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Apple updates MacBook Pro line for 2011

Apple MacBook Pro 2011

After weeks of a growing chorus of rumors, leaks, and anecdotal evidence, Apple today announced a series of updates to its popular MacBook Pro line of laptops. The entire updated line now offers Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge CPUs, which debuted last month.

Just as significantly, the new MacBook Pros are also the first products to feature Intel’s new Thunderbolt technology (formerly known as Light Peak). The Thunderbolt tech is envisioned as a sort of unified successor to USB, FireWire, and DisplayPort, allowing peripherals to hypothetically carry data and video at 10 gigabits per second. The MacBook Pros Thunderbolt port looks identical (and is backwards compatible) to existing DisplayPort connections, and–with the proper adapter cable–should also be able to interface with HDMI connections as well. (Also, note that Intel will be hosting a press event at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET today where the company is widely expected to highlight its Thunderbolt/Light Peak technology in more detail. Join CNET for live coverage at that time.)

The third big change is in the laptops’ internal graphics processor. Instead of the NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics previously found in these systems, the default graphics come from Intel’s HD 3000 GPU, which is the improved integrated graphics that come bundled with the current Sandy Bridge generation of Intel’s Core i-series processors. For the larger 15 and 17-inch models that include discrete graphics, the GPUs now come from AMD, instead of long-time rival Nvidia.

The new MacBook Pros also get a new higher resolution FaceTime HD camera. As the name implies, Apple is also bringing the iPhone’s FaceTime video calling software to the Mac.

Like the previous MacBook Pro line, these new models all start with a minimum of 4GB of RAM, and the lowest-end 13-inch MacBook Pro gets a hard drive bump from 250GB to 320GB.

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