25 February, 2011

New MacBook Pros

I wonder why Apple quietly introduces new MBPs, while iPhones, iPods and iPads get their own events?

Image copyright Apple

According to Apple, the major changes are:
  • QUAD core i7 processors (vs dual core previously)
  • Thunderbolt interface (to compete with USB 3, eSATA)
  • uses AMD graphics instead of Nvidia (they keep switching between the 2) (oh, I didn't notice, AMD has replaced ATI)

To me, the most interesting thing is this Thunderbolt interface, developed by Intel and Apple. It is currently the fastest external interface (10 Gbps), compared to USB 3 (5 Gbps) and eSATA (6 Gbps). They're aiming for it to replace video and component interfaces, so you can plug a harddisk or a monitor into it. It looks exactly like the old mini DisplayPort connector, and Apple says there are adaptors to connect it to VGA, DVI and HDMI, just like the old mini DisplayPort. I wonder if the adaptors are the same as the old ones? If they are, that means this interface is quite backwards-compatible.

The big question is: how popular will this be? So far, Apple is the only computer company supporting this, while most new PCs have USB 3. As big as Apple is, it needs more companies on its side for this interface to gain critical mass, otherwise it'll end up like Firewire, which is probably doomed now. It'll be interesting to see if there is enough demand for 2 standards, or which standard will give way.

This refresh makes my MBP one generation older, but it doesn't feel that old, since the new models look almost exactly the same. The only external difference is the mini DisplayPort logo has been replaced by the Thunderbolt logo. Maybe I'm biased, but I can't help feeling my MBP's generation was special, because it was announced at WWDC and it was the first with an integrated battery and SD card slot.

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