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New Macbook Pros with quad core Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt I/O.

February 24th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

As anticipated, Apple has released new Macbook Pros today which is basically a typical refresh that they do every ~9 months for the line. Although earlier than the ~March timeframe that was originally estimated, the new Macbook Pros utilize the new 32nm “Sandy Bridge” quad core processors from Intel. You read that right, Macbook Pros (15 inches and up) now have quad cores!

Somehow, despite being familiar with Sandy Bridge processors and the new Macbook Pros likelyhood to use them, I never put 2 and 2 together to conclude the new Macbook Pros would likely have quad cores. Well, this DOES “change everything” for me, since I was planning to build a quad core hackintosh. If I can have quad core Sandy Bridge in a Macbook Pro, I’d rather get that instead and not have to deal with all the hacking, higher power consumption, lack of portability, and having to make sure bluetooth and wifi worked well. I would also miss the compatibility with the Apple Remote, and it doesn’t hurt that laptops basically have a built in UPS.

As for what has changed, the new Macbook Pros have a few key new features. Besides having a quad core Sandy Bridge architecture on the 15 inches and up line, the new Macbook Pros also have new discreet AMD graphics processors (on top of the Intel 3000 on die graphics of Sandy Bridge). Apple uses their own proprietary technology to seamlessly switch over to the discreet graphics whenever more graphical processing power is determined to be needed, which is a nice way to get around the inevitable comparisons that may be made between their older integrated graphics and their new Intel 3000 graphics.

The final new feature is a brand new I/O interface called thunderbolt. This is a new interface that seems to use the same connector as the mini displayport that has always been included on Apple’s unibody laptops (with the exception of the first generation Macbook Air). According to data available from Apple, at least theoretically, the new I/O is capable of data transfer at up to 10Gbps – twice as fast as ever USB 3.0 and 20 times faster than USB 2.0. Apparently, it is a way to use the PCI Express bus for external devices – very cool. I wonder however, if this technology has what it takes to be the next big I/O standard, when USB 3.0 has the advantage of being backwards compatible with USB 2.0? As we find out more about this new I/O over the next few days, we should be able to make a better judgement about this. My beef with it so far is no backwards compatibility with existing devices, which makes me feel like USB 3.0 still has its place, but the way Apple markets it, it feels like they want to replace USB 3.0 with Thunderbolt. Further, I seem to recall that Intel has made it clear that they do not wish to support USB 3.0 though I cannot confirm that for you at the moment.

I am VERY interested in the new 15 inch and up Macbook Pros with the quad core Sandy Bridge based processors. I was seriously looking at building a quad core hackintosh based on either older i7, or Sandy Bridge processors in order to gain more power for quicker video editing, which has become a bigger hobby for me lately. I would have missed the ease of native support for OSX, Apple remote, low power consumption, and the small footprint of a Macbook Pro serving as my main computer, not to mention the portability. Now, I could potentially have all of that in just one computer, instead of having to have 2 computers – a desktop and a laptop.