UPDATE: Looks like the new MacBook Pros do NOT use any form of NVIDIA Optimus technology.  Check the bottom of the article of the update!

In a move that really should surprise no one, Apple has picked today to launch a new line of MacBook Pro machines to replace the most recent Core 2 lineup introduced last October.  It was there that Apple first added NVIDIA to the product specifications by including the GeForce 9400M chipset in all models and even added the discrete GeForce 9600 GPU in the higher end models.  Today, the popular mobile computers will not only get graphical updates but the long awaited inclusion of Intel’s mobility Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs.

Here are the major changes:
  • MacBook Pro 13-in model
    • Staying with Core 2 Duo processors
    • GeForce 320M graphics
    • NO Optimus technology
    • $1199 starting price
    • 10 hours battery life
  • MacBook Pro 15-in model
    • Core i5 and Core i7 CPU options
    • GeForce GT 330M graphics
    • Optimus technology (Apple calls it “automatic graphics switching technology”)
    • $1799 starting price
    • 8-9 hours battery life
  • MacBook Pro 17-in model
    • Core i5 and Core i7 CPU options
    • GeForce GT 330M graphics
    • Optimus technology
    • $2299 starting price
    • 8-9 hours battery life
Just as we expected would happen, Apple has gone ahead and stuck with NVIDIA graphics technology in the MacBook Pro (though discrete only of course since the Intel Arrandale processors integrate graphics on chip) and have implemented the well received Optimus technology; though Apple won’t be using that branding. 

Apple updates MacBook Pro line with NVIDIA Optimus and new Intel CPUs - Mobile 2

Other than those changes, the machines are largely the same.  I was disappointed to see that Apple chose not to integrate support for the latest USB 3.0 technology that would have drastically increased the “future-proof-ness” of the hardware.  Also, the continued lack of an ExpressCard slot on the 15-in models is a killer for me, but that’s just a personal gripe I assume.

As we have come to expect with Apple, we are seeing solid but not revolutionary changes on the MacBook line that should please most users looking for an excuse to upgrade.

UPDATE @ 4:10pm ET: According to some people I am talking to the new MacBook Pros with “automatic graphics switching technology” are in fact NOT using a derivative of NVIDIA’s Optimus Technology as I originally assumed.  We don’t have a whole lot of details on what Apple decided to go with but I can confirm that it is a completely custom design and implementation of a seamless graphics switching system.  On one hand, it surprises me that Apple would want to spend the extra resources to do it themselves but on the other hand we all know that Apple has a tendency to only work with outside parties when absolutely necessary. 

The “automatic graphics switching technology” from Apple could be completely software based or it might still be using hardware muxes of some kind; until we see a tear down of the innards or answer from Apple, we’ll keep investigating.  The important thing for consumers though will be if it works and works as well as if not better than what NVIDIA has done on the Windows notebook market.

Also, as for the 13-in MacBook Pro, it turns out that it using a new NVIDIA chipset: the MCP89 we have oft discussed.  Because the 13-in machine still uses the Core 2 line of processors NVIDIA still has the ability to manufacturer chipsets for it without the legal issues from Intel.  This will also mark the last NVIDIA MCP produced in the modern era.  Kind of sad isn’t it?  So sad in fact that NVIDIA didn’t even as much as mention it to us or put out a press release announcing it.  I also think that we might see MCP89 show up in other Core 2 based Apple products as expected, we just don’t know when.  NVIDIA’s chipset team is down to their last table scraps…