Apple updates MacBook Pro family with i5, i7 processors

Faster processor, faster video RAM are the key changes; other capabilities remain unchanged

Apple has updated the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models with Intel's Core i5 and i7 processors, which will include two integrated graphics processors to improve the laptops' battery life and performance.

Apple users can pick between four standard models, three with a 15-inch display and one with a 17-inch display, according to the company's online store. The least expensive option is the 15-inch model with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 for $1,799. The high-end 15-inch model has a 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 and costs $2,199.

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The new 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with a 1440x900-pixel LED glossy display. Users can also choose a high-resolution 1680x1050-pixel glossy or antiglare display, which will add $100 and $150, respectively, to the cost, according to the Apple Store.

All three models have 4GB RAM of memory as the standard, and an upgrade to 8GB costs adds $400 to the cost. The graphics are based on a Nvidia GeForce GT 330M with 256MB of memory.

The standard 17-inch model comes with a 2.53GHz Intel i5 processor. Upgrading to a 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 adds $200 to the $2,299 base price. It has 4GB of RAM memory. The display has a 1920x1200-pixel glossy LED display. For another $50 users can buy the antiglare version. It also has the Nvidia GeForce GT 330M, but with 512MB of memory.

In addition to Nvidia's graphics processor, the Core i5 and Core i7 chips also include Intel's graphics processor integrated with the CPU in a single chip package. But the Nvidia chip adds a whopping 182 gigaflops of processing power to the laptops through 48 processing cores.

Intel has said its graphics processor is capable of playing back full 1080p high-definition video, but Nvidia chips are widely considered to be faster and more efficient at processing multimedia applications. Apple has included its own switching technology in the 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models that toggle execution of tasks between the graphics processor, depending on the application. Nvidia's graphics processors are known to be faster than Intel graphics at tasks like processing Flash and encoding and decoding video. That will help the systems deliver "peak performance" and longer battery life, Apple said.

The improved hardware means the laptops will have eight to nine hours of battery life on a single charge, Apple said.

The laptops will come with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. The laptops will come with between 320GB and 500GB of hard drive storage, but users can upgrade to 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB solid state drives. Memory on all new 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro laptops is expandable to up to 8GB.

The new models will start shipping Wednesday, according to Apple's store.

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