One More Thing for 2008: Montevina based MacBook/Pro

Mobile Penryn will get another update towards the end of this year, with a brand new chipset - codenamed Montevina. Montevina will bring DDR3 support to notebooks, which can also help battery life thanks to DDR3’s lower operating voltage (1.5V vs. 1.8V). Montevina will also use a faster integrated graphics core (helping the MacBook) and a lower power chipset.

The Mobile GM45/47 chipsets are an integral part of Montevina and will feature the new GMA X4500HD graphics core. The X4500HD will add full hardware H.264 decode acceleration, so Apple could begin shipping MacBook Pros with Blu-ray drives after the Montevina upgrade without them being a futile addition. With full hardware H.264 decode acceleration your CPU would be somewhere in the 0 - 10% range of utilization while watching a high definition movie, allowing you to watch a 1080p movie while on battery power. The new graphics core will also add integrated HDMI and DisplayPort support.

The 4-series chipset also enables 1066MHz FSB support, so you can expect Montevina based notebooks to come with slightly different clock speed CPUs (2.26GHz, 2.40GHz, 2.53GHz, 2.80GHz and 3.06GHz at the very high end). By the end of this year Montevina will also support a 45W TDP quad-core mobile processor running at 2.53GHz.

Montevina will also add native support for WiMAX, which could be interesting given that Apple’s iPhone partner isn’t backing the standard while Sprint is.

The special small form factor CPU package that Intel supplied Apple with for the MacBook Air will also become more mainstream with Montevina. While Intel currently only offers the 22 x 22mm small form factor CPUs at 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz frequencies, with Montevina it will go up to 2.26GHz and 2.40GHz. This could conceivably allow Apple to build an even thinner MacBook without sacrificing CPU speed.

Montevina will be yet another evolutionary step on the way to the Nehalem based notebooks, but it will require a board change so Apple could also be tempted to introduce larger changes in that refresh as well.

The timeline for all of this is pretty simple; you can expect Montevina before the end of 2008 (Intel lists it as June on its internal roadmaps, but you can expect to see it in notebooks anytime in Q3). Despite being officially released this year, Nehalem won’t be in notebooks until sometime next year so the big performance upgrade will be a 2009 thing.

That leaves us with what we have today: a CPU update to Apple’s notebook lineup. Obviously CPUs aren’t the only things that get an update as Apple does include larger hard drives and some other minor tweaks in the new models, but the star of the show is Penryn and the problem is that Apple doesn’t usually draw attention to things like that.

Much of the engineering prowess behind the MacBook Air was in Intel’s small form factor Merom CPU packaging, yet Apple’s focus was on what was made possible by the CPU: an ultra-thin notebook. With Penryn, the improvements are far less clear. Performance is greater, but only really in SSE4 optimized applications (of which very few exist, especially under OS X). Battery life should be improved but Apple managed to change its methods of reporting battery life alongside the updated MacBook introduction, so it’s tough to make a direct comparison based on Apple’s information alone (luckily we’ve got a way around that called benchmarking). Needless to say, there are improvements under the hood of these new Macs, it’s just a matter of quantifying them.

With a company like Apple where improvements are normally accompanied by visible changes, if they aren’t it’s very easy to assume that nothing has changed. Today we’re going to try and find out whether or not that’s true.

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  • steveyballmer - Tuesday, July 08, 2008 - link

    ... being a mac!

    get real people! Vista is the thing!

    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com">http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    Reply
  • alisonkay2008 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    You can get the best Macbook Pro Case at Macbook Pro Case Reply
  • alisonkay2008 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Sorry... the link didn't work.
    http://www.macbook-pro-case.com">http://www.macbook-pro-case.com
    Reply
  • JAS - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    FWIW, MacWorld Labs is reporting that the new "entry level" MacBook Pro is about 10% faster than the model it replaces.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/132330/2008/03/mac...">http://www.macworld.com/article/132330/2008/03/mac...

    On this third year anniversary of my current laptop, I'm headed over to the Apple Store to purchase the 2.4 gHz model. Thanks to Anand for providing his helpful analysis.
    Reply
  • brunerd - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    Quick note about the Exposé key and some modifier keys:
    If you hold down Command when pressing Exposé (F3) it shows Desktop
    If you hold down Control when pressing it, it shows just the App Windows

    So you don't have to resort to fn-f12 or fn-f11 to get the above behavior.

    Thanks for the write up, nice to know it's running cooler.
    Reply
  • louieking - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    I was very disappointed that you did not compare the new Penryn 2.6GHz, 200GB- 7200RPM model with the 2007 Merom 2.6GHz, 200GB- 7200RPM model. I don’t think the tests were comparing apples for apples. I think most people interested in your reviews would have wanted to see the difference in overall performance (processing times, battery life) as it relates to lower voltage demands of the Penryn. This would have shown true comparison in battery performance since I suspect that the Penryn version would out-perform in all tests and still have better battery life by a few minutes. Lastly, I think many folks would have been intrigued with a test that showed Firewire 800 download speeds as it relates to battery life. This is an everyday task that would make a difference for a professional MacBook Pro user.

    PS. It’s not too late to WOW the world with your review since you usually beat everyone else to the punch.

    Thanks for your insight.
    Reply
  • azca - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    Hint: you can use a tiny driver/software to control the frequency of the intel cpus to show better comparison in your charts:

    http://www.coolbook.se/CoolBook.html">http://www.coolbook.se/CoolBook.html

    Please, if you can, use this for your next review so that you can have better apple-to-apple comparison.

    You can also use the program to undervolt the cpu and hence measure the thermal output and lifespan of battery etc.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • Pete248 - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    While the MacBook Pro keyboard isn't bad, I'm really wandering, why Apple didn't switch to the new keyboard they now use in the MacBook, the Air and the external keyboards.
    Having tried both side by side, the new keyboard feels more definite than the MacPro keyboard. And its probably less susceptible to dust, crumbs and water - the later killing the MacBook Pro keyboard easily - even in traces.
    With a new keyboard I would have pulled the trigger for a purchase, now I'm holding back to see what comes within the next 3 months.

    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    The review says Intel's upcoming video would help the Macbook Pro with Blu Ray playback. Presumably that should have said help the Macbook, as the Pro doesn't use integrated video, and has already had a GPU that accelerates Blu Ray playback for most of a year.

    [quote]MelCarnahan, 2 hours ago
    The author claims Apple picked the right CPU partner in Intel, yet these Intel CPUs could not come close to matching a 32nm Quad Core IBM Cell processor with 2000 MHz FSB. It is disingenuous to compare these Intel egg fryers with a single core PowerPC with a 133MHz FSB. Clearly the Cell processor is superior both in performance and battery life. Only those who wish to use their Yonahs to fry eggs prefer Intel. [/quote]

    Is this some kind of joke? If so, I don't get it. There's so much wrong with this post I don't know where to start, and someone else can do a far better job explaining why, but off the top of my head:

    Cell is a TERRIBLE general purpose CPU. It gets destroyed by Netburst architecture, let alone Intel's modern CPUs. It's great for specific things, but would be terrible for a computer (and is very questionable for a game system for that matter...)

    As far as I know, Intel is a who process ahead of anything Cell is produced on. Geez, the PS3 version is only now hitting 65nm.

    I have no idea why Cell would run COOLER. If anything I'd assume the reverse is true, and certainlly it is anyway because AFAIK there's no 45nm Cell (let alone 32nm as claimed).

    [quote]The Yonah fans sound distinctly like one of those unarmored Humvees with its muffler blown off. The Merom 2.2 Macbook Pro is an improvement but still far hotter, louder and short-batteried compared to the PowerPC. [/quote]

    The Macbook Pro's I've used are dead silent unless they're pushed-but that's a case design issue. I have no idea how they compare to the G4 that was used in terms of the power they use, but I don't think it was much different, and certainly Intel's CPUs would destroy those G4s in terms of power/performance.
    Reply
  • MelCarnahan - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    The author claims Apple picked the right CPU partner in Intel, yet these Intel CPUs could not come close to matching a 32nm Quad Core IBM Cell processor with 2000 MHz FSB. It is disingenuous to compare these Intel egg fryers with a single core PowerPC with a 133MHz FSB. Clearly the Cell processor is superior both in performance and battery life. Only those who wish to use their Yonahs to fry eggs prefer Intel.

    Secondly, Macbook and Macbook Pro keyboards are a disaster. Forget bells and whistles and multitouch. They don't even get the basics right. These are basically what was long derided as cheap chiclet keyboards for many years. The backlighting is frivolous when you consider that even at the dimmest setting, the screen is enough to light up a room. The screen is certainly bright enough to light up both the room and the keyboard. The first and most important requirement of any keyboard is a dedicated, full-size page up and page down key. Second, full-size arrow keys. Even the first TRS-80s got this right and Apple still can't get it right. They could create a feature where you waddle your elbows like a duck while holding up three fingers and bending your knees and then the page scrolls down a page - or they could just include a proper page-up and page-down key.

    The Yonah fans sound distinctly like one of those unarmored Humvees with its muffler blown off. The Merom 2.2 Macbook Pro is an improvement but still far hotter, louder and short-batteried compared to the PowerPC.

    For solutions see: http://www.terrasoftsolutions.com">http://www.terrasoftsolutions.com

    Reply

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