Apple took some big steps forward with the refreshed 13.3″ MacBook Pro. The Early 2011 model migrates from the dated Intel Core 2 Duo to Intel’s newer Core i5 and i7 CPUs. These dual-core mobile CPUs have a 3-4 MB level 3 cache shared by both cores and, thanks to Turbo Boost architecture, should be significantly more powerful than the Core 2 Duo processors they replace despite a tiny change in rated CPU speed.
The hot new technology for this generation is Thunderbolt, a 10 Gbps data connection that uses the Mac’s Mini DisplayPort. Thunderbolt is 12 times as fast as FireWire 800, over 20 times as fast as USB 2.0, and twice as fast as USB 3.0, which Apple seems in no hurry to adopt. Thunderbolt can be used for video, hard drives, and networking, and adapters let you connect FireWire and USB devices.
Apple has improved AirPort performance by building three WiFi antennas into the Early 2011 MacBook Pros, allowing three channels with 150 Mbps bandwidth for a maximum bandwidth of 450 Mbps.
The 13″ MacBook Pro also takes some steps backward: The Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics give way to integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, which uses 384 MB of system memory (up from 256 MB in last year’s model).
The new models are rated at only 7 hours of battery power, down from 10 for last year’s models, due to changes in the way Apple measures battery life. In testing, the Early 2011 models generally match or outperform the 2010 models.
The glass trackpad is the same one found in the previous generation of MacBook Pro models. It supports 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-finger gestures. The entire trackpad functions as the mouse button.
The 13″ MBP uses the same keyboard as before, complete with backlighting. The black keys look sharp with the aluminum enclosure, and the 13″ MacBook Pro only comes with a glossy screen.
The new model comes in 2.3 GHz i5 and 2.7 GHz i7 versions. 320 and 500 GB hard drives are standard. 4 GB of RAM is standard, and it can be upgraded to 16 GB. 128, 256, and 512 GB SSDs are extra cost options.
Editor’s note: The next two paragraphs are from the profile of the previous version of the MacBook Pro. At this time we do not know if they apply to the new Unibody model.
Note that the built-in display is only capable of 18-bit color, not the full 24-bit color you might expect.
Unlike early MacBooks, where every USB port could provide 500 mA of power, only one USB port provides full power – the port closer to the front.
The Apple Remote is a US$20 option.
Battery life is claimed to be 7 hours of wireless productivity.
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Closed Lid Mode: All Intel ‘Books support “lid closed” (or clamshell) mode, which leaves the built-in display off and dedicates all video RAM to an external display. To used closed lid mode, your ‘Book must be plugged into the AC adapter and connected to an external display and a USB or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard (you might also want to consider external speakers). Power up your ‘Book until the desktop appears on the external display and then close the lid. Your ‘Book will go to sleep, but you can wake it by moving the mouse or using the keyboard. The built-in display will remain off, and the external monitor will become your only display. Since all video RAM is now dedicated to the external monitor, you may have more colors available at higher resolutions.
To resume use of the internal display, you need to disconnect the external display, put the computer to sleep, and then open the lid. This will wake up your ‘Book and restore use of the built-in display.
Intel-based Macs use a partitioning scheme known as GPT. Only Macintel models can boot from GPT hard drives. Both PowerPC and Intel Macs can boot from APM (Apple’s old partitioning scheme) hard drives, which is the format you must use to create a universal boot drive in Leopard. Power PC Macs running any version of the Mac OS prior to 10.4.2 cannot mount GPT volumes. PowerPC Macs won’t let you install OS X to a USB drive or choose it as your startup volume, although there is a work around for that.
- introduced 2011.02.24 at US$1,199 (2.3 GHz dual-core i5, 320 GB hard drive, 4 GB RAM) and US$1,499 (2.7 GHz dual-core i7, 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB RAM); replaced by slightly faster model 2011.10.24.
- Part no.: MC700 (2.3 GHz), MC724 (2.7 GHz)
- requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard or later
- Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard compatibility
- Grand Central Dispatch is supported.
- 64-bit operation is supported.
- OpenCL is supported.
- OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion compatibility
- AirPlay Mirroring is supported.
- AirDrop is supported.
- Power Nap is not supported.
- CPU: 2.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or 2.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
- Level 3 cache: 3 MB shared cache in i5, 4 MB in i7
- Bus: 1066 MHz
- RAM: 4 GB, expandable to 16 GB using DDR3 SO-DIMMs
- Performance (2.3/2.7 GHz)
- 64-bit Geekbench: 5883/6778
- Speedmark 6.5: 140/155
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 3000
- VRAM: uses 384 MB of system RAM
- Video out: Thunderbolt port, which is backward compatible with Mini DisplayPort (VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort supported with optional adapters)
- display: 13.3″ glossy 1280 x 800 18-bit 113 ppi color active matrix
- supports 1280 x 800, 1152 x 720, 1024 x 640, and 800 x 500 pixels at 16:10 aspect ratio; 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, and 640 x 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; 1024 x 768, 800 x 600, and 640 x 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio (stretched); 720 x 480 pixels at 3:2 aspect ratio; 720 x 480 pixels at 3:2 aspect ratio (stretched); to 2560 x 1600 on an external display
- allows mirroring to external display or extended desktop mode
- Hard drive: 320/500 GB 5400 rpm Serial ATA standard, 750 GB and solid state drive (SSD) options (128, 256, or 512 GB) on 6 Gbps SATA bus
- optical drive: 8x dual-layer SuperDrive writes DVD±R and DVD+R at up to 8x, DVD-RW at up to 4x; dual-layer DVD±RW at up to 4x; reads DVDs at 8x (double-layer at 6x), dual-layer and DVD-ROM at 6x; writes CD-R at 24x, writes CD-RW at 16x, reads CDs at 24x on 3 Gbps SATA bus
- drive bus: SATA 1 (1.5 Mbps)
- Thunderbolt: 1 port
- USB: 2 USB 2.0 ports
- FireWire 400: none
- FireWire 800: 1 port, backward compatible with FireWire 400
- Ethernet: 10/100/gigabit
- WiFi: 802.11n AirPort Extreme built in, three antennas support up to 450 Mbps bandwidth
- Modem: No longer offered by Apple
- Bluetooth: BT 2.1 built in
- ExpressCard/34: none
- SD Card Slot: 1
- expansion bays: none
- battery: 63.5 Watt-hour
- AC adapter: 60W MagSafe
- size: 8.94 x 12.78 x 0.95″ (227 x 325 x 24.1 mm)
- Weight: 4.5 pounds (2.04 kg)
- The Early 2011 13″ MacBook Pro value equation, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2011.03.01. The new i5 and i7 models have a lot to offer, but how do they compare with close-out and refurb 2010 models?
- Best online 13″ MacBook Pro deals.
- Best Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 deals. Best online prices for Leopard and Snow Leopard.
- Protect your notebook against loss, theft, data loss, and security breaches, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.08.25. 10 percent of laptops are lost or stolen every year. Tips on preventing theft, securing your data, and recovering from a lost, stolen, or broken notebook.
- The 64-bitness of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.08.19. Although Apple is promoting Snow Leopard as a fully 64-bit operating system, it defaults to running in 32-bit mode.
- The Road Ahead: 64-bit Computing, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.08.19. Personal computers started with 8-bit CPUs, Macs started out with a 24-bit operating system, and 32-bit computing is starting to give way to 64 bits.
- Optical drives on way out, MacBooks can’t display millions of colors, MacBook Air doomed, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.07.17. Also problems with 7200 rpm drives, more iTablet speculation, the subsidized netbook rip-off, bargain ‘Books from $179 to $2,144, and more.
- Optimized Software Builds Bring Out the Best in Your Mac, Dan Knight, Low End Mac’s Online Tech Journal, 2009.06.30. Applications compiled for your Mac’s CPU can load more quickly and run faster than ones compiled for universal use.
- Avoiding dead and stuck pixels on your LCD screen, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.06.22. While CRT monitors would sometimes develop burn-in, LCD monitors may ship with or develop bad pixels.
- Low-end MacBook Pros: SD Card and FireWire in, ExpressCard out, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.06.16. The new 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro have FireWire 800 and SD Card slots, but ExpressCard is gone, left for the 17″ MacBook Pro.
- Low End Mac’s Safe Sleep FAQ, Dan Knight, Online Tech Journal, 2009.06.15. What is Safe Sleep mode? Which Macs support it? How can you enable or disable it? And more.
- The Safe Sleep Mailbag, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2009.06.15. Safe Sleep mode is enabled by default on modern MacBooks. How it works, and how to change how it works.
- 13″ MacBook Pro a Practically Perfect Replacement for the 12″ PowerBook, Andrew J Fishkin, Best Tools for the Job, 2009.06.15. Except for being an inch wider, the 13″ MacBook Pro surpasses the 12″ PowerBook G4 in every respect.
- Mac ‘Book Power Management Adventures, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.05.19. If your ‘Book won’t power up, shuts down while your working, or has other power issues, resetting its internal power manager may clear things up.
- Making the switch from a G4 PowerBook to a Unibody MacBook, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.03.17. The transition to an Intel-based Mac hasn’t been without its problems – slow dialup performance, incompatibility with Eudora, and no real gain in speed with standby apps.
- MacBook design limits USB ports, Unibody audio prolem solved, G4 upgrades disappearing, and more, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2009.02.18. How to get the headphone jack on Unibody ‘Books working again, no more dual 1.8 GHz G4 upgrades, and a letter of appreciation.
- 2 compact portable USB 2.0 hubs, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2009.01.12. Compact hubs from Targus and Proporta make a great complement to your notebook computer. Each accepts a third-party AC adapter to provide bus power.
- MacBook keyboard among best ever, glass trackpad less than intuitive, TiBook desktop mod, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2009.01.09. Also $179 to change battery in 17″ MacBook Pro, argument for an Apple netbook, MacBook Air SuperDrive hacked for any Mac, bargain ‘Books from $170 to $2,299, and more.
- Apple’s half-baked support for DisplayPort, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2009.01.06. The DisplayPort specification supports audio, so why does Apple use USB to route sound to the LED Cinema Display?
- Ubuntu Linux and Boot camp make it easy to create a triple boot Mac, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.12.24. Boot Camp makes it easy to install Windows on Intel Macs, and Ubuntu now makes it easy to install Linux to a virtual Windows drive.
- Notebooks and blackouts, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.12.23. When the power goes out, a notebook computer with long-lasting batteries lets you keep working for hours and hours.
- Why DisplayPort is the video connector for the future, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.12.23. DisplayPort supports multiple displays, combines audio and video on one cable, and costs nothing to use.
- New MacBook trackpad takes some getting used to, Alan Zisman, Zis Mac, 2008.12.22. The large glass trackpad is a joy to use in many ways, but it can be frustrating for longtime notebook users and has issues with Boot Camp.
- The ‘Better Safe Than Sorry’ Guide to Installing Mac OS X Updates, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.12.16. Most users encounter no problems using Software Update, but some preflight work and using the Combo updater means far less chance of trouble.
- Why You Should Partition Your Mac’s Hard Drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.12.11. “At the very least, it makes sense to have a second partition with a bootable version of the Mac OS, so if you have problems with your work partition, you can boot from the ’emergency’ partition to run Disk Utility and other diagnostics.”
- MacBook slowdown without battery, DisplayPort and DRM, 256 GB SSD, MagSafe solutions, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.11.26. Also Mac netbook prospects, laptop cooling table with 2 fans, solar notebook bag, hard shell cases for unibody ‘Books, bargain ‘Books from $500 to $2,299, and more.
- Software to keep your MacBook cool, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.11.25. Heat is the enemy of long hardware life. Two programs to keep your MacBook running cooler.
- DisplayPort copy protection, trackpad update, netbooks not to be taken lightly, and more, The ‘Book Review, 2008.11.21. Also Apple set for record sales, 4-finger gestures on original MacBook Air, MacBook Apple’s best consumer notebook to date, Cricket laptop stand, bargain ‘Books from $490 to $2,299, and more.
- Virtualization shootout: VMWare Fusion 2 vs. Parallels Desktop 4, Kev Kitchens, Kitchens Sync, 2008.11.20. Both programs do the same thing, but one runs Windows XP smoothly alongside Mac apps, while the other bogs down everything but Windows.
- Kensington Ci95m Wireless Mouse: Great battery life, smooth performance, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.11.13. Kensington’s slim wireless mouse is well built, works smoothly, has great battery life, and avoids Bluetooth pairing and wake-up issues.
- One OS to rule them all, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.10.29. With Fusion or Parallels letting you run Windows at full speed, Mac OS X gives you the best of both worlds.
- How to clone Mac OS X to a new hard drive, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.10.07. Whether you want to put a bigger, faster drive in your Mac or clone OS X for use in another Mac, here’s the simple process.
- Apple Trumps Microsoft in Making the 64-bit Transition Transparent to Users, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.09.18. To use more than 4 GB of RAM under Windows, you need a 64-bit PC and the 64-bit version of Windows. On the Mac, OS X 10.4 and later already support it.
- Does running OS X system maintenance routines really do any good?, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.08.26. Mac OS X is designed to run certain maintenance routines daily, weekly, and monthly – but can’t if your Mac is off or asleep.
- Tricking out your notebook for superior desktop duty, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.07.29. For desktop use, you don’t need to be limited by the built-in trackpad, keyboard, and display or a notebook’s compromised ergonomics.
- Kensington Portable Power Outlet a great accessory for the road warrior, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.07.22. With three AC outlets and two USB charging ports, this compact device is a great way to have extra power outlets when you’re on the go.
- Free VirtualBox for Mac now a virtual contender, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.07.21. A year ago, the Mac version of VirtualBox lacked some essential features. Over the past year, it’s grown into a very useful tool.
- Win the depreciation game by buying on the low end, Charles Moore, ‘Book Value, 2008.06.24. The worst depreciation afflicts high-end models. By buying a less powerful version, choosing certified refurbished, or picking up a used computer, you’ll come out ahead.
- 16:9 computer displays: Let’s not go there, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.06.17. “…there’s no reason our computer displays should match the proportions of our television displays.”
- SheepShaver brings Classic Mac OS to Intel Macs and Leopard, Alan Zisman, Mac2Windows, 2008.05.20. Mac OS X 10.5 doesn’t support Classic Mode. Neither does Leopard. But SheepShaver lets you emulate a PowerPC Mac and run the Classic Mac OS.
- Windows on Macs: Three paths for integration, Jason Packer, Macs in the Enterprise, 2008.05.14. Mac users have three routes for running Windows apps: Run Windows using Boot Camp or virtualization, or use a compatibility layer such as WINE.
- 18 bits can’t display millions of colors, today’s magic is different from yesterday’s, and more, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.04.16. Also more feedback on Mac browsers, slow dialup Internet, and a SCSI-to-USB 2.0 solution.
- 18-bit video inadequate, restoring AppleWorks speed, Macintosh display info, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.04.09. Also problems importing AppleWorks drawings and a damaged, unfixable mail database in Outlook Express 5.
- Millions vs. thousands of colors: What’s the difference?, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.04.07. Once again Apple is being sued over a Mac that can display ‘only’ 262,144 colors per pixel, not the millions it claims. Does it realy matter?
- Restore stability to a troubled Mac with a clean system install, Keith Winston, Linux to Mac, 2008.01.15. If your Mac is misbehaving, the best fix just might be a fresh reinstallation of Mac OS X – don’t forget to backup first.
- We need more than 2 USB ports in MacBooks, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.01.14. There’s something wrong when you can’t plug a flash drive, mouse, and printer into a notebook computer at the same time.
- Does a college freshman need to run Windows on a MacBook?, Al Poulin, My Turn, 2007.07.24. While you can run Windows on today’s Intel-based Macs, is there any reason most college students would want to or need to?
- Apple sued: Can 262,144 colors be considered ‘millions’?, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2007.05.16. A new class action lawsuit claims Apple is deceiving buyers when it claims to display “millions of colors” on its notebook computers. What’s really going on here?
- 1 core, 2 cores, 4 cores, 8: How much difference does it make?, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2007.04.10. Geekbench scores make it possible to compare the newest 3 GHz 8-core Mac Pro with the 1.5 GHz Core Solo Mac mini – and all the models in between.
- Simple ergonomics for the road warrior, Ed Eubanks Jr, The Efficient Mac User, 2007.01.16. The benefits of external keyboards and mice, laptop stands, typing gloves, and anti-RSI software for notebook users.
- To AppleCare or not to AppleCare?, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2006.11.20. Consumer Reports, which generally recommends against extended warranties, says AppleCare makes sense. But does it?
- Pre-2006 software: The big reason you shouldn’t buy an Intel Mac today, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.11.09. If you work with software that predates the Intel transition, you may be better off sticking with PowerPC Macs. And if you use classic apps, you definitely want to avoid Intel.
- Better laptop performance: What’s the best upgrade?, Andrew J Fishkin, The Mobile Mac, 2006.10.09. Memory, CPU, bus speed, and hard drives all impact performance and battery life. Which upgrades will give you the most up time in the field?
- Drive matters, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2006.06.14. There’s more to picking the right hard drive than size, spindle speed, buffer size, and price. But how can a 5400 rpm drive ever outperform a 7200 rpm drive?
- Power strategies for using your ‘Book in the field: Batteries and AC adapters, Andrew J Fishkin, The Mobile Mac, 2006.06.05. One or two extra batteries and at least one spare AC adapter can be essential when you’re traveling and need to get hours and hours of use from your ‘Book.
- Comparing Apples to Apples: When is Macintel faster? When does PowerPC make more sense?, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2006.01.29. Benchmarks show the Intel Core Duo flies through native code but plods through PowerPC programs. Will PowerPC or Intel give you the more productive workflow?
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, Early 2011) – Technical Specifications, Apple
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