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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  • tayhimself - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    I really like the chicklet keyboards. I like the Vaios that have the chicklets too. Different strokes and all that....
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Ward...Wash the Beaver's mouth out with soap, would you?
  • mmntech - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    Lol. Only morons need to swear to get their point across. I do partially agree though. I didn't like the MacBooks keyboard compared to my old iBook G4's.

    Looks like the Penryn offers a small but decent improvement in battery life. When you're on the go, every little increase counts. These are very respectable numbers. With DVD playback, you can actually watch movies like the Godfather and Lord of the Rings on a single charge and still have some to spare. Apple has always been good with battery life, which is the primary reason I bough my iBook. Looks like there are also some small performance increases too. I suppose the iMac line will be receiving an update soon to include these processors. It will be curious to see if the add DDR3 as an option for them.
  • Phlargo - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    What a horrible thing to say. He is certainly permitted his preference. I think you might be the tool for blankly assuming that his opinion is unjust.

    A good article, Anand. I'm not a Mac guy, but I know they lead the way in design and feature integration. I really agree with the comment below about it being more of an impression than a review. I always like your articles for that reason!
  • Kitsune - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    MacBooks have a very limited multitouch capability. They can do some of the tricks that the Pros and Air can do (right-click by putting two fingers on the pad, scroll around by rubbing two fingers in the desired direction, zoom the screen in and out by holding the control key while moving fingers on the pad) and can't do some of the other things (rotate and zoom selected objects). Or if they can, Anand found some trick that I'm not aware of, as I have the new 2.1 gHz MacBook sitting next to me now and can't get it to perform the latter functions.
  • Devo2007 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    That is correct (I was just about to update my comment stating this). I believe the two-finger scroll feature and such aren't new though -- I believe my friend's Merom-based Macbook has that feature as well.
  • tayhimself - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    This is the case yes.
  • Devo2007 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    You caught the one later in the article, but currently page 3 still shows this:

    2) Multi-touch Track Pads: Both the MacBook and MacBook Pro now get the same multi-touch functionality as the MacBook Air.
  • Gary Key - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    That is corrected now.
  • Devo2007 - Friday, February 29, 2008 - link

    On Page 3, you indicate that both the Macbook and Macbook Pro have the multi-touch trackpad. Isn't it just the Pro model that has multi-touch? (all the news articles I read about the launch of these portables indicated it was just the Pro model).

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