Apple Updates MacBook Pros with Santa Rosa Chip Sets

Apple is taking advantage of the higher processor speeds available from Intel's Santa Rosa chip sets in the latest updates to its MacBook Pro 15-inch and 17-inch laptops.

Apple released on June 5 updates to its 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro laptop computers based on Intels Santa Rosa chip sets that feature speed bumps to 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz, 2GB of standard RAM, 802.11n wireless networking, and improved graphics capability.

Pricing remains the same as the previous generation, starting at $1,999 for the basic model with a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a 1,440-by-900-pixel LED-backlit screen, 2GB of RAM, a 120GB hard drive, an 8x double-layer SuperDrive and an Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT GPU (graphics processing unit) with 128MB SDRAM.

At the top of the line is the $2,799 17-inch model, which adds a 2.4GHz processor, a 160GB hard drive, the same GPU with 256MB of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) and a screen resolution to 1,680 by 1,050 pixels.

All models also feature bundled software, including Apples iLife 06 suite (with iTunes, iPhoto, iMovieHD, iDVD, iWeb and GarageBand), Front Row, Photo Booth, and trial versions of Microsoft Office 2004, FileMaker Pro, Aperture and iWork 06.

This update has been hotly anticipated by the Mac rumor mill, especially after Apple upgraded its MacBook line of consumer laptops last month and after PC manufacturers started to release notebooks based on Intels Santa Rosa chip set. However, some observers voiced disappointment on message boards that Apple did not also reveal a 12-inch model.

By moving to Santa Rosa, the new MacBook Pros gain improved FSB (front-side bus) speed of 800MHz and support for up to 4GB of RAM. The Santa Rosa chip set also offers new features such as the ability to adjust the FSB speed on the fly to save power and Dynamic Acceleration Technology, which turns off one of the CPUs dual cores and overclocks the other to run single-threaded applications more rapidly. Apple has not stated publicly if Mac OS X supports these features.

The 15-inch models inclusion of LED-backlit screens could serve to help raise Apples image environmentally; this technology eliminates the use of mercury. LED-backlit screens are also more energy-efficient and lighter than screens that use CCFLs (cold cathode fluorescent lamps).

Power users can opt for a 7,200-rpm hard drive, though Apple has not stated whether this will have a negative effect on battery life or heat production.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Apples transition to the Santa Rosa chip set.

The Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT can offer hardware acceleration of video in the H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 formats, though Apple has not stated whether this will be supported in the new MacBook Pros. Nvidia also promotes this GPU for hardware-accelerated playback of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs, though again, Apple has not commented on the capability.

For both professional and casual users, though, the GPU upgrade should be noticeable. Nvidia has claimed "up to 2x" performance gains over the companys previous generation of mobile GPUs. (Previous MacBook Pros used GPUs from ATI, which offered comparable performance to the last generation of Nvidia chips.) Those who use BootCamp to boot into Windows on their MacBook Pros for game playing should also see a large performance boost.

Apple resellers who spoke to eWEEK said they are enthusiastic about the model upgrade.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead here about Intels introduction of the fourth-generation Centrino Pro mobile computing platform.

"I would categorize this as a significant speed bump," said Fred Evans of Minneapolis-area FirstTech Computer.

"The faster processors are nice, but the graphics are the reason to upgrade," he said. "The inclusion of the new GeForce 8600M GT GPU is a large jump in performance. This is a high-performance, DX10-compatible card that should appeal to video producers and mobile gamers alike. And combine that with the new LED screens and you should see a significant change from the last generation.

"I think this is the first upgrade to the Intel-based laptops that will make previous Intel MacBook Pro purchasers want to upgrade, and not just G4-based PowerBook owners," Evans added.

"I think one of the surprising things is that Apple kept the price the same. The only other mainstream company to offer LED displays is Sony, and they start at $700 more with much lower-end specs," he said.

Similarly enthusiastic was Kevin Langdon, CEO of San Diego-based Crywolf Computers.

"The new MacBook Pros are just what we needed to boost sales heading into the summer," he said, adding, "With the introduction of new MacBooks a few weeks ago, we now have a complete line of new, updated portables to showcase.

"The new MacBook Pros will appeal to the creative pro and prosumer customers who need as much power as they can get in a portable computer. The new 17-inch MacBook Pro with the optional 1,920-by-1,200 screen resolution and 4GB of RAM is the perfect portable video editing workstation," he said.

"We expect to see a big upswing in our MacBook Pro sales right away."

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