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Apple updates Macs with new processors for faster performance, longer life

Some MacBook models make the leap to Intel's new CPUs.

Sarah Tew/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Select Mac computers will now feature the latest generation of Intel processors, according to announcements made by Apple at the company's March 9 press event in San Francisco.

In addition to the all-new 12-inch Macbook coming April 10th, Apple also upgraded the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air with new processors and Thunderbolt 2 ports, and Intel HD6000 graphics. Often referred to by the codename Broadwell, these are the fifth generation of Core i-series chips from Intel. The 13-inch Air also gets the new ForceTouch trackpad as the 12-inch MacBook, plus faster internal flash memory.

The MacBook Pro line is also getting updated. The 13-inch MacBook Pro, which already has a Retina display, also gets the same new ForceTouch trackpad, plus the faster Intel Broadwell processors, and faster flash memory.

Apple says the Pro will also snag an extra hour of battery life, probably thanks to the new Intel CPUs, which includes Intel Iris 6100 graphics.Intel's current Broadwell chips fall into two silos, the mainstream Core i3/i5/i7 processors that are common across most laptops and desktops, and the Core M line, which is for power-efficient mobile products. These updated models are shipping immediately.

In our early tests of mainstream Core i5 CPUs from the Broadwell family, application performance has been generally the same or slightly improved over last-gen CPUs. Battery life shows a wider range across two versions of the Dell XPS 13 , a L enovo Yoga 3 , and HP's Spectre x360 . We saw battery life of about 12 hours in the HP and one of the Dells, while hitting only 7-8 hours on the other systems. Factors such as higher-than-1080 screen resolutions and touch screens may be a factor in this.

The other Broadwell family chip, the Intel Core M, is intended for premium-priced slim, low-power laptops, tablets and hybrids, including fanless models. So far, both battery life and performance has been underwhelming on the very small sample of systems we've tested with this processor.

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