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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  • alphaod - Sunday, March 2, 2008 - link

    I also have different OS build. It's weird:

    System Software Overview:

    System Version: Mac OS X 10.5.2 (9C31)
    Kernel Version: Darwin 9.2.0
    Boot Volume: Macintosh HD
    Boot Mode: Normal
    Computer Name:
    User Name:
    Time since boot: 2:35
  • TechGirl - Saturday, March 1, 2008 - link

    wow, thank you so much for writing such a wonderful, informative, clear, and intelligent piece. As I begin to consider my next mac purchase, I will be coming back to your site! As of right now, my early 2004 ibook is chugging along, and I'm hoping to be able to wait until Montevina is put into apple's notebooks.
  • TechGirl - Saturday, March 1, 2008 - link

    Edit: I meant Nehalem :P
  • JAS - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Thanks for publishing this comprehensive overview about the updated MacBook Pros. The timing is good because I've been thinking about getting one.

    I visited an Apple Store tonight to buy a 2.4 gHz 15-inch MacBook Pro -- but the clerk said there was a run on this model today and they're temporarily sold out. I'll go back in a few days. (Incidentally, within two hours, this store also sold out of the eight Time Capsules they received from Apple.)
  • Fuzzy33 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    The Penryn model numbers are not given on the Apple site or in your review.

    Are they T8100, T8300 and T9300 models or are they unique?
  • MacTheSpoon - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the great review, Anand, and for including the update on how things are going with the Air in there.
  • canuck44 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link


    Just to make it clear the MBP and MBA have LED backlight displays and the MacBook has a CCFL backlit screen. This is how much better the screens look in those respective products and why they have a much improved viewing angle.

  • RNDdave - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Well I'm new round these parts. I stumbled by whilst trying to decide if the MBP or the MB is the better option for me.

    As it stands I think I'm in the same place I was before stopping by in that the decision is up to me. :)

    The article/review/blog/what ever was great and kept me interested through to the end. Great stuff.

  • crimson117 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Any thoughts about gaming on the Macbook or Macbook Pro?

    Particularly World of Warcraft :)
  • TechGirl - Saturday, March 1, 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.

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