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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  • TechGirl - Saturday, March 01, 2008 - link

    I've read that it is playable on the Macbook, getting up to 30 fps, while it runs like a dream on the Pro, at a consistent 60 fps. Having said this, I haven't actually played WoW on either of them; I'm currently running it on my old G4 iBook (which I do NOT recommend :P)

    Given the dedicated graphics on the pro, it is obviously the gaming machine of the two. Plus, you can run windows well on it, and then play PC games. The standard macbook can do non-demanding stuff, but you will never be able to play the latest and greatest on it.
    Reply
  • myusernamehere - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    either of the displays led backlit? Reply
  • DavidK - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    There's been numerous complaints about the Agere firewire chipset in the previous version of the MacBook Pro. Has it been replaced with the TI set, or is it still the Agere? Reply
  • Tigerotor77w - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    You compared the 2.4 GHz Penryn to the 2.2 GHz Merom, but what about the 2.4 Penryn to the 2.4 Merom? If I'm looking solely at clock speeds, how do those two compare?

    Additionally, is it conceivable that the $1999 price point remain for the Montevina-based MBPs?
    Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Good point, but he compared the notebooks he physically possessed. As in, he bought each of the tested models at one point or another.

    I strongly believe any future Macbook or Macbook Pro will keep a pricing model determined by the marketing department. Apple has no direct competition (mobile OSX market) so they can simply select the hardware to include that allows them to keep the margins they want.
    Reply
  • Tigerotor77w - Saturday, March 01, 2008 - link

    Makes sense. Nevertheless, I'm curious how the two 2.4 GHz processors compare (I saw that gizmodo had a comparison, but I'm not sure how that plays out qualitatively).

    As for the price point, what you said certainly makes sense -- I'm wondering whether they'll keep the $1999 point. Will they give up the sub-$2000 market for 15" notebooks? Or will they want the higher margins on the $2499 MBP?
    Reply
  • HopJokey - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Anand,

    In your article you mentioned that Yonah was built on 90nm technology when in fact it is built on 65nm manufacturing. Thanks.
    Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    I don't think so Anniend. You want me to do things to you like the sun and the moon. Idiot! Reply
  • acejj26 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    My becomes once the battery ages and no longer manages to hold a full charge.

    Umm??
    Reply
  • acejj26 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    on page 6, you wrote "blacklit" not backlit Reply

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