This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2007-06-11 at 5:48 p.m.
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Apple Improves MacBook Pro

by Jeff Carlson

Apple revamped its MacBook Pro [1] line of portables last week with faster processors, better graphics capabilities, 802.11n wireless networking (removing the need to run an enabler), and screens that are backlit using LED technology. I need to remind myself that the MacBook Pro I bought last November is still a perfectly fine machine for my needs, and not allow techno-lust to overpower me (see "More Bang, Less Bucks for My MacBook Pro [2]," 2006-11-20). That won't be easy, however.

The new 15-inch and 17-inch models are powered by Intel Core 2 Duo processors running at 2.2 GHz or 2.4 GHz. The new chips belong to the recently announced Intel "Santa Rosa" family, which offer improvements in power consumption and bus speed (800 MHz versus 667 MHz for the Core 2 Duo processors used in the previous MacBook Pro revision). The chips also enable the use of up to 4 GB of RAM, up from a maximum of 3 GB. The base configurations include 2 GB of memory. For graphics, the MacBook Pros use the Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT processor with either 128 MB or 256 MB of memory.

That memory comes in handy not only for graphics-intensive applications such as Final Cut Studio but also for powering the 17-inch model's optional (for $100 more) display with a resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels, large enough to view and edit 1080i high-definition video at native resolution. The default configuration remains the same as before, with a native resolution of 1680 by 1050 pixels.

The MacBook Pro is also the first Mac to use energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) backlighting for its display, though only on the 15-inch model for now. Steve Jobs alluded to LED-backlit displays in his "A Greener Apple [3]" open letter posted at the Apple Web site in May (see "Steve Jobs Talks Green [4]," 2007-05-07) because replacing fluorescent backlighting with LEDs reduces the amount of toxic mercury used in computers. According to comments by Apple [5], the LED backlighting can also add 30 to 60 minutes of time to a battery charge.

Storage has been increased, offering 120 GB or 160 GB hard drives running at 5400 rpm for the 15-inch model, with an optional 160 GB drive at 7200 rpm or a 200 GB drive at 4200 rpm. The 17-inch model comes with a 160 GB drive, but can be outfitted instead with the 7200-rpm 160 GB drive or a 250 GB 4200-rpm drive. Note that drives spinning at faster rates will not necessarily perform more quickly in real-world usage.

In most other respects, the configurations [6] are similar to the previous generation, including one FireWire 400 port, one FireWire 800 port, two USB 2.0 ports (three ports on the 17-inch model), 8x slot-loading SuperDrive, built-in iSight camera, backlit keyboard, ExpressCard/34 slot, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR short-range wireless networking, and gigabit Ethernet.

The new MacBook Pro models are available now for the same prices as the previous generation. The 15-inch model with the 2.2 GHz processor, 120 GB hard drive, and Nvidia card with 128 MB of memory costs $2,000. The 15-inch model with the 2.4 GHz processor, 160 GB hard drive, and Nvidia card with 256 MB of memory runs $2,500. And the 17-inch model with the 2.4 GHz processor, 160 GB hard drive and an Nvidia card with 256 MB of memory costs $2,800.