Maryann Tobin

The new Ivy Bridge MacBook Pro 13-inch arrived in Apple stores today and from the outside, it looked as if nothing had changed. But under the hood, the hardware took it a step up.

An Intel Ivy Bridge processor brought more than native USB 3.0 to the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. The base model now carries and upgrade to Intel 4000 graphics, and an impressive RAM speed boost from 1333MHz to 1600MHz DDR3.

There are two Ivy Bridge options in the 13-inch MacBook Pro offered in the June 2012 refresh; A 2.5GHz i5, and 2.9GHz i7. Both are Intel dual-core processors, with the i7 taking the Turbo Boost .5GHz higher to 3.6GHz.

The standard hard drive for the base 13-inch model has a 500GB capacity, and the higher-end i7 comes with a 750GB hard drive. Both operate at 5400 RPM’s, but can be upgraded to 128MB or 256MB solid state drives.

One area of disappointment on the solid state hard drive option was under-clocking. Unlike the new Ivy Bridge MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro bottlenecks the power of the new Ivy Bridge chip with a SATA 2 logicboard interface that is limited to a negotiated link speed of 3 gigabits, while the new MacBook Air is allowed to fly at full 6 gigabit speed.

Hopefully, future upgrades will remedy this, since it really does not serve overall performance to strangle the primary advantage of flash storage technology.

The Intel 4000 graphics was also considered an anticipated upgrade, but the improvement is not as dramatic as the stunning retina display on the new 15-inch MacBook Pro.

At some point, Apple will hopefully offer the retina display as an upgrade, but it is currently not available on the 13-inch model.

Battery life was not shortened by the more powerful Ivy Bridge processor, remaining at seven hours.

More good news can be found in the price. The Ivy Bridge 13-inch MacBook Pro keeps its range at $1,199 for the i5 base model, and $1,499 for the i7 version.

Clearly, the 13-inch MacBook Pro got more of a refresh than a redesign. But that is not to say that the improvements are not welcome. This latest release of Apple’s best selling laptop is still faster and more powerful than its predecessor.

With a steady price tag, there is no reason to think that the 13-inch MacBook Pro will not hold its own against the PC Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks that always seem to be struggling to match Apple's quality and performance.

Apart from the machines themselves, one thing is certain. PC makers will never match the entertainment value of watching the Genius Bar geeks, who can only be found scurrying around Apple stores.


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