Apple updates MacBook Pro line for 2011

The line of MacBook Pros gets a full tech makeover, ending weeks of speculation. And these are the first products to feature Intel's new Thunderbolt tech, formerly known as Light Peak.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
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Dan Ackerman
2 min read
Watch this: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (2.2GHz Intel Core i7)

Update: You can find the full review of the 15-inch MacBook Pro here.

Breakout stories on key topics are below:

After weeks of a growing chorus of rumors, leaks, and anecdotal evidence, Apple today announced a series of updates to its popular MacBook Pro line of laptops.

The biggest changes are all under the hood, as first reported on CNET. The entire updated line now offers Intel's latest Sandy Bridge CPUs, which debuted last month.

Just as significantly, the new MacBook Pros are also the first products to feature Intel's new Thunderbolt technology (formerly known as Light Peak). The Thunderbolt tech is envisioned as a sort of unified successor to USB, FireWire, and DisplayPort, allowing peripherals to hypothetically carry data and video at 10Gbps. The Thunderbolt port on the MacBook Pros looks identical to (and is backwards-compatible with) existing DisplayPort connections, and--with the proper adapter cable--should also be able to interface with HDMI connections as well. (Also, note that Intel will be hosting a press event at 10 a.m. PT today at which it is widely expected to highlight its Thunderbolt/Light Peak technology in more detail. Join CNET for live coverage at that time.)

The third big change is in the laptops' internal graphics processor. Instead of the Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics previously found in these systems, the default graphics come from Intel's HD 3000 GPU, which is the improved, integrated graphics that come bundled with the current Sandy Bridge generation of Intel's Core i-series processors. For the larger 15- and 17-inch models that include discrete graphics, the GPUs now come from AMD instead of longtime rival Nvidia.

The new MacBook Pros also get a new higher-resolution FaceTime HD camera. As the name implies, Apple is also bringing the iPhone's FaceTime video-calling software to the Mac.

Like the previous MacBook Pro line, these new models all start with a minimum of 4GB of RAM, and the lowest-end 13-inch MacBook Pro gets a hard-drive bump from 250GB to 320GB.

The base models for the MacBook Pro line are now as follows:

13-inch MacBook Pro
2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
Intel HD Graphics 3000

13-inch MacBook Pro
2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7
Intel HD Graphics 3000

15-inch MacBook Pro
2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
AMD Radeon HD 6490M graphics

15-inch MacBook Pro
2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics

17-inch MacBook Pro
2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics

Customized configurations offering faster CPUs, larger hard drives (up to 750GB), solid-state storage (up to 512GB), more memory (up to 8GB DDR), and better screens (antiglare/higher-resolution) are available at apple.com/macbookpro.

Stay tuned for hands-on impressions of the new MacBook Pro hardware, as well as benchmark testing and full reviews.

The MacBook Pro lineup from just before the refresh.

The newly revamped MacBook Pro lineup.