Apple Updates MacBook Pro, Intros Thunderbolt Interface [UPDATED]

| Product News

Apple introduced new MacBook Pro models Thursday morning sporting what the company is calling the Thunderbolt high-speed I/O along with more powerful graphics and faster processors.

True to rumors, the Thunderbolt connector is the same as the Mini Display Port found on previous models which means the video adapters users already own can still be used with the new laptops. Thunderbolt offers two bi-directional channels that support 10Gbps data transfer speeds, and Apple says it supports current FireWire, USB and Gigabit Ethernet devices with adapters.

Apple’s new MacBook Pro lineup

Apple’s updated 15.4-inch and 17-inch models include quad-core Intel Core i7 processors, and the 13.3-inch model is available with dual core i5 or i7 processors. The 15- and 17-inch models now ship with AMD Radeon video processors, and the lineup includes a higher resolution camera dubbed the FaceTime HD camera.

The 13-inch and 15-inch models include a FireWire 800 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a single Thunderbolt port, and an SDXC camera card slot. The 17-inch model ships with a FireWire 800 port, three USB 2.0 ports, a single Thunderbolt port, an ExpressCard/34 slot. All three models include a MagSafe power connector, Kensington lock slot, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, audio in and out ports, built-in microphone, and stereo speakers.

Apple’s new Thunderbolt port

The 13-inch model is available with a dual-core 2.3GHz Core i5 or 2.7GHz Core i7 processor, 4GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics with 384MB RAM, a 320GB 5400 RPM hard drive, 8x SuperDrive, glossy display, and up to seven hours battery life. It weighs in at 4.5 pounds, and is 0.95-inches thick.

The 15-inch model is available with a quad-core 2.0GHz or 2.3GHz Core i7 processor, 4GB RAM, AMD Radeon HD 6490M graphics card with 256MB RAM or an AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 382MB RAM and automatic graphics switching, a 500GB hard drive, 8x SuperDrive, glossy or matte display options, and up to seven hours battery life. It weighs in at 5.6 pounds and is 0.95-inches thick.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro ships with a quad-core 2.2GHz or 2.3GHz Core i7 processor, 4GB RAM, AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics card with 1GB RAM and Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 684MB RAM and automatic graphics switching, a 750GB hard drive, 8x SuperDrive, glossy or matte display options, and up to seven hours battery life. It weighs 6.6 pounds and is 0.98-inches thick.

Pricing starts at US$1,199 for the 13-inch model, $1,700 for the 15-inch model, and $2,499 for the 17-inch model.

[Updated with additional product specifications.]

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Comments

Allison Sheridan

I’m confused, Jeff.  How could we use a mini-display port adapter to transfer data via Thunderbolt? Mini-display port adapters have other display connectors on the other end like VGA, DVI and HDMI.  So…?

ctopher

Allison, Jeff is just reporting. That’s what apple says. But why not? Data is data whether it’s video for your screen or word documents for your raid.

Lets check the Intel web site and see how it works!

Very cool. But is it the USB of tomorrow? Or is it the FireWire?

Time and license fees will tell…

vpndev

From reading the Apple and Intel info, the port combines both Display Port protocol and PCI Express, and both electrical and optical.

Existing mini-display-port adapters will continue to work for connecting to displays, new adapters will use the same port and connect storage and other devices.

This is a Big Deal, as it will allow support for all kinds of stuff.

Allison Sheridan

I guess that can work, but I have to unplug my monitor to run a backup?  ick.

Jeff Gamet

Alison - Apple is using the same port connector for both Mini Display Port and Thunderbolt. It’s smart enough to know what you connected, so it can transfer the video signal as well as other types of data.

ctopher

Allison, keep reading, you can daisy chain up to 12 devices. So no, you plug your monitor into your backup device.

OK, that sounds clunky too. Backup wireless-ly, you’re on a laptop, you’re free!

The Specs say there are 2 10Gbps channels. If I want to output HDMI 1.3 I need
10.2Gpbs does it ties the 2 channels together to accomplish this?

What about DisplayPort 1.2 which needs as much as 17.28Gbps?

Would I really needs that? Probably not, but what are the limitations?

jameskatt

You will need a new Apple Monitor that has TWO Thunderbolt ports so you won’t have to unplug your monitor in order to do a backup.

You will also need new hard drives that have two Thunderbolt ports so you can daisy chain them.

Thunderbolt is EXCITING!  You can now have the fastest possible connections to the laptop.

cb50dc

the port combines both Display Port protocol and PCI Express, and both electrical and optical.

It’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping! :D

anovelli

I was so stoked about the possible SSD boot drive. Gonna wait.

vpndev

An interesting mixed bag. In some ways this is like a mid-cycle speed
bump—the same form factor, same screens, same/similar options.

CPUs are bumped as expected (dual i5 in 13”, quad i7 in others) and I
guess this is why battery life is reduced. That of course undercuts
their no-replaceable-battery scheme.

The big change is LightPeak/Thunderbolt. This is the connect-to-
everything scheme and puts paid to all the complaints about lack of
eSATA and USB 3.0. THis has the opportunity to make massive change in
the way systems are built and I expect that all the manufacturers are
looking at this very closely. Optical connection means that lots of the
existing cable-length limits go away, so you can have monitor/keyboard/
mouse on your desktop and the CPU some distance away. An iPad could be
the screen for a new-style MacBook Air. A Mac Pro can have a separate
storage system—no need for the huge, heavy box we have now. Maybe
this is really why Xserve has been discontinued - no need any more for
servers to be constructed the way they are.

If Apple plays this well it could really be a grenade-under-the-table
scenario. It seems that they have been doing joint development on this
with Intel so they may have some exclusivity. They don’t want to push
that too hard, as they need for this to become the universal standard
(think: USB vs. Firewire). I can see a very modular system architecture
coming out of this.

Allison Sheridan

I was hoping for SSDs as well.  I just put a 60GB SSD in the optical drive bay in my 2.5 year old MacBook Pro and it’s awesome now.  If the new ones had an SSD boot drive plus a large spindle drive I think I would have jumped.  Or if they were thinner.  Or lighter.  Or a different color.

Now here’s a question - I wonder if the SSD I just bought would work in a new MBP?  Have to wait to find out from OWC I suppose.

Doug Grinbergs

I’m not certain, but wondering if this is the first 750 GB drive Apple’s offered (optionally) in a 15” MBP.

It’s good to see Apple offer a 750; I installed a third-party (Western Digital) 750 on a previous generation MBP (Mid 2009, 2.53 GHz 5,4) and had all kinds of hassles - like major crazy-making troubleshooting to find info about - and then get someone at the Apple Store to actually find - the firmware installer to downgrade (the newer firmware didn’t play nice with the WD 750); it was stupid, a big waste of time. (:-(

I poked around but couldn’t find the manufacturer of the Apple-supplied 750 GB drive.

MaxHedrm

I think some of the battery life decreases may be due to this:
“Apple is using a new, more rigorous battery test that measures the results you can expect in the real world ? like surfing your favorite sites in a coffee shop or catching up on the latest web videos. Even using this new test, MacBook Pro delivers amazing battery life. For your real life.”

It sounds like they changed their test again.

ctopher

As far as I can tell, The old MacBook Pro’s were nearly the best on the market, but they didn’t have the latest processors. The displays rock, they are energy efficient.

There are niche features missing, but Apple’s niche is the higher end. They needed to update the processors and they did. Thunderbolt is the “one more thing…”

And it could be pretty cool.

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