MWSF: Intel-powered MacBook Pro laptop unveiled

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Apple expanded its laptop offerings beyond the venerable PowerBook line Tuesday, with the release of the MacBook Pro portable computer. Announced by Steve Jobs during his Macworld Expo keynote, the MacBook Pro is the first laptop from Apple to use an Intel-built chip, the Intel Core Duo processor.

Apple claims the MacBook Pro delivers up to four times the performance of a PowerBook G4, with Apple CEO Steve Jobs hailing it as the fastest notebook ever. The 5.6-pound system is housed in a one-inch thick aluminum enclosure and features a 15.4-inch LCD screen that’s 67 percent brighter than the PowerBook’s screen; Apple says the MacBook Pro’s display is as bright as the company’s desktop Cinema Displays.

The company will offer two versions of the MacBook Pro—one with a 1.67GHz Intel Core Duo processor, and the with a 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo processor. A new iMac, also announced at Macworld Expo, features Intel processors as well. The system architecture has been altered for faster performance—the laptop features a 667MHz frontside bus, that is four times as fast as the PowerBook G4. The new laptop also ships with 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM memory, twice as fast as the old PowerBook. The 1.67GHz model ships with 512MB of RAM while the 1.8GHz model has 1GB installed; both systems can hold up to 2GB of RAM.

The MacBook Pro comes with a built-in iSight video camera, iChat AV, iLife ’06, the Apple Remote, and Front Row, the multimedia management application introduced last year. MacBook Pro also includes Photo Booth, an application that lets users take quick snapshots with the built-in iSight video camera, add visual effects, and share pictures with the touch of a button.

The new notebook also debuts Apple’s MagSafe magnetic power connector, designed especially for mobile users. The MagSafe power connector makes charging the notebook’s battery easier by magnetically coupling the power cord to the MacBook Pro. The MagSafe power connector safely disconnects from the notebook when there is strain on the power cord, helping to prevent the notebook from falling off its work surface if the power cord is inadvertently yanked.

Each MacBook Pro comes standard with an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 PCI Express graphics card, featuring either 128MB or 256MB of dedicated GDDR3 graphics memory. The MacBook Pro models also include built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), integrated AirPort Extreme 54Mbps 802.11g WiFi wireless networking, a scrolling TrackPad, and Apple’s Sudden Motion Sensor technology for protecting the hard drive in case of a fall.

While Apple is taking orders now, the MacBook Pro won’t begin shipping until February. The 1.67GHz, 15-inch MacBook Pro sells for $1,999, while the 1.83GHz is priced at $2,499. Build-to-order options will be available as well.

Though Apple plans to have Intel processors in all of its hardware by the end of 2006, the PowerBook G4 remains available in 12-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch configurations. Those models remain available for purchase at Apple’s online store.

Updated at 3:14 ET to include information on PowerBook G4 availability.

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