Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro

Only the larger models get Core chips from Intel

The latest crop of MacBook Pro laptops from Apple has several new features, such as a new generation of Intel processors, improved dual graphics, and increased battery life. Most of the changes, however, are relegated to the 15-in. and 17-in. models. The 13-inch models remain the least expensive of the Pro line, but also remain the most similar to the previous generation.

What's changed

Both new 13-inch MacBook Pro models include Nvidia's GeForce 320M integrated graphics, which shares a minimum of 256MB of main memory. This replaces the GeForce 9400M integrated graphics in the previous generation (which shared the same amount and type of RAM). In our testing, the new 13-inch models achieved much better frame rates on our Call of Duty test. For example, at 38.9 frames per second, the 2.4GHz MacBook Pro did 15.2 frames per second better than the higher-end, 2.53GHz 2009 model--an improvement of 64%. They still lagged way behind the new low-end 15-inch MacBook Pro, which garnered 68.4 frames per second thanks to it discrete graphics.

In the area of battery life, Apple claims a three-hour increase over the previous 13-inch MacBook Pros--the new models offer up to 10 hours of battery life, instead of seven. Part of the longer life is due to a slightly higher capacity built-in battery--63.5 watt hours versus 60 watt hours in the previous model. But Apple credits most of the improvement to the greater efficiency of the GeForce 320M graphics over the 9400M. Our standard battery test, which plays a looped video in QuickTime until the battery dies, showed a life of 4 hours and 19 minutes for the 2.4GHz model and 4 hours and 33 minutes for the 2.66GHz model. Those compare favorably to the 2009 13-inch 2.26GHz (3 hours and 30 minutes) and 2.53GHz (3 hours and 38 minutes) models, as well as the current MacBook ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) model (3 hours and 45 minutes). In simple terms, the batteries do indeed last longer.

The new MacBook Pros have the same Multi-Touch glass trackpad as before, but the line adds a new trick. All of the new MacBook Pros (including the 13-inch models) now have inertial scrolling. Just like on an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, swipe your finger down to scroll through a long Web page, for example, and the momentum continues the scrolling until it gradually dies off. The feature seems right at home on the MacBook Pro and will be familiar to anyone who has used Apple's iPhone OS devices.

Another new feature, common to the entire MacBook Pro line, is the ability for the Mini DisplayPort connection to output multichannel audio in addition to the video signal it has always carried (the MacBook Pro supports mirroring or extending your desktop on an external display up to 2560 by 1600 pixels, but the adapters needed are all optional accessories). To test it out, I purchased the $9 Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter from Monoprice. I then connected the MacBook Pro to my HDTV using the HDMI cable and input that I usually use for my Blu-ray player. Although it worked for video (letting me play beautiful 720p video without problem) the audio didn't play through my TV, instead coming out of the MacBook Pro's built-in speakers. I asked Apple about it and the company recommends higher-quality cables such as the $40 Griffin Video Display Converter available on the Apple Store, saying that some lower-priced cables don't work (Monoprice has since updated the product page to say "This product does NOT support audio for the 2010 MacBook that outputs audio through the Mini DisplayPort.")

What's the same

Although the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros include Intel's new Core i5 or Core i7 mobile processors, the 13-inch MacBook Pro continues to use the Core 2 Duo line of processors. In the 13-inch size, Apple offers a 2.4GHz dual-core processor in the $1199 model, and a 2.66GHz dual-core processor in the $1499 model (up from 2.26GHz ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) and 2.53Ghz ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ) in the previous generation, respectively). Each has 3MB on-chip L2 cache shared between the two cores.

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