Apple introduced revamps to its entire laptop line on Feb. 26, boosting both the MacBook and MacBook Pro families with Intel’s new Core 2 Duo Penryn processor family.
The new MacBook Pros “are the fastest Mac notebooks” Apple has ever produced, said Todd Benjamin, Apple’s director of portables product marketing.
Benjamin said that the new models are “up to 74 percent faster than the original MacBook Pro” when tested with various Adobe and Apple pro-level applications (Apple’s test results are documented on their site [http://www.apple.com/macbookpro/performance.html]). This is in comparison to a Core Duo 2.16GHz 17-inch MacBook Pro, which was introduced in the spring of 2006.
The performance boost “shows enhancements more than in clock speed” in the new MacBook Pros, Benjamin said. The new models, thanks to the move to Penryn, feature up to 6MB of L2 cache, compared to the Core Duo’s 2MB; an 800MHz frontside bus; Intel’s SSE4 vector engine; and a 45-nanometer die process.
Benjamin also said the new models should produce up to twice the graphics performance of the original MacBook Pro, thanks in part to the Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT video card with 256MB of GDDR3 SDRAM in the base model, and 512MB in the other models.
Just Like Air
Also new to the 17-inch MacBook Pro is an LED backlight, similar to that in the MacBook Air. In addition to being lighter and less energy-intensive than previous display technologies (Benjamin claims the $100 configure-to-order high-resolution LED display in the 17-inch model saves 0.2 pounds and adds a half-hour of battery life), LED displays can be made without mercury, a toxic chemical used in previous displays.
The MacBook Pros also gain multi-touch trackpad features, first shown in laptops with the MacBook Air. This allows users to pinch, swipe or rotate images using two fingers. This gesture support is in most Apple applications. Anuj Nayar, Apple’s senior manager of Mac hardware and pro applications, said that Aperture 2 also took advantage of gestures.
As for third-party access to this, Nayar said that right now Apple is focusing on its own applications, and nothing has been talked about with respect to developers yet.
Prices range from $1,999 for the base 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB of shared cache, 2GB of RAM, a 200GB 5400-rpm hard drive, a SuperDrive and the 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT video card. The midrange 15-inch model boosts the CPU to 2.5GHz with 6MB of shared cache, the hard drive to 250GB and the video card to 512MB for $2,499.
The 17-inch model comes in at $2,799, sporting a 1680 by 1050 pixel display. A $100 option boosts the display to 1920 by 1200 pixels with an LED backlight.
All models will be available with either a glossy or matte screen.
The MacBook family, which Benjamin called “our most popular Mac”, also moves to the Penryn processor with 3MB of shared L2 cache across the line.
Benjamin said the new MacBooks were tested with Apple’s iLife software suite (included with the laptops). Compared to the original MacBook, released in the spring of 2006, the new models perform “up to 58 percent faster,” said Benjamin. This is despite no change in the GPU, which uses shared system, rather than dedicated, memory.
The base $1,099 MacBook configuration comes with a 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM and a 120GB 5400 rpm hard drive. The next model boosts the CPU to 2.4GHZ, the RAM to 2GB and the hard drive to 160GB, for $1,299. The top MacBook, in black, ups the hard drive to 250GB and costs $1,499. All feature glossy displays
“We’re finding users have huge media libraries” of music, photos and video, said Benjamin.
All models are available today at Apple’s online store.
These updates have been long anticipated, but ironically, they could make the newly revealed MacBook Air even a tougher sell, as these updates increase the performance delta between Air and the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines. Still, none of the new models gain the slim-line design changes of the MacBook Air, which has been its top selling point.