Walt Mossberg, one of the most famous Apple insiders from the Wall Street Journal and an old friend of the late Steve Jobs, offers some sage advice:
"If you're thinking of buying a new laptop this spring, my advice is to think again," he said. "Apple is overdue for redesigned laptops, especially in its MacBook Pro line, and it is a good bet that new, possibly heavily redesigned, models will begin appearing later this year. Current Macs will likely be upgradable to Mountain Lion, but if you buy now, you'll miss out on the likely new hardware."
"Mountain Lion" is the newest Mac operating system and the eighth edition of the OS X family. Announced in February but set to release "this summer," Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion will add a handful of useful features that iOS users love, including a proper notes application, deep integration with Twitter, Airplay Mirroring, Reminders, and even a Notification Center, which will all make iPhone and iPad owners feel at home on their MacBook Pro computers.
Apple is also adding in a Game Center for Mac users, more sharing options for webpages and apps, and Gatekeeper, the company's intimidating new security feature that gives users more security controls and makes Mac app developers more responsible for malware.
While Apple is likely planning Mountain Lion's release to coincide with the release of new Mac computers, the laptops themselves are reportedly in for some new and exciting features.
Once again, Mr. Mossberg:
"Intel, whose processors are used by most Windows PC makers and by Apple, is on the verge of introducing a new family of chips, called Ivy Bridge, which the chip maker claims will offer much faster graphics performance without sacrificing battery life," he said. "While some Ivy Bridge laptops will be available very soon, the new chips won't show up in large numbers of consumer laptops until around June. So, even before Windows 8 appears, many consumer laptops you buy now will be outclassed by similar machines that will be introduced this summer."
CNET reports that Intel will release the first series of quad-core Ivy Bridge chips between April 23 and April 29, and even though microprocessors aren't generally the sexiest features, Intel's newest chip will be a big enough reason to buy a new MacBook Pro.
Ivy Bridge, while boosting the graphics power and multimedia processing by about 65 percent over previous Intel chips, is also the first chip developed by Intel to employ 3D transistors, and the first to support the new version of USB, called USB 3.0. With a base clock speed of 2.7 GHz and a Turbo Boost speed of 3.7 GHz, Intel's newest chip promises enhanced performance within a modest design. For good reason, Ivy Bridge has managed to attract the biggest names in the computer and laptop industry, including Dell, Sony, HP, Toshiba, Acer, Asus, Microsoft, and Apple.
Other Likely Features Inside the 2012 MacBook Pro
On April 12, VR-Zone reported that Intel has shipped its second-gen Thunderbolt controllers, codenamed "Cactus Ridge," and there's a great chance the new Thunderbolt will be released alongside the new MacBook Pro line-up.
For those who don't know anything about Thunderbolt, the port is what Apple calls "the fastest, most versatile [input/output] ever," which "supports high-resolution displays and high-performance data devices through a single, compact port. It sets new standards for speed, flexibility and simplicity."
Performance-wise, the current generation of Thunderbolt already blows away its competitors. USB 2.0 can achieve 480 Mbps; the new USB 3.0 can achieve about 5 Gbps, but Thunderbolt's channels can both reach speeds up to 10 GBps, making it roughly 20 times faster than USB 2.0, and even 12 times faster than FireWire. The new version of Thunderbolt promises to be even better.
Apple describes the benefits of Intel's Thunderbolt:
"With Thunderbolt, you're just as likely to build a professional video setup around your MacBook Pro or iMac as your Mac Pro. If you're a video editor, imagine using a single port to connect high-performance storage, a high-resolution display, and high-bit-rate video capture devices to handle all the post-production for a feature film. Thunderbolt I/O technology allows you to daisy-chain up to six Thunderbolt peripherals, including an Apple Thunderbolt Display and the Promise Pegasus RAID or LaCie Little Big Disk. You can even add an Apple LED Cinema Display to the end of the chain."
VR-Zone's LG Nilsson, who has inspected the new Thunderbolt controlls, describes how they would work with the new MacBook Pros.
"Another aspect that makes [Thunderbolt "Cactus Ridge"] interesting is that it supports multiple internal DisplayPort inputs," he said. "What this means is that it could in theory interface with a discrete graphics card as well as the integrated graphics from an Intel CPU. This is likely to be the chip used by Apple in its desktop systems, whereas the more power efficient DSL3310 will end up in notebook products."
With a new quad-core Ivy Bridge chip and faster connection speeds with Thunderbolt, the new MacBook Pros will surely be able to accomplish some heavy and meaningful tasks. But Apple reportedly also wants to make the displays on the new laptops substantially better than their predecessors. Sources from the company's supply chains in Asia claim the company's new MacBook Pro laptops will feature a Retina Display resolution of 2800 x 1800 pixels.
"While the prevailing MacBook models have displays with resolutions ranging from 1680 x 1050 to 1280 x 800, the ultra-high resolution for the new MacBook Pro will further differentiate Apple's products from other brands," the sources said.
While this would confirm Apple's move to HiDPI, very few sources have mentioned manufactured displays of such a high resolution. There's a chance Apple will enhance the screens, but maybe not to a "Retina" degree.
Apple will likely also improve a few other tech specs of the MacBook Pro, including its weight, thinness, and battery capacity. Many sources believe the 2012 MacBook Pros will feature a "super-slim wedge profile" similar to the MacBook Air, but if Apple decides to nuke the hard drive in favor of solid-state drives (which Apple designers and fans both love), Apple would have enough room for a bigger and better battery.
One of the biggest design features not yet talked about, but reportedly "highly likely," is a full-surface trackpad. Apple already has patents that cover the issues of a full-surface trackpad, including "accidental touching" by the finger, and the ability to distinguish between a palm and a finger. Many tablets already include these technologies, and it would make sense for Apple to adopt it for the sake of a bigger trackpad, and thus, a more intuitive laptop experience.
Apple's current line-up of MacBook Pro laptops include 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models, which range from $1,200 to $2,500. Assuming Apple follows its own traditional pricing structures, the company will likely sell the highest-end model of the newest laptop at that $2,500 ceiling, even if the computers come with Ivy Bridge and a brilliant new Retina Display. Apple rarely raises its price, and only did so in the past because it needed money.
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