Apple's MacBook Pro has long been recognised as a power-packed performer but the flagship device never seemed to be able to justify the tag "Pro" until it received minor upgrades late last year. The upgrades included all three categories - entry-level, mid-range and high-end.
The entry-level 13-inch Pro received a 2.4GHz dual-core Core i5 chip, replacing the earlier 2.3GHz dual-core i5 processor, besides an upgrade to a 500GB hard drive (from 320GB). The mid-range model went from a 2.7GHz dual-core Core i7 chip to a 2.8Ghz model and from 500GB to 750GB. However, both models retained the Intel HD Graphics 3000 card.
The more expensive 15-inch models went from 2.0Ghz and 2.2 GHz quad-core Core i7 chips to 2.2Ghz and 2.4Ghz respectively and although the storage capacities remained unchanged, the graphics cards were improved to a 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750M and a 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6770M, respectively. The 17-inch model retained specifications similar to the high-end 15-inch variant, with the addition of an ExpressCard/34 slot.
However, the entire buzz now is about the new MacBook Pro, dubbed the MacBook Pro 2012, part of a long overdue hardware revamp for the Pro line.
Meanwhile, the rumours flying around now hint at the incorporation of two particular new technologies - Intel's Ivy Bridge processor and New Thunderbolt Connector.
Check out a complete feature and specs comparison of those the 2012 15-inch Pro is expected to sport and the 2011 model...
Thinner and Slimmer Profile, Matching MacBook Air Form Factor
Featuring a "super-slim wedge profile", the new 15-inch Pro is expected to be slimmer and lighter than previous models but not as light as the MacBook Air (which weighs 1.3kg), according to rumours from Gizmodo. However, no further dimensional details are available at the moment. The previous MacBook Pro model measures .95x14.35x9.82 inches and weighs around 2.5kg. The laptop flaunts a distinctive unibody chassis made entirely of aluminium.
Pro 2012: Retina Display on the Cards
The previous MacBook Pro model sports a 15.4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy or optional antiglare widescreen display with 1440 x 900 resolution at 16:10 aspect ratio, designed to yield bright, rich colours and sharp images. However, the new MacBook Pro is expected to outplay these features with the revolutionary and much touted "resolutionary" Retina display, which supports a 2048 x 1536 pixels display resolution with 3.1 million-pixel colour support.
"While the prevailing MacBook models have displays with resolutions ranging from 1680 x 1050 to 1280 x 800, the ultra-high resolution for the new MacBook Pro will further differentiate Apple's products from other brands," reports DigiTimes. However, other sources suggest that while Apple is likely to boost the screen resolution of the Pro a Retina display may not be on cards.
We should point out that if Apple does plan to include Retina Display, they could be forced to compromise on the ultra-thin and ultra-light qualities of the laptop.
Processor and GPU
The 15-inch version of the Pro is expected to get Intel's Core i5 and i7 Ivy Bridge chipsets. The older model has only Core i7 chips. In addition, the laptops may feature the 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-3820QM with Intel HD 4000 graphics boosting the systems capabilities and multimedia processing capacity by approximately 65 percent, over previous Intel chips, CNET reports. The devices may flaunt Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.7GHz indicates a report from Nvo News. The 2011 upgrade to the 15-inch Pro resulted in a 12 percent performance bump.
Reports also suggest the new Radeon HD 6750M graphics card delivers 85 percent more frames per second (fps) in Cinebench's Open GL test, compared to last year's 15-inch model's 256MB AMD Radeon HD 6490M unit.
Although, the previous iteration was definitely a significant improvement over the early 2011 models, the new Pro 2012 is expected to dominate the show with the killer Ivy Bridge chipset. Expect the new breed of Intel chips to hit the market between 23 April and 29 April, according to CNET.
The 2011 15-inch model runs on Apple's award-winning OS X Lion operating system, which set high benchmark standards and is critically acclaimed for enhanced trackpad gestures, automatic file backup and recovery and built-in apps for immediate usability alongside loads of pre-installed apps. Apple fans must be looking forward to the next version of the software - Mountain Lion - which was launched a few weeks back and should feature in the MacBook Pro 2012.
Apple's latest OS has some innovative features and draws from the company's experience with tablets and smartphones to provide a unified platform experience.
Although the previous generation 15-inch Pro features a Thunderbolt port, the new one will sport the second-gen Thunderbolt controllers, according to a recent report from VR-Zone. The report further suggests Intel has shipped its second-gen controllers, codenamed "Cactus Ridge". Apple aficionados are in for a double treat as the new Thunderbolt is likely to be released alongside the new MacBook Pro line-up, as indicated in an earlier IBTimes UK report.
According to the VR-Zone report, Intel is expected to offer two different controllers: the 12x12mm DSL3310 and DSL3510.
Other features that could give the 2012 Pro an edge over the 2011 model:
Apple recently secured patents for full-surface trackpads (including accidental touching by the finger) and the ability for the system to distinguish between a palm and a finger gesture. This feature is very likely to port into the MacBook Pro 2012.
Surround Sound System:
Apple is reportedly working on a surround sound system for MacBook-like devices, according to Patently Apple. The sound system comprises an audio transducer and is expected to deliver a near full range response frequency resulting in both low and mid-range frequencies.
Pro 2012 Release Date Quagmire: May or June?
According to the Christian Post, the new Pro laptops may release as early as May. The Economic Daily Times of China, however, hints that the new MacBook Pro is currently under production at Foxconn and Quanta Computer and will be shipped in June. Meanwhile, 9to5Mac reports the next generation Intel chips will launch on 23 April and the new refurbished MacBook Pro line will be unveiled soon after. In contrast, several authorised resellers report the 15-inch MacBook Pro is sold out, which strongly suggests the company might hasten the process of releasing the Pro much earlier than expected.