Apple adds new Core 2 Duo chips to pro laptop line

Apple Computer on Tuesday unveiled upgraded MacBook Pro laptops that now feature Intel's new Core 2 Duo processors and hard drives offering up to 200GB of space. Apple officials said the new MacBook Pros are up to 39 percent faster than the models they replace, largely because of underlying changes to the architecture of the new processor.

Prices for the two models offered by Apple -- a 15-in. MacBook Pro that comes with a 2.16-GHz Core 2 Duo processor and a 17-in. version with a 2.33-GHz processor -- start at AUD$3,199. The 15-in. model can also be upgraded to the 2.33-Ghz Core 2 Duo processor. That model sells for AUD$3,999, with the 17-in. version selling for AUD$4,399.

According to Apple Product Manager Todd Benjamin, the 15-in. models ship Tuesday, and the 17-in. models will ship next week. Apple's MacBook Pro line was last updated with the introduction of the first Intel-based 17-in. model in April.

Pointing to last week's quarterly earnings report by Apple, Benjamin noted that the company sold 1.6 million computers in its latest quarter, 1 million of which were laptops. "Portables are doing really well, so we're thrilled to follow that up with a new lineup of MacBook Pros," he said in an interview.

"We have Core 2 Duo [processors] across the lineup, with the 2.33-GHz being the fastest Core 2 Duo out there," he said, noting that the new Intel chips offer twice the amount of Level 2 (L2) cache memory as the Core Duo processors used in the just-discontinued MacBook Pro models. The new chips have 4MB of L2 cache; the Core Duo chips had 2MB of L2 cache.

"When we look at [benchmark] testing, you see it's up to 39 percent faster than the fastest processors in the old model," Benjamin said. "We're moving from 2.16 GHz to 2.33 Ghz, but clearly, 39 percent is more than just the [higher] clock speed."

He also said the new laptops are seven times faster than the Power PC-based PowerBook G4s offered by Apple a year ago.

"Where the rubber really hits the road is in professional applications," Benjamin said. "With Final Cut Pro, in rendering and encoding testing, this application is running up to 39 percent faster, and with Aperture -- for images [both] raw and JPEG -- it's 25 percent faster in our benchmark testing."

The new laptops come with double of the RAM of the previous models. The 15-in. version ships with 1GB of PC2-5300 (667-MHz) Double Data Rate 2 memory. The upgraded 15-in. and 17-in. models come with 2GB of RAM. All three support up to 3GB of RAM, but adding that memory boosts the price by US$575 when bought through Apple.

Apple has also added FireWire 800 ports to all MacBook Pro models and increased the maximum size of the hard drives available. The entry-level model ships with a 120GB hard drive that spins at 5,400 rpm. The 17-in. version ships with a 160GB hard drive that also spins at 5,400 rpm. Apple also offers a smaller but faster 100GB hard drive that spins at 7,200 rpm and a larger 200GB hard drive that spins at 4,200 rpm.

"As far as the large drive technology, that's the largest available on the market today," Benjamin said, referring to the 200GB hard drive.

All of the new MacBook Pro models now feature dual-layer SuperDrives for burning CDs and DVDs. Until now, the dual-layer drive, which can burn more than 8GB of data on a single disc, was available only on the 17-in. model.

The remaining standard features carry over from previous models: a built-in iSight Web camera, Bluetooth and 802.11b/g wireless networking, a combined optical digital audio port, a dual-link DVI port that can power one of Apple's 30-in. Cinema Displays, sudden motion-sensor technology to prevent hard drive damage if the laptop is dropped and a magnetic power connector.

Apple is also now offering a magnetic power connector for use on airplanes. That hardware sells for AUD$89.

The graphics cards in the laptops remain unchanged, as do the screen resolutions, although Benjamin said owners of the new 15-in. models would see better graphics performance compared with the older 15-in. versions.

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