Apple quietly updates MacBook Pro laptop line

No change in pricing as company ups processor speeds, hard disk sizes

Apple today quietly refreshed its workhorse MacBook Pro line of laptops, boosting the speed of the machines' processors and in some cases the size of their hard disk drives.

Prices for the various models -- Apple sells 13-in., 15-in. and 17-in. notebooks -- have not changed.

The refresh is the first since February, when Apple first turned to Intel's Sandy Bridge chip architecture.

The low-end 13.-in. MacBook Pro now sports 2.4GHz and 2.7GHz Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, up from 2.3GHz and 2.7GHz, respectively. Storage space has increased from 320GB to 500GB for the $1,119 model and from 500GB to 750GB for the $1,499 configuration.

The middle-of-the-price-pack 15-in. MacBook Pro received slightly faster processors -- 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 CPUs -- and a newer AMD Radeon graphics processor with more video memory on the least expensive $1,799 model. Hard drive sizes did not change.

Apple sells the most expensive 15-in. MacBook Pro for $2,199.

The top-end $2,499 17-in. notebook now boasts a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 processor and the same graphics processor that equips the highest-priced 15-in. laptop.

Analysts had expected a MacBook Pro refresh this fall, but had pointed to the MacBook Air -- Apple's thin, light laptop that uses a solid-state drive (SSD) based on flash memory -- as the real driving force behind the company's booming Mac sales.

In the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Apple sold 3.6 million laptops, a 37% increase over the same period in 2010 and 30% more than the previous quarter. Apple's laptops accounted for 74% of all Macs sold, and 73% of its personal computer revenue last quarter.

Apple set a Mac sales record in the third quarter, dealing 4.9 million machines, over a million more than it sold in the same quarter last year.

The new MacBook Pros are available immediately at Apple's retail stores and via the company's online store. At the latter, the new models currently are listed as "In Stock."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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