What’s So Hot About the New MacBook Pros? The Stuff You Can’t See

138 Comments

Between packing up to move apartments and keeping an eye on Twitter’s Chirp conference, I’ve been playing around with a new 15-inch Macbook Pro, one of the many new laptops introduced by Apple (s AAPL) earlier this week. The 15-inch devices, which use Intel’s (s intc) i5 and i7 processors while the 13-inch Macbook Pro uses the Intel Core 2 Duo chip, look virtually no different than they did before, with unibody styling and the same screen size, weight and number of ports. The only visible change is in the design of the mag-safe power connector, which is now clearly inspired by the MacBook Air charger. [digg= http://digg.com/apple/What_s_So_Hot_About_the_New_MacBook_Pros_The_Stuff_Yo]

The real change in these new laptops is under the hood — in the stuff you can’t see. It all starts with the integrated (Nvidia’s 320M) and discrete (Nvidia’s GeForce 330M GT) graphics chips, which can be found in both the 15- and 17-inch machines. What Apple has done in this most recent update to its line-up is make switching between two graphics modes automatic, depending on the task at hand. For instance, a simple application such as Mail or Safari by default uses the embedded/integrated graphics engine, while more graphics-intensive apps such as Premiere or Aperture automatically switch to the more muscular graphics chips.

So what’s the big deal about this? First, you get a smoother performance. But the big impact is on the battery life of these laptops. While the previous generation of MacBook Pros used Nvidia’s (s nvda) 9400M integrated graphics engine, the new line-up uses the new Nvidia 320M. The old chip had 16 cores while the new 320M has 48. And yet the 320M, despite being more muscular (it provides an 80 percent performance gain over the 9400M) is 40 percent more energy efficient. That boosts the battery life of the laptops by as much as three hours, which means Apple is offering total battery life of between 8 and 10 hours on the new MacBook Pros.

I’m pretty sure Apple made more tweaks than just that in order to get those 8-10 hours, but graphic chip optimization has to be right up there when it comes to squeezing more out of the battery. Maybe because it makes both the hardware and the operating system it’s able to get more from the batteries on its machines.

These tweaks reminded me of something uber-investor and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, who will be speaking at our Green:Net conference on April 29, said recently — that by innovating around the internal combustion engine, we can substantially improve car mileage. Others believe that by writing more efficient, smarter software, more life can be squeezed from the current generation of battery technology. Apple is certainly proving that.

Oh and in case you were wondering about the machine itself, it is really really really fast. Much faster than my old MacBook Pro, which has an SSD drive and 8 GB of memory. Apps start in a blink of an eye and even iTunes works as if it was suddenly Barry Bonds. If you want to know anything specific, go ahead and ask me, and I will do my best to answer your questions.

138 Comments

Andrea

did Apple already published the model’s name of the Core 2 Duo processor on the MBP 13″?? cause I don’t have found it anywhere…
Thanks a lot! :D

bye

JS

Om,
Im one of the mac loving masses having a problem with the sharp, tendon-cutting edges on unibody the macbook pro, so much so that I had to return a 15″ last year. Do they seem more rounded to you on your new one?

Ricktheprick

I bought a MacBook Pro when the new generation came out last October.
I returned it for only one reason: the sharp-edge design at the front, where the hand rests during touch pad use. This is a killer, seriously, I thought it was going to draw blood. I had a sore crease on the outer palm of my hand that was just not acceptable.
I thought the Apple folks were supposed to be the best in the world in design & ergonomics. Someone’s head should roll for this fiasco.
Shame on you Apple.

ravi

Thanks for your opinion.. all these days I wondered if I was the only one! I onviously cannot upgrade or return but by the time I am ready for my next machine, apple softens the edge a bit. It really sucks to rest my hands on a blade all day. I use an external key board for most of the day just for this reason.

dave

i’m awaiting a 15″ 2.53 with high res antiglare – my sons could not be happier because i’ve been sitting on this mbp for nearly 3 years and once my new one arrives, they’ll each have their own machine to waste time on (they’re sharing right now, and at their teen ages that is tough stuff – but suck it up, right? this has been the way for years and years, this will be the first time they’ve had their own machines to use in forever)

at any rate, when the new one arrives, i may have my boys beat on it for a full day on a full charge and see how it stacks up – this will include tons of open tabs, video and image rendering, online video, maybe burning some cd stuff, and my gut says that i’ll be looking at shy of 7 hours at best…

question: did you do the high res? how is it (if you did)?

Om Malik

My machine is the same resolution as the past models though you can get a higher resolution if you want to spend the money. I did get about 8 hours and 20 minutes today. Second day of use.

Chris Fourie

How fast is the SD card reader? How well does programs like Photoshop run on it? I’ve been using a early 2009 (first Unibody Mac) Macbook and it feels kinda slow now… I’m a crazy user – I useually have Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Safari, Sketchbook Pro, Word and a whole bunch of other stuff open at the same time… which is a lot, but that is the way I work. Will these handle my madness?

Kapil Israni

Hi Om – I just bought a 15-inch MBP Core 2/2.8 GHz, like 3 weeks back & now I am contemplating turning it in for the 15-inch core i7. Good idea? Am i gonna get significant performance jump?

BTW, this is my first mac and I am loving it.

thanks for the review.

Alex Soto

Did I read correctly that the mag safe adaptor is different now. Does that mean previous generation mag safe power bricks don’t work on the latest laptops?

David Phillips

Do they still run very hot? Did they make any changes under the hood to keep users from getting burned on them?

Jake

Did you have a chance to compare i5 and i7 yet what’s the difference?!

Chris

I’m a little confused…

Does the 13inch Macbook Pro with the NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics card use the same graphics switching technology as the 15inch and 17 inch Macbook Pros?

The 15 and 17 inch Pros have the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics card AND Intel HD graphics card. Thus able to use the graphics switching technology. The 13 inch only has the integrated GT 320. So it cant use the new graphics switching technology, its just the 40% battery savings from the new chip. Correct?

Om Malik

Chris

Sorry for the confusion. I have re-written the copy to make it clear that the 320m is being used in the 13-inch laptops while the hybrid technology is used in the larger versions of Macbook Pros. Error is regretted. I could and should have been more clear.

Luscious

Arrandale is new for the Macs, but hybrid graphics has been done before. Back in 2008 to be exact. Very wise of Apple to catch up with the offerings from the likes of Toshiba and Dell. :)

In fact, I’m willing to bet my 2008 notebook would give these “really really really” fast (you forgot to mention overpriced) Macs an embarrassing beat-down. Sorry Om, just being unbiased.

Om Malik

Well if you like PCs then I am not going to argue at all. I think price argument has been well debated and let’s just say we are both making choices that fit our tastes/wallets.

Luscious

Very wise indeed. I was beginning to worry that the GigaOm network showed favoritism to one side.

Yacko

“hybrid graphics has been done before. Back in 2008 to be exact. Very wise of Apple to catch up”

The hardware may be the same, but the software implementation is somewhat different and skewed to battery life. See:

http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/04/inside-apples-automatic-gpu-switching.ars

“you forgot to mention overpriced) Macs an embarrassing beat-down. Sorry Om, just being unbiased.”

But then Apple has decided to optimize for battery and not speed, so the kidney punch Apple applies to your laptops power system, will make you fume for weeks. Sorry Luscious, just being obnoxious (like you).

Luscious

LOL :) I deliberately didn’t mention battery life, but thanks for getting into the argument. If providing an unbiased opinion is obnoxious to you, then you might want to refrain from calling people out.

doug

Hey Om,

I currently use a MBP 17″ June 2007 model for my main machine, but for the last year I have been using a MSI Wind running OSX as my mobile machine for typical netbook and light productivity and I am now looking to replace the Wind.

I am considering the iPad with 3G for $829. When I saw the new MBP 13 I was thinking at $1199 it was pretty good deal until I saw it had the same Core2Duo as my 17″. I am looking for portable, so the iPad fits that bill, but the MBP 13 runs regular applications and is pretty sleek itself. However, the iPad has the 3G which is something I have been wanting. Better battery life is something I was also looking for and the MBPs seem to be close to the iPad now.

Since you have been using the iPad do you have any insight about the decision between using something like the iPad and the MBP 13?

Om Malik

I think it is not either or situation. Since you have a 17-inch machine and are happy with it, I am pretty sure a 3G iPad will make life more portable. Of course there are trade-offs. I have a 15 inch mbp and I am going to get an iPad to replace my MacBook Air.

Gary

OM – thanks for the article.

Question – I’ve got a late 08 unibody 13″ Macbook (before they went Pro) Core 2 Duo 2.4, 4GB, 250GB HD. I run a lot of apps on it, and I when I joined a company that doesn’t care if I VM a version of W7, Outlook/Office to access Exchange, etc. However, I installed Parallels 5, have all the proper settings (so I think), and it just does not perform well. At times, it gets to a point where it is unuseable, and I have to reboot the VM or the Macbook. Then I thought maybe I need to go with Fusion. THEN, Apple announced these new bad boys. I’m with a few other people here – I would prefer a 13″, but I think I could go 15″ (especially since I can go lighter once my 3G iPad gets here, and the MB can stay in my office mainly unless I have to travel). So – do you think the 15″ i5 would solve my VM problem? Is it a horsepower issue? Thinking maybe eBay my 13″??

Om Malik

Gary

I think the issue is more of using virtual machines. I am not so sure if this or any more powerful machine is going to solve the problem of using all that Windows stuff. If you do want to keep the set-up, I suggest two things: get the $1799 15-inch version and then load up on extra RAM> I am pretty sure that should make life a lot easier. And when MS introduces the new Office/Outlook, well time for you to switch.

I stopped using Fusion/Parallels once I got over “Outlook” though I still would like that app for a Mac. I am old fashioned enough to like Exchange :-)

Gary

Agreed. Outlook for Mac should solve all of my work related hardware issues….can’t wait.

Heath Howard

Two questions Om. 1) Is this machine running cooler than the last generation? Core 2 Duo tends to get pretty hot.

2) Does your review unit come with the optional higher res screen? If so, so does it look?

Om Malik

Heath

The machine is running mildly cooler than the previous generation of Mbps. Also the screen can be customized foe higher resolution — costs extra $100.

Tom

What about the price did they raise the price with these new models? And what happened to the 10% student discount?

I have an old 17inch powerbook g4 and am looking to upgrade but spending 1700 on the 15inch hurts. Especially when I’m upgrading not because I can afford to but because my current mac is dying =/

instig8r

Why don’t you get a recent refurb? They’re plentiful in the online Apple Store right now…

You can also walk into an Apple Retail store and get a brand new previous model for a discount.

Ben Waldman

I believe you are incorrect about the details of integrated graphics – on all three of the new machines, the integrated graphics are the “Intel HD Graphics,” a graphics processor integrated with the CPU. The discrete graphics, on all three machines, are provided by an NVIDIA chip (GeForce 320M on the 13″, and GeForce GT 330M on the 15″ and 17″). You article stated that the GeForce 320M provided the integrated graphics and the 330M provided the discrete graphics.

Om Malik

Ben

You are right and I made it clear and hopefully this will reduce confusion. Thanks for helping out and catching that mistake.

bearchow

the NVIDIA GeForce 320M on the 13″ is integrated graphics, not discrete graphics, said on Apple’s site … there is no Intel graphics chips on the 13″ MBPs!

Harry

Hi Om, I have a 17″ 3.06 Ghz MBP with 8 Gb RAM and 500 Gb disc. Would you say the new quadcore will provide a significant performance increase? Thanks.

Harry

Thanks.. Just to clarify I was considering upgrading to the full spec 17 model with the new solid state 512 Gb hard disk. Would the combination of the new processors/architecture and solid state disc render a significant processing improvement?

Roger

Hi,
I liked your post, but I am still wondering if I should “downgrade” from a 15 inches late 2008 macbook pro 2.4Ghz, 4gb ram to a 13 inches new macbook pro… I think this wouldn’t cost me anything and would gain in mobility as well as in autonomy, performance (only graphics I think) and HDMI audio-video output… (and ability to put up to 8gb of ram, so double).
My main activity is programming, emails, web, watch movies (external screen), some video editing with the elgato turbo 264 usb dongle, …
My main question is “will I regret my 15 inches screen…. ?” I think I have to head up to an Apple Store and try it by myself, hands on ;)
If you have any suggestion, I will really appreciate.
Best regards

Om Malik

Yes that is a good idea especially if you are bored with your old machine and have desperate need for portability. I think going with 1199 and maxing out RAM is the best way to go.

Eric
  • How is the heat coming out of this thing? I have an ’08 MacBook Pro, and heat it generates is ridiculous.

  • Is the screen brighter/more usable outside?

Thanks!

Om Malik

Less hot than 2008 version and not sure about the usage outdoors. I have been moving so not much in terms of outdoorsy stuff today :-) sorry

Greg Hochsprung

I really wanted them to add the new Intel chips to the 13″, but may go with the 15″. Do you think it is worth the purchase now or do you think they’ll have an update in the Fall for the 13″? Also, would you recommend the i5 or i7 if I did go with the 15″ model?

Om Malik

No new updates for anytime soon. If you really want at 13 but want i5, go for the $1799. it is faster than any mac i have ever owned. I am not sure what else can i do with it. I processed some video on it – five minute clip, imported into iMovie and it was done is 25 minutes — fully produced. That is the most I can say.

THat said, I find the 13 inch are infinitely more mobile.

Jon

I really want the new i5 and the nVidia 330M (15″), but do you think I could get away with the Core2 Duo and the 320M (13″ screen) with heavy internet, video editing, light photo editing, and some light gaming?

I want to save money and not pay for something I don’t need, but I don’t want to get marginal performance increases from my current laptop (a black macbook 2.4gHz Core2 Duo, 4GB RAM, intel integrated graphics)

Om Malik

I think so — I think the $1199 is a pretty solid machine and I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Unless you are a professional video editor, it should be okay. I am not so sure what do you mean by gaming. I am not much of a gamer so can’t speak intelligently about it.

primate

Om,

Thanks for the update. Any news on the macbook air? I had seen rumor sites suggesting that the air might be up for a refresh as well.

regards,
_primate

Asa

I’m curious about the actual battery life on the 13 inch. They added a nicer video card that is custom made kinda like the iPad’s A4 chip. So my question how long does the battery really last on this thing?

Om Malik

the Macbook Pro 15 inch is still going strong and it is close to 7 hours now. So can’t see I am disappointed in this one’s battery life.

Om Malik

Asa it is said to be about 10 hours. Not sure how long it really is. I have a 15 inch review unit.

Scottix

Wow that is profound. Kind of makes you wonder where all the money is going into. I mean is Apple still a Computer company. Reminds me of another company that got sidetracked and their OS went to crap, starts with an M.

lalala2590

Hi
I was waiting for the new update!! is the new 13 in MBP better than the previous one?? is it fast, and I use microsoft excel and word a lot is it different and harder than the PC.

At the moment a PC owner but planning to switch to Mac (13 in)

Om Malik

Yes it is a massive improvement. I think it is pretty impressive — 10 hour battery life. I am sure you will get used to the Ms WORD in a day or so but Excel is a big learning curve.

Our CEO had to do it and he complained for a week or so but then got used to it and is now a total mac convert.

Gavin Miller

Worth pointing out that the new version of Office for Mac will be more like its Windows counterpart and will use the ribbon interface. Oh, and it will have Outlook too.

Shawn

If I just want to use a laptop for e-mail and Internet usage, do I really need to pay another $600 for the 15″ over the 13″? I was all set to get the 13″ hoping it would have the i5. However, i’m not sure its worth the extra money in my case.

Om Malik

PRobably not. Actually you might go ahead and buy an iPad or a net book for just those two functions. These laptops are clearly for people with higher end demands from their machines.

thenikjones

Can you use an iPad without a laptop or desktop? When you first turn it on, don’t you need to connect to iTunes?

Jasen

@thenikjones

They can do the initial connect to itunes for you at any Apple store.

thenikjones

That’s interesting, I didn’t know that. You’ll still need iTunes at home to put your music on it, though, won’t you?

Curtis

@Om,

Why hasn’t Apple embedded mobile broadband capabilities into the new MacBooks? Seems like a no brainer, particularly in light of their pending iPad 3G launch. Add in entire embedded laptop lines from HP, Dell, and Lenovo, Apple’s omission becomes simply baffling.

Best.

Om Malik

Good point, though it seems they think people want to use MiFi and USB modems. But I am with you — definitely feel that embedded 3G is the way to go.

tom

what would be really really really great is the iPad prepaid $30/month unlimited data plan offered on macbooks and macbook pros.

but also great(perhaps even greater) would be a way tether to an ipad via WiFi. if the coming 3G iPad were to include a tethering mode to share the 3G i would go out and buy one extremely fast since it would be a great deral even if never used as more than a glorified MiFi.

Nosveemos

Tether: I use my Sierra HSPA/ATT 3G with MacBook, set to Internet share & fly with my iPad since day ONE. Does that tether-up? Don’t tell!

tom

i was talking about tethering in the other direction.i want the iPad with built in 3G to be the tethering host that lets my laptop go online.

this is all about the money aspect. i want to use a $30/month no commitment prepaid plan for all my mobile data needs not a $60/month plus taxes and fees with a two year contract.

in the end i do not really care what machine is the 3G to WiFi host; but i want it to be the one with the most attractive plan and also one that makes sense to be switch on all the time. i see myself carry around an iPad switched on all the time. but my laptop is on and off as needed.

as far as a phone. if i get an iPad I will most likely switch to a very small and simple phone for text and voice only and use the iPad for everything else i use a smartphone for.

Jasen

Tom I thought about going the same route as you with getting a dumb phone and a 3g iPad. I think the better option though is to get a smartphone such as Verizons Pre Plus that provides a wifi tether spot FREE, or use a jailbroken iPhone, or wait for one of the other companies(probably Sprint) to match Verizons deal. That way you never lose your ability to remain connected if the iPad is too large to carry at any given circumstance.

Tyler

AT&T can hardly handle the iPhone, can you imagine the strain on the network if they allowed Macbook and MBP on the network? As an AT&T customer, I hope they DON’T do that.

Oms Ucks

“Oh and in case you were wondering about the machine itself, it is really really really fast” compared to Macs updated a year ago, but still 100% slower than any PC

Nicholas Francis

I have always had this, just never got the right person, glad-fully I found you. I am pretty sure Even a PC will run great under the configuration of MAC book pro. Can A Mac run smoothly under a Pc’s configuration, I i guess no, so PC’s are better than Mac rite?

gmazin

How much is OSX worth to you? You can get a better specced win7 laptop this second for $1000 (as in, there’s one on slickdeals right now for $800, and $200 (being pessimistic) for a RAM upgrade)

site7000

@N.F. Wait, you say Macs can run OS X and Windows and PCs can (with a few exceptions ) only run Windows and so PCs are better? I don’t get the logic.

captainwisdom

I can’t take it anymore. Think about what you just read in the article. Speed is about much more than hardware a specs. How well is the hardware used by the firmware and OS? How well are the components matched? Where are the bottle necks? Memory? Memory bus? Context switching? Instruction pipelines? Graphics I/O? How good is the library code? Math functions? I can write efficient code that makes a 10 year old PC look much faster than the one you bought this year. You experience this every time you compare Flash on a Mac (lousy code) to Flash on a PC. Thankfully, Flash is one of the exceptions. Much of the OSX code base is much cleaner than that for PC’s. The result is that the overall experience on a Mac is very snappy. Not so for the PC’s I have to use now and then. I’m typing this on an iPad – a real slug of a CPU based on GHz by today’s standard. But it does amazingly beautiful things on the screen – while the PC is crawling because Kaspersky and 2 dozen other pieces of useless ( from the user’s perspective) code suck all the cycles out of the CPU and keep the disk rattling while I wait for IE to render it’s first page. Oh, and the PC software probably doesn’t know how to make my particular graphics chip sing, because it’s been programmed to handle just about every off-key voice in the entire PC universe. Closed ecosystems do have their benefits — they can be extremely efficient and resource conservative. I’ll go with Apple tlll another brilliant team comes along and does it even better. you can stick with your commodity PC from Best Try or Hell Computers Corp, Leanover, or whatever.

ronald

How do I get more of my life back? :-). Making the machines faster doesn’t seem to translate into making them smarter. Why doesn’t Vinod invest into that? Ask him when you see him. I’m looking forward for the rest of the week to be without one of those click happy systems.

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