The next generation Macbook Pros are expected anytime now (WWDC?) so I figured it would be a good time to recap all the rumors and add some comments. Tim Cook promised exciting and revolutionary products for 2012 and the new 15 inch Macbook Pro could very well be the first drool-worthy redesigned Apple device.
Let’s start with the brain: Intel Ivy Bridge processors.
Intel has officially launched their new Ivy Bridge processors, an update to their already zippy Sandy Bridge line, which means we can expect these quad-core powerhouses to be included in the newest Macbook Pros. A leaked “Macbook9,1″ running on a 2.7GHz Core i7 processor scored a Geekbench total of 12,252. That’s a 15.5% improvement over the current top-of-the-line Core i7 Macbook Pro. Geekbench, a popular benchmark app that measures a computer’s overall performance, has recorded pre-released Mac scores in the past.
Along with improved performance and speed, these new processors natively support USB 3.0 which has an average data transfer speed of 5 gigabytes per second (up to 10.5 times faster than USB 2.0). While Thunderbolt is almost twice as fast as USB 3.0, there aren’t many cost-effective Thunderbolt accessories yet. Luckily, there are a bunch of great USB 3.0 hard drives and other peripherals already on the shelves.
Lastly, while the graphics card is still unconfirmed, sites like 9to5Mac have found references to the NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M in Mountain Lion’s beta code. If this is the bundled NVIDIA chip, users can expect higher gaming performance and much better battery life.
The new 15 inch Macbook will be completely redesigned: it will sacrifice the optical drive, FireWire port, and ethernet jack for a thinner body like the Macbook Air (but most likely not tapered) and sport a beautiful Retina Display. The rumored unibody will have two USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, and 1 or 2 Thunderbolt ports as well as an SD card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, and a Magsafe charging port. Apple will continue to sell a separate external USB Superdrive for those who still need access to a CD/DVD drive and Thunderbolt docks, like this one from Belkin will convert one Thunderbolt port into a few USB, ethernet, and FireWire jacks.
It has been rumored that Apple will bring their successful iPhone and iPad Retina Display to the Macbook Pro. The 2048 x 1536 Retina Display on the 9.7 inch iPad is stunning. Now imagine a 15 inch screen with the same pixel density! Photographs, movies, games, and text will look amazingly sharp with colors that will appear bright and vivid. There even appears to be an option in the Mountain Lion beta to change the resolution mode to adjust the screen to the desired sharpness.
Lastly, the keyboard and Multi-Touch trackpad might be different: the current glass trackpad might grow even larger to accomodate for Mountain Lion’s gesture heavy OS, and Apple might introduce glass keys. Although this is entirely speculative, I think glass keys could be a step towards a totally redesigned keyboard: a keyboard that can tailor its function to each specific application. The iPad and iPhone already do this- when placing a phone call, the keyboard shows only numbers and typing a URL into safari changes the keyboard to include a “.com” key. Imagine using your laptop to play a game that has keys that list their in-game function. A music composition application could line the keyboard with graphics of notes and rests allowing a composer to simply press the “quarter note” key instead of having to memorize a command and letter key combination.
To wrap up, the new Macbook Pros, expected in the next couple of weeks, will likely have a thinner unibody case, a Retina Display, an Ivy Bridge processor, and USB 3.0. It’s possible we could see a reinvented glass keyboard, but it seems to be an unfounded idea that this change will be introduced at this time.
[Amazing mock-up Macbook Pro image by Guilherme Schasiepen]