It's official: MacBook Pros pack Sandy Bridge, Light Peak

That story we posted this morning kind of spoiled it, but nevertheless, this warrants some attention. Apple has refreshed its line of MacBook Pro laptops, including Sandy Bridge processors and its new Thunderbolt port across the board. I'm not seeing external design changes, and prices are largely similar, too—although Apple has removed the $1,999 option for the 15" MacBook Pro, and the 17" system has gone up from $2,299 to $2,499.

Glancing over the specs reveals other, less notable changes, like the increase in hard drive capacity from 250-500GB to 320-750GB depending on the model, the switch to Mobility Radeon HD 6000 discrete graphics on the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros, and the decrease in claimed battery life from 8-9 hours to seven hours for all units. I suspect Apple might be using the same, updated battery testing methodology it introduced with the latest MacBook Airs, which would explain the smaller number. (Based on what we saw in our testing, it seems unlikely that the jump to Sandy Bridge would impact battery life negatively.)

As rumored, the Thunderbolt port is none other than the first consumer implementation of Intel's Light Peak interconnect, at least in its electrical form. Both Apple and Intel have put up explanatory pages describing the technology with a decent amount of precision.

The gist is that the new Thunderbolt port has the same form factor as a Mini DisplayPort output, but it can carry both DisplayPort and PCI Express signals, and it offers maximum bandwidth of 10 Gbps per channel. The connector on the new MacBook Pros has two channels, so Apple says you can "daisy-chain multiple high-speed devices and a display, without using a hub — and without reducing performance." As icing on the cake, the Thunderbolt port also delivers up to 10W of power, so devices don't necessarily need their own power adapters. Now, all we have to do is wait for Thunderbolt devices to start hitting stores... and for PC makers to make the jump, as well.

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