Thunderbolt

The new MacBook Pros offer the array of ports we're used to, plus something a bit different.

A new port called Thunderbolt replaces the Mini DisplayPort found in earlier models. Formerly codenamed Light Peak, the new Intel standard promises up to 10 Gbps bi-directional data transfer speeds and connectivity for an array of devices, from displays to hard drives. The standard also supports 8-channel audio, which should make for easy connection to HDMI devices with the right adapter, and up to six different Thunderbolt devices can be daisy chained together according to the Intel specs. 

Most of the given use scenarios for Thunderbolt focus on external hard drives, displays, and HD video hardware, and adapters for existing standards like eSATA and Firewire. If Thunderbolt ports become more widespread, we'll probably see additional applications of the standard.

Finally, it's worth noting that if you've already spent money on Mini DisplayPort adapters, dongles and cables for your existing Mac, those accessories will continue to work with the new Thunderbolt port.

Look for more from us on Thunderbolt shortly.

Conclusions

Thunderbolt aside, there's not much that surprises about the new MacBook Pro lineup - as usual, new, faster hardware is being sold to us in the same attractive unibody case to which we've become accustomed.

Most of the additions are welcome, though the value proposition continues to be a struggle. As usual, to save money, you're better off buying the base model and adding RAM or a new hard drive yourself than paying Apple's price for upgrades.

The move to Sandy Bridge is interesting but the lack of any mention of Quick Sync is a bit bothersome. We’re working on our review of the new platforms, expect to see results in the coming days.

The Facts
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  • jamesst - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Thunderbolt is two channel and each channel can carry 10Gbps. In fact, I've read that one channel is dedicated to DisplayPort while the other is used just for PCIe transfers. They don't talk much about the channel used for DisplayPort since you can't use that for general-purpose peripherals, that's why they just say that it has 10Gbps for high-speed data transfer. Reply
  • n0othing - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I remember buying my $2100 macbook pro back in 2007 (still running like a champ and overall nicer than a lot of laptops on the market today). 2.4Ghz c2duo, 4GB ddr2, 500GB/7200RPM, 256MB 8600M GT, and their first LED backlit LCDs to boot. I bought mine when they had just refreshed and I even got a free ipod nano + printer out of it.

    To be honest, the specs on this revision are pretty solid-- but they seem to lack the wow factor I like to see when apple does major refreshes (note: not every refresh makes my panties wet).

    I would have liked to see USB 3.0 ports, an nvidia gpu (completely fanboi based, the 6750 is solid, best bang for buck), 8GB of RAM standard on the upper tier models, and perhaps a modest price break (say, $100).
    Reply
  • AmdInside - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I agree. Just not wowed. The only thing that these specs could have done to wow me would be if they dropped the MSRP by 25% or more which I know wasn't going to happen. Where's USB 3.0? Why can't Apple have a dedicated HDMI port? Expresscard slot? Blu-ray? Higher resolution screen? More memory (I picked up 8GB for $70 recently for my Dell XPS 14 and MBP so it can't be that expensive right now)? 7200RPM hard drive? Better speakers? More video memory? Reply
  • dagamer34 - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    HDMI port: http://www.amazon.com/Mini-DisplayPort-Adapter-fem...

    ExpressCard slot is only on the 17" because few people actually use it.
    Reply
  • KPOM - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    What I and a lot of Mac enthusiasts are most concerned about is how the Sandy Bridge graphics perform on basic gaming. A lot will depend on the drivers for the HD 3000. Most of us consider it a step backward from the 320m in the outgoing model, and there is actually a lot of opposition on Mac boards to the lack of a discrete GPU in the 13". Many would have given up a built-in optical drive to get a discrete GPU.

    The other disappointment is the low-res screen in the 13". The MacBook Air actually has a higher-res screen.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Agreed, I wish they would ditch the optical drive for room for a discreet card and a larger battery to balance it.

    I hope Anandtech extensively tests the 13 inch's graphics performance compared to the last one.
    Reply
  • shiznit - Sunday, February 27, 2011 - link

    As a mac enthusiast you should know that Apple resists to give lower end models of a particular line features that would make you less likely to purchase a more expensive model. For example a 13" MBP with the 1440x900 screen and a discrete gpu makes the 15" almost pointless, unless you really need 1680x1050 and a quad core. The 13" MBA can get the good screen because there is no better model. It's just good busines.

    Btw, Apple would have converted me if the 13" MBP had the MBA's screen.
    Reply
  • undermined - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    shouldn't it be 1680x1050 instead of 1650x1080 on the chart? Reply
  • AmdInside - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I love Apple products but in this refresh, they could have done so much more and they didn't. I have little interest in upgrading mY MBP 13" not because I can't afford it but because the faster CPU speed alone is not enough reason to justify the upgrade. My next MBP purchase will likely be a 15". Hopefully next year, the laptop will be more interesting. Reply
  • erple2 - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    Hmm.. If not for a faster CPU and GPU (though I don't know if the integrated Intel HD 3000 is faster than the 320M, but I suspect it's at least on par), then what is the point of ever upgrading? The CPU upgrade is 2 generations newer - going from a Core 2 Duo to a Sandy Bridge based CPU is a pretty hefty bump in power.

    Ultimately, if your current MBP 13" handles all of the loads that you can throw at it without any problems, then you're right. However, that's true with any computer/thing.
    Reply

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