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A supposedly leaked icon for "ThunderBolt" the rumored name for Apple's upcoming Intel Light Peak implementation.  (Source: Engadget)

A leaked image of uncertain credibility shows ThunderBolt co-inhabiting with the DisplayPort adapter.  (Source: Engadget)

The 13-inch MBP appears to be ditching the discrete GPU, if this leak is to be believed.  (Source: fscklog.com via Engadget)
Is Apple preparing to hurl a Thunderbolt at its users?

Apple typically updates its MacBook Pro lineup at least once a year.  After an update in July, Apple is looking to kick things off a bit early, with a refresh coming later this week according to numerous reports.

Engadget claims to have a leaked spec sheet of the 13-inch model, along with photos of the shiny new Apple notebook.

What is presumably the entry-level model at 13 inches is powered by an Intel 2.3GHz Sandy Bridge i5 processor with 3 MB of L3 cache.  That's down ever so slightly speed-wise from the current generation, but given Sandy Bridge's improvement it should be a bit faster while offering more battery life.

Apple looks to be bumping its DDR3 memory interface from 1066 MHz in the current model to 1333 MHz in the new model.  The hard drive gets a slight capacity bump, as we anticipated, jumping from 250 GB to 320 GB.

The screen resolution (1280x800) remains unchanged, as does the FaceTime camera, wireless adapters, and optical drive.

A minor addition is the inclusion of an SDXC reader, which supports both normal SD cards and the extended capacity (XC) models.

But two things really stand out about the spec sheet.  The first is the fact that Apple has ditched a discrete graphics chip, opting to go with only Sandy Bridge's built in Intel 3000 HD GPU. Hopefully its larger and higher-end models (15", 17") will have new discrete GPUs.

Graphics aside, the other intriguing note is a new port dubbed "Thunderbolt" that apparent co-inhabits the DisplayPort adaptor.  This is supposedly the implementation of Light Peak.

Light Peak is Intel's answer to USB 3.0.  Despite claims of spectacular performance, based on the fiber optics implementation, the communications format in its current form should offer little if any speed gain from USB 3.0 given that it's being reportedly implemented on copper wires.  And where USB 3.0 is an open standard that anyone can use or contribute to, LightPeak is a proprietary standard, which OEMs will have to license from Intel.

If Apple supports Light Peak, it would be the first major OEM to embrace the format.

If the specs sheet holds true, it creates an interesting dilemma for Apple buyers.  The new-ish 13-inch MacBook Air offers a superior discrete GPU, a higher resolutions screen, and is thinner/lighter.  But it comes with a much slower Intel Core 2 Duo processor and lacks built-in optical media capabilities.



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GeForce 320M is not a discrete solution
By Flunk on 2/23/2011 9:38:27 AM , Rating: 3
The NVIDIA GeForce 320M the comes with the current MacBook Air is a integrated solution that has the gpu on the northbridge. Not a discrete GPU as mentioned above.

Notebookcheck.com has the Geforce 320M rated lower than the Intel HD Graphics 3000 that the supposed spec sheet listed describes.




RE: GeForce 320M is not a discrete solution
By Leper Messiah on 2/23/2011 9:59:48 AM , Rating: 1
Notbookcheck.com's benchmarking process is pretty worthless though. I don't think I've seen any real world benchmarks that say that the HD3000 is better than the 320M.


RE: GeForce 320M is not a discrete solution
By chaos386 on 2/23/2011 10:21:59 AM , Rating: 2
Anandtech has a comparison of the 320M and HD 3000 in Bench: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/241?vs=327&...

The HD 3000 wins most of the benchmarks, although it's paired with a much faster CPU (2.3 GHz quad core Sandy Bridge vs a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo). It's not the best comparison, but it's something.


RE: GeForce 320M is not a discrete solution
By Ushio01 on 2/23/2011 2:20:42 PM , Rating: 2
Using your link it shows 6 games being tested each of which has a lowest and medium/highest depending on the game and shows the 320M winning with 4 games at the higher setting looks like a downgrade to me.


By wielander on 2/23/2011 6:38:13 PM , Rating: 2
In each of those cases neither is capable of decent framerates so the benchmarks at the lower settings are far more important. Sandy Bridge wins solidly in synthetics and is better in 2/3rds of the benchmarks above 30fps. The built-in video encoding/decoding tech is far more significant in my opinion, though (cuda video coding is still worthless for consumers and has practically been abandoned).


RE: GeForce 320M is not a discrete solution
By omnicronx on 2/23/2011 11:27:38 AM , Rating: 3
Don't belive the hype, this iteration is a small downgrade from the 320M.. I'm going to guess Apple only now finds its performance acceptable for its use, and having the GPU on die allows for smaller form factors.

In depth tests have also shown that its not exactly faultless either, i.e as usual Intel is going to have to work out the kinks in the drivers.

Also does not truly support OpenCL which I find interesting considering how entrenched it is in OSX.

If anything the fact they can now use newer Intel CPU's is the real story here.. I don't think the switch back to Intel graphics should excite anyone considering their history.


By omnicronx on 2/23/2011 11:39:53 AM , Rating: 2
I would also like to point out that those benchmarks are most likely for Windows based notebooks, none of which I can see are using any sort of LV/ULV variants which could easily have a lower clocked GPU.


RE: GeForce 320M is not a discrete solution
By Flunk on 2/23/2011 1:24:36 PM , Rating: 2
Not the point of my post. My point is that it is not, as described above, a discrete solution. The performance is immaterial to that point.


By omnicronx on 2/23/2011 1:36:51 PM , Rating: 2
You made two points, I replied to one of them.. So clearly performance is of relevance to one of your points. If you don't want someone to comment on one of your points, then stick to one thing at a time ;)

Though you are correct, certainly not a discrete solution with it being on the north bridge and utilizing shared memory and all..


By Solandri on 2/23/2011 3:53:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I still can't get my notebook to display anything higher than 1366x768 on my 1080p HDTV when it's using the Intel GMA HD. I've tried upgrading drivers, manually tweaking config files you're not supposed to manually config, etc. It displays fine on my 1920x1200 monitor, but it refuses to believe the TV can display 1920x1080. I have to switch it to the nVidia GT 330M to get 1920x1080 on the TV.

That said, it was a really sleazy move by nVidia to release the GT 320M as a discrete graphics chipset, then name their integrated chipset the 320M.


By KoolAidMan1 on 2/23/2011 5:19:17 PM , Rating: 2
Incorrect, the 320M is a little slower than the HD 3000: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/241?vs=327&...

As for OpenCL, apparently Intel has hacked in some sort of OpenCL compute on the CPU itself. It obviously would have additional overhead instead of having it on the GPU (GPU compute is the whole point), but given the choice to go with a Core 2 Duo/NVIDIA solution again or Sandy Bridge, I think Apple made the right call. This will be a stopgap solution until Ivy Bridge (which does have OpenCL) drops next year.


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