Thunderbolt

The new MacBook Pros offer the array of ports we're used to, plus something a bit different.

A new port called Thunderbolt replaces the Mini DisplayPort found in earlier models. Formerly codenamed Light Peak, the new Intel standard promises up to 10 Gbps bi-directional data transfer speeds and connectivity for an array of devices, from displays to hard drives. The standard also supports 8-channel audio, which should make for easy connection to HDMI devices with the right adapter, and up to six different Thunderbolt devices can be daisy chained together according to the Intel specs. 

Most of the given use scenarios for Thunderbolt focus on external hard drives, displays, and HD video hardware, and adapters for existing standards like eSATA and Firewire. If Thunderbolt ports become more widespread, we'll probably see additional applications of the standard.

Finally, it's worth noting that if you've already spent money on Mini DisplayPort adapters, dongles and cables for your existing Mac, those accessories will continue to work with the new Thunderbolt port.

Look for more from us on Thunderbolt shortly.

Conclusions

Thunderbolt aside, there's not much that surprises about the new MacBook Pro lineup - as usual, new, faster hardware is being sold to us in the same attractive unibody case to which we've become accustomed.

Most of the additions are welcome, though the value proposition continues to be a struggle. As usual, to save money, you're better off buying the base model and adding RAM or a new hard drive yourself than paying Apple's price for upgrades.

The move to Sandy Bridge is interesting but the lack of any mention of Quick Sync is a bit bothersome. We’re working on our review of the new platforms, expect to see results in the coming days.

The Facts
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  • pukemon - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    Depends on what your definition of "functional" is - I'm thinking most people who ran a 64-bit OS on early Socket 940, 754, and 939 boxes were running some flavor of Linux or BSD, maybe Solaris, or WinXP (64-bit edition) possibly as servers more than as desktops.

    If you go back eight years or so, remember how expensive 4GB of DDR RAM was...
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    You have to start somewhere, and it's with the PCs. Why would any manufacturer make a Thunderbolt device if there were no PCs available? They wouldn't.

    While I don't care for the name "Thunderbolt" one bit (can't even be abbreviated well), the technology looks good to me. Long range, high speed, multiple use. If it can replace firewire, USB, HDMI, Display Port, and eSATA, good. Imagine having 6 of these on a notebook, or better yet, having to plug only one cable into your notebook that is daisy chained to everything else.
    Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Thunderbolt is Intels brand and spec, but it's basically just a chip so you can connect PCI-E devices externally. It doesn't replace DisplayPort it's actually a DisplayPort which is connected to a chip that can talk pci-e over the cables to none display devices. It replaces expresscard in other words. It doesn't really replace eSATA, but it's an alternative (the box needs an sata-controller in the device) PCI-Express hardly replaces USB. It's only dual protocol, DP/HDMI/DVI/VGA-video or PCI-express.

    It's a important feature and it will show up in PC laptops under the same brand. Professional users certainly will use it. Btw, there's nothing stopping anyone from even producing Thunderbolt > eSATA devices. Even Thunderbolt > USB3 devices. So its a good replacement for Expresscard. Not more magical then that though.

    You won't see Thunderbolt memory-sticks.
    Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    If you pay 2500 USD you get 8GB!

    At least with the 15" unit. The upgrade to the 500GB 7200 rpm drive is also free. Add in anti-glare though and it's $2549 for the high-end 15 inch with 8GB ram. $2249 for the low-end version configured the same. With the 17 inch it's the same with the 7200 rpm upgrade (500GB) drive is free to choice.
    Reply
  • cotak - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Are you a current Mac user?

    4GB is quite enough for OS X. To give you an idea at work at one point I was using a secondar white plastic iMac with a C2D inside and 256 megs of ram. And you know what? It was usable as a websurfing and outlook machine. It kinda sucked for the real work task that I was using it for but it worked just fine for play. It wasn't any slower than those netbooks out there anyhow and most of them have 1 to 2 gigs of ram.

    So 4 gigs for a lot of people will be enough. If you do anything media heavy yeah you'll want more ram but it's not a big chore to buy it yourself and put it in. All OEM RAM upgrades are rip offs anyhow be it apple's or Dell's or HP's.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    A Core 2 Duo paired with only 256MB?! Reply
  • TypeS - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    And how fast was USB3 adoption again. . .? Reply
  • Exelius - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I'd also like to see them ditch the optical drive. I haven't used the one I have in my MBP in the 9 months I've owned it; and the reduction in weight/size would be appreciated. USB optical drives are cheap if people really miss the feature that much. Reply
  • tomoyo - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Uh isn't that basically the macbook air right there? Except for needing some upgrades to sandy bridge. Reply
  • zhill - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Want more power than the meager MBA but don't need an optical drive?

    I found this OWC "Data Doubler" adapter to replace the optical with any HDD/SSD and it looks promising:
    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other+World+Computi...

    for a while, seems like a perfect solution. I'd rather have an SSD + HDD than an optical drive, and this kit seems to be fairly decent.

    Anyone used one? Are they worth the $75 (or more with Sandforce SSD)?
    Reply

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