Roadmap 2010: Macbook Pro

Our anticipated specifications for the three new Macbook Pro lineups are predicated on the notion that Apple will not use Nvidia’s Optimus chipset in any of these new models. This is not something that we can assert with absolute certainty, however, despite numerous pieces of supporting evidence….so as always, use these predicted specs as a general guide and take it all with the appropriate amount of salt. Please also note that all pricing is speculative because this is one of the elements our sources are least privy to.

Across entire lineup

  • Processors: Apple has prototyped designs based on Core 2 and quad-core “Clarksfield” (Mobile Core i7 720/820) CPUs; however, given the advantages of Arrandale over Core 2 and the high power usage/operating temperatures of Clarksfield, we are uncertain if either one of these will be utilized in the final lineup. We have some hope for a 17-inch quad-core Clarksfield MBP, but remain skeptical.
  • GPUs: All models, with the exception of any Core 2 or Clarksfield based designs, will include the integrated Arrandale GPU, “GMA HD.” We expect discrete graphics processors from ATI and Nvidia to be available on all three display sizes, marking the first time that discrete graphics have been available in the 13-inch MBP. Arrandale’s smaller total chipset size (2 vs 3 for Core 2) and greater thermal/energy efficiency make this possible. Because its clock speed varies along with the CPU’s, entry-level GMA HD performance should be similar to current Nvidia GeForce 9400M; at the high end it should be significantly faster for most workloads.
  • Displays: Most if not all models moved from current 16:10 aspect ratio to 16:9 IPS (In-Plane Switching), the same as HDTVs and Late 2009 iMacs. This will provide a more optimal viewing experience for HD video, and the associated modifications to the laptop enclosures will aid Apple’s efforts to cram more powerful hardware as well as larger batteries into these very thin packages. The move to IPS panels will provide similar benefits to those used in current iMacs and the iPad: wider viewing angles and overall superior image quality.
  • Enclosures: Along with the above-mentioned shape changes to accommodate 16:9 displays in at least some models (quite possibly all of them), many prototypes reportedly shave a few millimeters off of both the main body and display to bring total thickness under 0.9 inches — as little as 0.8 inches, in some cases. Weight is expected to also be shaved down, but only slightly.
  • Storage: Greatly improved SSD drive options. Modest bumps to stock HDDs, particularly significant at the entry level. Some rumor-mongers have speculated about an option to remove the built-in optical drive in favor of a second internal SSD/HDD, but we have not heard anything about such an option in reported prototype configurations.
  • RAM: Dual channel DDR3-1066MHz.
  • Optical drives: Some prototypes included a big jump in Superdrive performance — 16X vs current 8X. Cost and thermal considerations may keep this out of most models.
  • Ports/expansion: Similar to current models. Some prototypes included USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0, but we are not currently prepared to predict whether these will be part of the final product.

13-inch

  • Processors: Core i3 350M at 2.26GHz for entry-level model, Core i5 520M (2.4GHz) and/or 530M (2.53GHz) at the high end. All three have HyperThreading for a total of four “virtual cores” (sometimes referred to as “hardware threads”), while the i5 chips also support Turbo up to 3.06GHz.
  • GPUs: GMA HD integrated graphics at 667 or 766MHz. High-end models may offer optional discrete graphics by ATI or Nvidia; we would consider ATI more likely at this point and believe the Radeon 5450M with 256MB VRAM is a strong candidate.
  • Display: While it is possible that the 13-inch may retain its current 16:10 display @ 1280×800, most prototypes sported a 16:9 panel at either 1280×720 (most likely), 1366×768, or ~1440×832.
  • Battery life: Thanks to a slightly larger battery (~65 watt-hours) in 16:9 prototypes and Arrandale’s considerable efficiency boost, models with integrated graphics should be able to achieve 8+ hours battery life and discrete graphics models roughly 7-7.5 hours depending on usage.
  • Speakers: If Apple does indeed ship a 16:9 version, this may create enough room in the enclosure for improved top-mounted speakers similar to those on current 15/17 models. Many 16:9 prototypes included this fairly dramatic upgrade in built-in audio quality.
  • Pricing: Similar to existing models (starting at $1,199 USD), possible $1,099 entry-level model if Macbooks are updated in a similar timeframe with a similar anticipated ~$100 price drop.

15-inch

  • Processors: Core i5 520M (2.4GHz, 2.8GHz Turbo) and 530M (2.53GHz, 2.93GHz Turbo), optional Core i7 620M at 2.66GHz (3.33GHz Turbo). All offer four “virtual cores” via HyperThreading for a ~30% efficiency boost and superior multitasking performance. i5 includes 3MB L3 cache, while i7 offers 4MB; despite being smaller than the 6MB in current Core 2 models, these caches perform similarly or better due to improvements in the Nehalem-class L3 design.
  • GPUs: Integrated GMA HD at 766MHz, optional discrete GPU likely to be ATI 5600/5700 series or comparable Nvidia chip.
  • Display: 16:9 with resolution between 1440×832 and 1600×900. We’re leaning toward the latter.
  • Battery life: Modestly greater than current version’s 7 hours.
  • Pricing: Starting at $1,599….$100 less than current models.

17-inch

  • Processors: Core i5 530M (2.53GHz, 2.93GHz Turbo) or Core i7 620M (2.66GHz, 3.33GHz Turbo). See 15-inch details for differences between these. Quad-core “Clarksfield” processors are a possibility but there are potential issues of reduced battery life and high operating temperatures.
  • GPUs: Integrated GMA HD at 766MHz (except on Clarksfield models if any), standard discrete GPU likely to be ATI 5700/5800 series or comparable Nvidia chip.
  • Display: 16:9. Some prototypes used panels with a 2048×1152 resolution, but 1920×1080 is more likely.
  • Battery life: 8+ hours versus current model’s “up to 8 hours.”
  • Pricing: Starting at $2,299 — $200 less than current models.

Continue on to the next page for further analysis and the conclusion of this in-depth 2010 Macbook Pro Roadmap report. (scroll past the ad)

All in all, these Arrandale-based laptops are a huge leap forward for mobile Mac computing and unless one has an immediate need for a current-generation Macbook Pro, waiting a few days or weeks to get one of the new models would be a very wise decision.

Readers who have expressed concerns about the integrated Intel GMA HD graphics processor can put those fears to rest: we’ve repeatedly confirmed with sources at Infinite Loop that the models they’ll be utilizing perform significantly better than the current Nvidia 9400M — and this is backed up by widely published benchmarks of these chips in PC laptops.

Arrandale is a remarkable chipset, and Apple’s implementation is going to be one of the best on the market. Even better if they can manage to cram a quad-core Clarksfield into the 17-inch model.

If there are any questions you might have that weren’t answered by this article, or if you have comments/corrections/feedback, please feel free to contact us by email (rumors@macosrumors.com), Twitter (@MacOSRumors), AIM (MacOSRumors), or the comments form below — and we’ll do our best to reply as soon as possible.


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  • http://www.MattinglyMD.com/ MattinglyMD

    Thanks for the continual updates. Any firm timelines of when the new laptops will be unleashed or is Apple waiting for the iPad pop to play itself out and maximize equity gain?

  • http://www.MattinglyMD.com/ MattinglyMD

    Thanks for the continual updates. Any firm timelines of when the new laptops will be unleashed or is Apple waiting for the iPad pop to play itself out and maximize equity gain?