Government // Mobile & Wireless
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4/13/2010
03:10 PM
Jake Widman
Jake Widman
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Apple Boosts MacBook Pro Speeds, Juggles Prices

Apple has refreshed its line of MacBook Pro laptops, giving them faster CPUs and graphics chips. The company also lowered the prices on higher-end models but raised the price of one of the most popular versions.

Apple has refreshed its line of MacBook Pro laptops, giving them faster CPUs and graphics chips. The company also lowered the prices on higher-end models but raised the price of one of the most popular versions.The smallest MacBook Pros, the 13-inch models, still come with Core 2 Duo chips, but they did get a slight speed boost: the $1,199 model now runs at 2.4 GHz (up from 2.26), and the $1,499 model runs at 2.66 GHz (up from 2.53). More significantly, both models now include 4 GB of RAM, and they have bigger hard disks as well -- 250 GB and 320 GB, respectively. The prices are unchanged.

The 15-inch MacBook Pros now come with Core i5 chips running at 2.4 or 2.53 GHz or a Core i7 chip running at 2.66 GHz; and the 17-inch model gets a Core i5 chip running at 2.53 GHz. According to Apple, these new processors make the MacBook Pros up to 50 percent faster than the previous generation. Furthermore, they support Hyper-Threading, which lets the operating system use four virtual cores rather than just the two physical cores; and Turbo Boost, which can increase the speed of the processor when needed by a demanding application. Turbo Boost can make the 2.66 GHz chip run at 3.33 GHz, according to Apple.

As for the graphics processors: the 13-inch models now get integrated Nvidia GeForce 320M chips with three times the number of cores as the previous model. Apple claims the new chip boosts performance up to 80 percent. The 15- and 17-inch models get discrete Nvidia GeForce 330M processors, "the fastest graphics ever in a Mac notebook," claims Apple. The notebooks also support automatic graphics switching, which divides the processing work between the integrated Intel graphics and the discrete Nvidia chip without user intervention, depending on the demands at the time.

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The 15-inch MacBook Pros come in three models, all with 4 GB of RAM and SD card slots. The 2.4GHz model has a 320GB hard drive and costs $1,799 ($100 more than the bottom-of-the-line 15-incher did before); the 2.53GHz model has a 500GB drive and goes for $1,999; and the 2.66GHz model -- the one with a Core i7 chip -- has a 500GB drive and costs $2,199 ($100 less than the previous top of the line).

The 17-inch model also got a price cut, from $2,499 to $2,299. It comes with a 500GB hard drive and an ExpressCard/34 slot. The new pricing sets up an interesting choice for notebook shoppers: for an extra $100, they can get a larger screen (17 inches) and ExpressCard slot, but they sacrifice some speed and processor capability. Most small business users don't need to face that choice, however -- the top-end 13-inch model or low-end 15-inch model should be more than adequate.

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