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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

Apple Refreshes 17-Inch MacBook Pro

The company's largest laptop is gaining an eight-hour battery, a faster Intel processor, and better graphics capabilities.

Apple 17-Inch MacBook Pro

Apple 17-Inch MacBook Pro
(click for larger image)

Apple on Tuesday launched a refresh of the 17-inch MacBook Pro, giving the company's largest laptop an eight-hour battery life, a faster Intel processor, and better graphics capabilities.

The upgraded product was the only hardware announcement at the opening Macworld keynote, which was delivered by Phil Schiller, senior VP for worldwide product marketing at Apple. Breaking with tradition, the company announced late last month that co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs would not kick off the trade show. In addition, Apple stunned the industry by saying this year would be its last appearance at Macworld.

The absence of Jobs led many analysts to believe that Apple would not make any major product announcements, and the prediction turned out to be correct, particularly in terms of hardware. The MacBook was the only Apple computer to get an upgrade, which is sure to disappoint fans who had also hoped for updates to the company's Mac Mini and Apple TV.

Apple observers had expected the refresh of the 17-inch MacBook Pro, given that it was left out of Apple's notebook event in October, when the company launched updates of the 15-inch and 13.3-inch systems. But while some analysts said the larger laptop could get a big speed boost with an Intel quad-core processor, Apple stuck with an Intel dual-core chip, which has been upgraded to a 2.66-GHz Core 2 Duo processor with 6 MB of on-chip L2 cache. Buyers also have the option of a 2.93-GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

But the most innovative feature in the upgrade is a new battery that Apple claims will last up to eight hours on a single charge and can be recharged up to 1,000 times, which means up to a five-year lifespan. Rivals Dell and Hewlett-Packard last year introduced laptops with similar battery life on a single charge.

The Apple battery achieves its better performance by using custom-designed lithium-polymer cells that are 40% larger than the previous generation. However, to fit the battery in the system, Apple has made it nonremovable, which may turn off some potential buyers.

Because of the extended lifespan of the battery, Apple says the MacBook is more environmentally friendly than the previous generation, since the power supply doesn't have to be replaced so often.

The notebook is less than an inch thick, weighs 6.6 pounds, and features a light-emitting diode screen with a $50 anti-glare option. In addition, the system comes with an Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics processor and a discrete Nvidia 9600M GT processor. Switching to the latter gives better graphics performance at the expense of about an hour of battery life.

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