The steady march of rumors about updated MacBook laptops is getting louder, with recent noise about new Intel Core i5 and i7 processors now joined by hints of Nvidia's new Optimus switchable graphics technology. The MacBook Pro line hasn't been updated since June 2009, and could certainly use a refresh to keep up with the latest laptop technology.
Apple Insider claims, "The Mac maker has up and running in its labs several next-generation MacBook Pros that can switch between their integrated and discrete graphics processors automatically." Some current MacBook Pro models allow users to switch from the integrated Nvidia GeForce 9400M to the more powerful 9600M GT GPU through an onscreen prompt. The longstanding problem with this process is that it requires one to shut down all apps and log out of the active user account in order to switch between GPUs. On top of that, you have to remember to switch as needed, and then remember to turn the discrete GPU off to save battery life.
Nvidia's new Optimus technology allows a laptop to turn its discrete GPU on and off on the fly, with the system automatically deciding when it needs the extra graphics horsepower. It switches without making the screen blink off for a second, or requiring you to quit any apps. In our recent tests, using an Asus UL50, it was completely seamless, and makes every other method for switching between graphics chips seem outdated.
Earlier in February, a series of rumors, originally reported by Apple Insider, Mac Rumors, and Gizmodo, claimed that retail electronics chain Best Buy had placeholder listings for upcoming new MacBook SKUs in its computer system, presumably with updated Intel CPUs, such as the Core i5 and Core i7.
Though Apple rumors are every tech fan's parlor game of choice, and often more wishful thinking than reality, both of these rumors sound like the kind of developments we'd expect to see in a refreshed MacBook Pro. However, with the iPad launching next month, this may not be the opportune time to push through a fairly extensive component upgrade on this popular laptop line.