Updates to Apple's MacBook line of laptops are always closely watched, and they generally fall into two categories: there are major evolutions, such as the switch to aluminum unibody construction in 2008, and then there are minor spec upgrades, typically small bumps to processor speed and hard drive size.
The newest version of the MacBook Pro line surprisingly falls outside of those two extremes. The iconic unibody aluminum construction remains, as does its large glass multitouch trackpad (in fact, from the outside, the new MacBook Pro looks identical to its predecessor). But the revamped internal components are much more than a simple spec upgrade.
The 15- and 17-inch Pro models have moved to Intel's newer line of Core-i CPUs, from the older Core 2 Duo models (the 13-inch Pro, unfortunately, still uses a Core 2 Duo CPU). Both mainstream Core i5 and high-end Core i7 versions are available. This requires a new chipset architecture (courtesy of Intel) and a switch from the integrated Nvidia GeForce 9400 to Intel's built-in integrated graphics for the systems' default graphics.
Our review sample is the highest-end 15-inch base configuration, with a 2.66GHz Core i7 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce GT330M discrete graphics. At $2,199, it's definitely expensive, but it's still $100 cheaper than the previous high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro configuration.
We continue to hope for oft-requested extras such as HDMI, Blu-ray, and 3G, but at the same time, the Core i7 CPU is extremely impressive, both on paper and in action. With the 13-inch model still stuck with older Core 2 Duo CPUs, this revamped 15-inch MacBook Pro now feels like the line's powerhouse flagship model.