Update: Apple's officially revealed the updated MacBooks in a very low-profile way—by a text-based press release, and a tweak to its website. As we expected, the leaked information that arrived over the previous day has proved accurate—the upgrade is merely a boost to the device internals, and pretty much everything else stays the same. Apple's presser highlights the entire lineup is "up to twice as fast as the previous generation" thanks to the Core i5 and Core i7 Intel silicon, and notes that the FaceTime cameras are now HD-capable, but won't specify the resolution (FaceTime is now also an official app on the App Store). It also plays up the Thunderbolt I/O tech as "groundbreaking," noting it expects it to be "widely adopted" as the standard for input and output to peripherals. The units are on sale immediately, prices starting at $1,199.
MacBook Pro 13-Inch
2.3 GHz Core i5 CPU, 4GB of 1333 MHz SDRAM, 320GB 5400RPM hard drive, 1280 by 800 pixel screen, Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated GPU, superdrive, Facetime HD camera, Thunderbolt combined high-speed IO port and Mini DisplayPort, SDXC card slot. Ethernet/Wi-Fi/sensors/size and weight unchanged over current MacBook Pro design.
MacBook Pro 15-Inch
2.2 GHz/2.7 GHz Core i7 CPU, 4GB of 1333MHz SDRAM, 500GB/750GB 5400RPM hard drive, 1440 by 900 pixel screen, AMD 6750 GPU with 1GB RAM on-board, superdrive, Facetime HD camera, Thunderbolt port, SDXC card slot. Connectivity options, size, weight unchanged from current design, but there is an option for a matte LCD. Update: We now know the 15-inch unit also has a 6490M AMD GPU as standard, with an option on the faster 6750 unit.
MacBook Pro 17-Inch
2.2 GHz quad-core Core i7 CPU, 4GB RAM, 750GB hard drive, 1920 by 1200 pixel screen, AMD 6750 GPU with 1GB RAM on-board, SDXC slot, Thunderbolt port. Other options remain unchanged from current generation.
Apple plays it safe
The questions you're probably asking now are: Where's all the hot, rumored redesign goodness? Where's the solid-state hard drive? Why is the DVD drive still there? What happened to skinnier cases and half a pound weight loss? Where are 16:9 widescreen aspect-ratio displays?
Good questions, all.
There are three interesting tweaks here, of course. Intel's Light Peak super-fast connection is enabled on the devices, connecting through a modified Mini DisplayPort socket (and seemingly limited to a copper wire-only solution at the moment, since Intel has postponed the optical Light Peak tech). We don't know much about this solution yet.
And Apple's chosen to adopt a new supplier—AMD—for its higher-end switchable graphics cards (which run in parallel to integrated Intel GPUs when heavy graphics or number-crunching tasks are encounteres) instead of Nvidia units as before, and the 6750 is a pretty serious performer. The webcam has been updated to a "FaceTime HD" spec, which we suspect means 720p video capability (or possibly full 1020p) instead of the previous VGA resolution.
But in all other respects, Apple has chosen to make this update to the MacBook Pros merely a small-step-increase one, shunning radical case over-hauls, adoption of SSD tech (as used in the MacBook Air refresh) and changes to display technology.
Which has us wondering: Is this actually a change to the lineup, with these leaked machines actually being the new MacBook lineup (replacing the plastic entry-level MacBook of 2010, now deprecated by the new MacBook Air) and Apple having a still-secret array of higher-spec redesigned Pro-level machines? Or is it just that Apple's played very safe with the upgrade, and will delay radical design overhauls until later in the year, or early in 2012?
Sadly it seems it may be the latter option is true—a disappointment for people expecting Apple to lead the trend in laptop design in 2011. This does open up the larger question of why Apple's being so cautious, but we can probably explain that in two ways—firstly the MacBook recipe is already pretty hot, and Apple's garnering more and more marketshare in the laptop game...so if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And while guru Steve Jobs is away from the helm, would Apple radically overhaul any of its products? Ultimately, we are left with more questions related to this new product than answers.
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