of graphics-intensive apps and they are not asking developers to do anything special. The new technology detects an application that needs more graphics power and switches automatically. When that app is closed, the system automatically switches back to using the less-intensive graphics chip, saving power and adding to battery life.

Users will have the ability to turn off the graphics-switching technology in the Energy Saver control panel. Turning off the switching feature manually will run the graphics from the discrete graphics chip all the time, essentially using the high-end graphics full-time.

Unlike other solutions for switching graphics chips, Moody said there is no need to log out and log back in if you decide to switch from automatically controlling the graphics to manual mode.

Moody said the 13-inch model was able to attain 10 hours of battery life because Nvidia's 320M graphics processor is more efficient than previous graphics cards. The 320M also boasts speeds 80 percent faster than its predecessor, making it more attractive to users who want a small form factor and the ability to run graphics-intensive applications.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with 4GB memory and Nvidia's GeForce 320M graphics processor. There are two configurations, one with a 2.4GHz processor and 250GB hard drive for $1,199, and the other with a 2.66GHz processor and a 320GB hard drive for $1,499.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is available in three models: a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 with the Nvidia GeForce GT 330M and 320GB hard drive for $1,799; a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 with the Nvidia GeForce GT 330M and 500GB hard drive for $1,999; and one with a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, and 500GB hard drive at $2,199.

The new 17-inch MacBook Pro features a 2.53 GHz Intel Core i5, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, and 500GB hard drive for $2,299.

The multitouch trackpad on the new MacBook Pros also support inertial scrolling, a feature that Apple says is better for scrolling through large photo libraries, lengthy documents, and long Web sites.

Compared to older models
Apple's previous-generation MacBook Pros also came in three models: 13-, 15-, and 17-inch.

The earlier 13-inch MacBook Pro came in two models. The low-end configuration had a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 2GB memory, a 160GB had drive, an SD card slot, and Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics. The high-end 13-inch model had 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB memory, a 250GB hard drive, and the same graphics and SD slot as the low-end model.

The earlier 15-inch MacBook Pro was available in three models. The low-end model was powered by an 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB memory, a 250GB hard drive, an SD slot, and the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics. The midrange notebook had a faster 2.66GHz processor with 4GB memory, 320GB hard drive, an SD slot, and Nvidia's GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 256MB memory. The high-end model was the same as the midrange 15-inch MacBook Pro, except it came with 2.8GHz processor and a 500GB hard drive.

The largest of Apple's notebook offerings was the 17-inch model. Before Tuesday's update, it had a 2.8GHz processor, 4GB memory, a 500GB hard drive, an ExpressCard/34 slot and Nvidia's GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 512MB.

Update 8:14 a.m. PDT: Added details on graphics-switching technology and battery life.

About the author

Jim Dalrymple has followed Apple and the Mac industry for the last 15 years, first as part of MacCentral and then in various positions at Macworld. Jim also writes about the professional audio market, examining the best ways to record music using a Macintosh. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. He currently runs The Loop.

 

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