• Apple Releases New MacBook Pros with "3 Very Big Leaps Forward"

    Apple released a refreshed MacBook Pro model range today, featuring updated "Sandy Bridge" Intel Core processors, AMD Radeon graphics, and Thunderbolt I/O, as well as optional solid state drives. The new model was fairly extensively leaked prior to its release, and specifications are mostly in line with predictions.

    The new high-end notebooks can be ordered with next-generation quad-core and dual-core Core i5 and Core i7 processors from Intel, with clockspeeds from 2 to 2.7 GHz supporting Turbo Boost up to 3.4 GHz. The 13-inch MacBook Pro now features a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 processor or the fastest dual-core processor available - the 2.7GHz Intel Core i7 - using onboard integrated Intel HD graphics on its Core i5 chip. The 15-inch and 17-inch models also received speed bumps and automatically switch over to new AMD discrete graphics coprocessors for graphics-intensive operations.

    As was widely expected, all models in the range have Apple's new Thunderbolt technology, which is based on Intel's "Copper Peak" implementation of Light Peak without optical fiber. The high-speed I/O interface supports PCI Express transfer rates of up to 10 Gb/s on two data channels and HD graphics to compatible monitors. Thunderbolt is also backwards-compatible with Mini DisplayPort.

    Following the introduction of SSDs into the Mac lineup with last year's refreshed MacBook Air, 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB solid-state drives are available as a build-to-order option. The notebooks come standard with 500GB or 750GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard drive or with optional 750GB 5400-rpm or 500GB 7200-rpm hard drives. The new model also comes with a high definition iSight camera offering 720p HD resolution for use with FaceTime (now available on the Mac App Store), a larger glass trackpad, and support for the SDXC secure digital flash card standard.

    The 13-inch MacBook Pro has two default configurations: a 2.3 GHz Core i5 model with mechanical 320GB hard drive for $1,199 and a 2.7 GHz Core i5 with 500GB for $1,499. The 15-inch is available with a quad-core 2.0 GHz Core i7, plus AMD Radeon HD 6490M and a 500GB hard drive for $1,799 and a quad 2.2 GHz i7, AMD Radeon HD 6750M and 750GB for $2,199. The default config on the 17-inch model is a quad-core 2.2 GHz i7, with AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics and a 750GB hard drive for $2,499. Build-to-order options include faster quad-core processors up to 2.3 GHz, additional hard drive capacity up to 750GB, solid state storage up to 512GB, and more memory up to 8GB DDR3. The Apple Store is down as of this writing, and it's not clear but early reports have indicated Apple is waiting for Intel to make its own Light Peak announcement at 10am PST.
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