Apple's MacBook Pro family gets a straightforward, hypeless upgrade

MacBook Pro update 2010

Since Apple is now a self-proclaimed "mobile device company," its trusty line of notebook computers received an update today with none of the commotion that the iPad and iPhone recently earned. Still, Apple's entire 2010 line of MacBook Pro notebooks has been updated with new CPUs and graphics processors, and a longer promised battery life. It may be small, but it is by no means insignificant.

The big news about Apple's notebook refresh last year was its overall drop in price. Cupertino got rid of the MacBook Pro's ExpressCard slot and removable battery, but offered a two-hour bump in battery life for several hundred dollars less than previous models. It was advertised as Apple's "most affordable lineup ever."

Today's update improves the lineup in the following ways:

13" MacBook Pro: All now include Intel Core 2 Duo Processors, 4 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 320M Graphics Processor. The 2.4 GHz model with 250 GB HDD costs $1,199, and the 2.66 GHz model with 320 GB HDD costs $1,499.

15"-17" MacBook Pro: All models now include the Nvidia GeForce GT 330M discrete graphics card and the Intel HD integrated graphics processor for balanced performance. These can now be switched automatically while in use. Additionally, the processors have been switched from the Intel Core 2 Duo to the 32nm Intel i5 and i7.

The 15" MacBook Pro comes in three configurations: 2.4 GHz Core i5, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M and 320GB HDD ($1,799); 2.53 GHz Core i5, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M and 500 GB HDD ($1,999); and 2.66 GHz Core i7, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M and 500 GB HDD ($2,199).

The 17" MacBook Pro can be purchased with a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M and 500 GB hard drive for $2,299.

All of these notebooks feature what Apple calls "inertial scrolling," or the ability to flick through long lists of content like one would on an iPhone. The harder the flick, the further the list scrolls. It doesn't come to an abrupt stop, but rather slows to a halt.

Altimeter Group analyst Michael Gartenberg today pointed out that all of this may seem like a very minor update, but what seem like little tweaks ultimately result in a better user experience.

"What many other vendors miss is the attention to the small details that by themselves don't matter all that much but add value and delight as the user discovers them," Gartenberg wrote in his blog this morning. "Are they small issues? Sure, but they fix real problems. The need to switch graphic modes by logging in and out is not a big deal but it's inelegant. It costs wasted cycles. It makes things harder for the user. Some engineer was bothered enough by this to fix it. It's now a feature. It's now the standard on how this function should work. In short, for those that use this feature, it will bring a smile to their face. To those who never used it, it's one more way the computing experience became that much more seamless."

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