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Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro

Apple's new MacBook Pro 13-inch: new CPU, upgraded integrated graphics.

Apple’s latest MacBook Pros are here, and we have both the 13- and 15-inch models. We’ll be posting impressions on both as we run our review benchmarks, but this post will focus on the revamped 13-incher.

Last year, we remarked that the popular 13-inch MacBook Pro, with its older Core 2 Duo processor, was due for an update compared with its faster 15-inch cousin. That time has come in a big way–the latest 13-inch MacBook Pros have skipped a generation, going straight to Intel’s newest Core i-series CPUs. While the 15-inch Pros have quad-core Core i7 processors and AMD dedicated graphics, the 13-inch models sport dual-core Core i5 and i7 CPUs and new integrated Intel graphics, which we’ve discussed in previous Sandy Bridge coverage (we’ve previously tested a Sandy Bridge white box system, but one with a quad-core Core i7 CPU). Our 13-inch MacBook Pro is the highest-end of two available configurations at $1,499, with a 2.7GHz second-generation dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and those integrated Intel HD 3000 Graphics.

The look out of the box is pretty much the same as last year’s 13-inch Pro, which is fine; Apple’s laptops are still ahead of the curve in terms of design, and boast the largest multitouch clickpads we’ve seen. One significant change is subtle: where the Mini DisplayPort used to be, now an identically sized port is marked with a lightning-bolt icon. That’s Thunderbolt, Intel’s new high-speed powered port for data transfer and displays. Peripherals aren’t available to take advantage of Thunderbolt yet–look for those in the spring–but consider it an effective hybrid of Mini DisplayPort and a super-high-speed data port, all in one, with an ability to daisy-chain six devices at once. We saw demos of a prototype RAID product using Thunderbolt when we met with Apple, and the data transfer speeds were impressive–in fact, multiple uncompressed full-HD video files played back at once without a hiccup. For videographers, filmmakers, and professional photographers, Thunderbolt could be a boon. Meanwhile, most of the rest of us will use the two USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 ports that are still included on this MacBook Pro.

These new MacBook Pros also have new HD Webcams, which are compatible with the newly released and FaceTime Web chat app, which comes preinstalled. We tried out a little HD FaceTime from one MacBook Pro to another in our office, and the wide-screen, higher-def field of view is definitely a step up (you can also spin from landscape to portrait framing with the touch of a button).

We’re downloading game demos to give the integrated Intel graphics a spin, and will report back later on how games and videos look. Stay tuned throughout the day.

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