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October 2011 MacBook Pros by Steve Hildreth & Charles W. Moore
In October 2011, Apple upgraded the CPU and hard disk drive specifications of its five MacBook Pro models on the Apple Store Website, confirming rumors that a minor refresh was imminent. The speed bumps were virtually inevitable after Intel, also quietly, upgraded the specs. of its Core i-Series of Sandy Bridge processors in September, which will hold the fort until Intel launches its new Ivy Bridge family of CPUs sometime in the first half of 2012. The clock speed increases are welcome but not dramatic - just 100MHz or 200MHz, depending on model.
Photo Courtesy Apple While I haven't been able to 100 percent confirm this point, it's a reasonably safe assumption that such a minor upgrade from the hardware specs. introduced with the early 2011 switch last February to Core-i silicon should mean that these updated MacBook Pros, while they will of course ship with OS X 10.7 Lion, should still be able to boot from OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.
As before, the 13" MacBook Pro is available in a choice of dual-core Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs, while the 15" and 17" models are all quad-core Core i7, with discrete AMD Radeon HD graphics processor units and well as the integrated Intel HD 3000 Graphics support in the Core CPUs. The Radeon GPUs also get an incremental update to model 6750M or 6770M depending on the configuration. One thing that thankfully hasn't changed is the prices, which as before run $1199.00 for the base 13" MBP - 2.4GHz Core i5 with 4GB of 1333MHz DDR 3 RAM (which is the standard RAM spec. across the board); a 500GB, 5400rpm HDD; and Intel HD 3000 graphics - to $2499.00 for the top-end 17-incher with a 2.4GHz Core i7; also 4GB 1333MHz DDR 3; a 750GB, 5400rpm HDD; and AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics with 1GB of dedicated GDDR 5 video memory.
The 17" model goes from 2.3 GHz to 2.4 GHz, amounting to a 9% speed improvement. In between, there are also an upscale 13-inch MacBook Pro model with a 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, and a 750 GB HDD for $1,499.00; a low-end 15" MBP model with a quad-core Core i7 clocked at 2.2GHz with a 500GB hard drive and a faster AMD Radeon HD 6750M discrete graphics card with 512MB of GDDR5 at $1,799.00; and the high-end 15-incher with a 2.4GHz Core i7, a 750GB HDD and fan AMD Radeon HD 6770M GPU with 1GB of GDDR5 video RAM selling for $2,199.00.
It had also been rumored that the refreshed MBPs would get the Bluetooth 4.0 that debuted in the iPhone 4S, but Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR is still the spec. Also available is a top-of-the-line build-to-order 17-inch MacBook Pro featuring a 2.5GHz quad-core Core i7 for an additional $250. The RAM configuration can be upgraded to a maximum of 8GB for another $200. All MacBook Pro models are also available with optional SSD data storage capacities up to 512GB for as much as a suck-in-your-breath $1,200. For more information, visit: http://store.apple.com
View a short video walk-through of the i7 15" MacBook Pro:
Our testing of the 15" 2.66GHz i7 MacBook Pro revealed Geekbench scores nearly matching those of the 2009 2.66GHz Mac Pro and about 30% higher than the previous high-end 15" 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo. The machine itself feels snappy in normal daily tasks like opening folds and web browsing. Indeed, Safari 4 launches about a second faster than on a Oct '08 15" 2.4GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo. While depending on the speed of your network connection, Hulu videos are smooth on a fast connection, and Second Life can be an enjoyable experience with graphics rezzing quickly.
Time will tell, but these 3rd-generation unibodies could well be the best Apple notebook computers yet, and we rate this a very successful refreshment.
Special thanks to B&H Photo Video for providing units for this review. B&H Photo Video is New York's largest Apple reseller with over 37 years in the business. They have the 15" 2.2GHz i7 MacBook Pro in stock for $1698 including free shipping and NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP.