Apple Updates MacBook Pros

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Nearly a year after the last MacBook Pro update, and months after Intel launched its latest mobile CPU, Apple has added Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs to the MacBook Pro…or at least most of them. The 13″ MacBook Pro will continue to use the Core 2 brand of CPU technology first introduced in 2006. Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller carefully avoided that point in an ebullient press release.

“The new MacBook Pro is as advanced on the inside as it is stunning on the outside. With faster processors, amazing graphics and up to three more hours of battery life, the new MacBook Pro delivers both performance and efficiency.”

Those amazing graphics would be the NVIDIA GeForce 320M for the 13″ MacBook Pro and the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M for the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros. Regarding battery life, Apple now claims a jaw-dropping 10 hours of battery life for the 13″ MacBook Pro, and between eight and nine hours for the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros.

Besides CPU speed increases, larger hard drives were added across the lineup, and the base configuration for RAM was increased from 2GB to 4GB. Pricing remained largely static, except for the 15″ MacBook Pro, which saw an increase from $1,699 to $1,799. While there aren’t really any big surprises, like USB3, there are a few small ones in the specs.

The 13″ MacBook Pro has two models: a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 250GB hard drive at $1,199; a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 320GB hard drive priced at $1,499.

The 15″ MacBook Pro has three models: a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M and 320GB hard drive at $1,799; a 2.53 GHz Intel Core i5, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M and 500GB hard drive at $1,999; and one with a 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M and 500GB hard drive at $2,199.

The new 17-inch MacBook Pro features a 2.53 GHz Intel Core i5, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M and 500GB hard drive for $2,299.

Beyond the specs, the focus is on the 13″ MacBook Pro, which got an insignificant speed bump instead of the Intel Core i5. However, it could be argued that by staying with the Core 2 Duo for the 13″ MacBook Pro, Apple kept the price down and the battery life up…way up. In contrast, the 15″ MacBook Pro, which in certain circumstances could be as much as 50 percent faster than the previous model, costs $100 more and lags behind the 13″ MacBook Pro in battery life.

While it’s no surprise that the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros got advanced NVIDIA GPUs, there was reason to be concerned about the 13″ MacBook Pro. Because of the legal battle between NVIDIA and Intel over chipsets, it was a distinct possibility that the 13″ MacBook Pro would be stuck with whatever poor-performing Intel HD graphics. Instead, the 13″ MacBook Pro got the NVIDIA GeForce 320M, integrated graphics, but without the Intel suck.

Interestingly, the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro did get stuck with Intel HD graphics, but only when it doesn’t matter. When a real GPU is needed, the high-end MacBook Pros have the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M, and the ability to “seamlessly” switch between integrated and discrete GPUs. Optionally the high-end MacBook Pros can be upgraded to the Core i7 for another $200, as well as higher resolution and anti-glare displays,

If there’s anything missing from these updates, besides the Core i5 in the 13″ MacBook Pro, it’s USB 3. While it might not matter now, in a year or two when many people are still using their Core i5 MacBook Pros it definitely will. A USB 3 update, along with Core i5 for the 13″ MacBook Pro will likely be seen in the fall, so perspective buyers might want to consider how long they intend on owning their next MacBook Pro before buying today.

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