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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  • Gary Key - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Fixed. :) Reply
  • tayhimself - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    You also called the 2299 version 2199 Reply
  • Doormat - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    A quick question - the yonah Core Duos had really really poor battery life in the review. Were those performed recently with new batteries? The MB itself is nearly 2 years old.

    Still, 4 hours is amazing on the DVD tests. I could stop watching movies on my iPhone and use my laptop on the entire transcon flight... though I think I'll wait for the Montevina platform. Hopefully the SFF chips, 25W CPUs and additional graphics horsepower will be worth the upgrade.
    Reply
  • alpaye - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Well it seems that these upgrades you call "tick upgrades" are mostly to keep up with the technology. They don't seem to be a must upgrade for people like me, as I own the last "tock version" of MBP. Nice review, good points.
    The Unofficial Mac (http://www.unofficialmac.com)">http://www.unofficialmac.com)
    Reply
  • TestKing123 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    A comparison with non-Apple notebooks would be nice as well. Reply
  • AMDJunkie - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    This is what I miss! Horribly cornball sex jokes (no point in calling it innuendo), genuine reporting of personal experience (shock at a kernel panic; admitting your exhausted because you've written a review at some godawful morning hour, for example), and snark (iWork is for converting your work into Office). And yet there's a half-decent review in there! It's like reading a blog, but with content! Reply
  • PlasmaBomb - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link



    Tocks happen every two years not once a year...
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    woops, that's what I meant :)

    Yearly tocks and I'm pretty sure we'd be well on our way to skynet by now :-P

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • InternetGeek - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Apple will introduce a new 'revolutionary' Macbook in every tock, and some improved models on every tick. I wonder if Intel might be interested in having Apple use the 'Intel inside' logo? That'll be interesting.

    It'll be interesting to see how these MacBooks perform once some PC games are also ported to the Mac (Unreal and so)...
    Reply
  • joey2264 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    The Macbook has an absolutely horrible keyboard. You can't possibly, rationally, reasonably, believe that this is not the case, especially with all your experience reviewing computers. The absolute crap Dell keyboards that they used to use in their notebooks are far better.

    I hope you mention somewhere in your review the ridiculousness of Apple releasing a 5.3 pound notebook with a 13.3 inch screen and integrated graphics.
    Reply

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