Apple bumps MacBook Pro faster CPU, memory, graphics

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Apple on Tuesday introduced a refresh to its line of MacBook Pro laptop computers, raising CPU speeds, memory capacity and improving graphics performance across the line. The new systems can accommodate up to 4GB of RAM and feature CPU speeds of up to 2.4GHz.

These new MacBook Pros are the first Apple laptops to feature Intel’s “Santa Rosa” chipset, said Apple vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing David Moody. That’s increased the systems’ bus speed from 667MHz to 800MHz and also explains why the new MacBook Pros can allocate an extra gigabyte of RAM.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pros are also the first Apple laptops to feature mercury-free, LED-backlit displays that Apple CEO Steve Jobs first hinted at in an open letter in May discussing Apple’s environmental efforts.

“These new displays are more power efficient as well,” said Moody. “We’ve seen battery life extended 30 minutes to an hour.”

Unlike the Cold Cathode Florescent Lamp (CCFL) technology that powers previous MacBook Pros, LED-backlit displays don’t require any “warmup” time to achieve full brightness, said Moody.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro’s display continues to use CCFL, according to Moody. 1680 x 1050 pixels remains the standard resolution on the 17-inch, but a higher-resolution 1900 x 1200 display is available as a configure-to-order option for an extra $100.

“The new display lets video pros work in HD,” said Moody. “You can see all 1080 lines of vertical resolution now.”

These are the first MacBook Pros to use Nvidia graphics processors. Previous models have been equipped with ATI’s Mobility Radeon graphics. Inside the new mdoels is Nvidia’s GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor. Features offered by the graphics processor include 128-bit High Dynamic Range (HDR) support and 16x Full Screen Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) support — the chip features Nvidia’s new “Lumenex Engine.”

“Nvidia just introduced this chip a few weeks ago,” said Moody.

Moody also shared some performance details of the new systems: Compared to Apple’s first generation, Intel Core Duo-equipped MacBook Pros, the new systems are up to 50 percent faster working in select graphics applications, 57 percent faster in Quake 4 and 53 percent faster in Doom 3. It’s also up to 37 percent faster working in Motion, Apple’s pro video motion graphics software.

The new models are clocked at either 2.2GHz or 2.4GHz (up from 2.16 or 2.33GHz, respectively) and utilize Intel’s Core 2 Duo microprocessors equipped with 4MB of shared Level 2 cache, and 800MHz frontside bus and standard 2GB of 667MHz DDR SDRAM memory.

All of the new MacBook Pros also feature 8x dual layer/double layer “SuperDrives,” built-in iSight cameras, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless networking, ExpressCard/34 expansion, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port and FireWire 400 port, one audio line in and one headphone out port, each with optical support; scrolling trackpad and illuminated keyboard; Apple Remote and infrared port; and a DVI connector to attach up to a 30-inch a display.

The MacBook Pros ship with Mac OS X v10.4.9 and include Apple’s standard iLife applications along with Safari, Mail, iCal, iChat AV, Front Row and Photo Booth.

The new MacBook Pros are now shipping. The base 15-inch model is clocked at 2.2GHz and includes 128MB VRAM and a 120GB hard disk drive. It’s priced at $1,999. The 15-inch is also available at 2.4GHz with 256MB VRAM and a 160GB hard disk for $2,499. The 2.4GHz, 160GB 17-inch model costs $2,799. The higher-resolution display for the 17-inch adds $100 to the price.

Editor’s note: Added other details, corrected some items and added comments from David Moody.

This story, "Apple bumps MacBook Pro faster CPU, memory, graphics" was originally published by PCWorld.

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