Macworld 2009: Apple unveils new 17" MacBook Pro with 8 hour battery

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Macworld 2009: Apple unveils new 17" MacBook Pro with 8 hour battery

San Francisco (CA) – With a 17-inch MacBook Pro update unveiled at today’s Macworld 2009 keynote, Apple has finally brought an entire line of Mac portables into view. The largest member of the MacBook family now comes with a faster front-side bus and processor, Nvidia graphics, DisplayPort interconnect with HDCP content protection, LED-backlit glossy display, and all of it wrapped up inside Apple’s unibody aluminum enclosure with glass trackpad.

Unibody 17-inch MacBook Pro (6 pictures)

For the first time ever, Apple is also offering a 256GB SDD upgrade, while creative pros get to order anti-glare display version of the computer. But everybody was expecting this. What was never dreamed of is eight hours of battery life that powers this beast – up from five hours before.

The added juice comes from a 40% larger battery and a chip inside that “talks” to each cell and adjusts the current accordingly. This results in three times the number of charges and lifespan of the industry standard.

The rumor mill was way off this year when it predicted a $600 Mac netbook or iPhone nano as Apple’s “one more thing” for Macworld 2009. Instead, Apple’s vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller, appointed by Steve Jobs to deliver the keynote presentation in his absence, saved the new 17-inch MacBook Pro as the company’s last surprise.

Apple calls the 17-inch MacBook Pro the “world’s lightest and thinnest 17-inch notebook,” and it isn’t exaggerating. The computer is just 0.98-inches thin and weighs 6.6 pounds. The 17-inch MacBook Pro represents a marriage of all the technologies used to build other unibody Macbooks and a large 17-inch display for applications that require lots of screen real estate, like video editing and graphics design on-the-go.

The machine features LED-backlit glossy display that lights up instantly when the lid is open, unlike warm up time required for the LCD cells. It also features built-in iSight camera and 1920 x 1200 resolution – that’s 78 percent more pixels than the 15-inch MacBook Pro and enough to display full 1080p HD content with room to spare. In addition, it has a 700:1 contrast ratio and 60% greater color gamut.

As was expected, the machine now relies exclusively on Mini DisplayPort interconnect with HDCP copy protection technology, and it comes with glass trackpad and illuminated keyboard, all wrapped in a sturdy unibody alluminum enclosure.

The new 17-inch MacBook Pro includes an ultra-thin, widescreen glossy 1920 x 1200 display with 78% more pixels than the 15-inch MacBook Pro and a 60% greater color gamut that delivers desktop-quality color in a notebook. The LED-backlit display has brilliant instant-on performance, uses up to 30% less energy and eliminates the mercury found in industry standard fluorescent tube backlights.

A faster 1066 MHz front-side bus and newer generation of Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 6MB shared L2 cache, clocked at 2.66 GHz, bring an evolutionary speed increase over the previous model. The notebook ships with 4GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM, expandable to 8GB; onboard graphics is the same (Nvidia GeForce 9400M and 9600M GT combo) as used in the 15-inch unibody MacBook Pro models. The latter discreet chip comes with 512MB GDDR3 video memory and can be turned on to boost graphics performance when needed, albeit at the expense of battery.

But when it comes to battery, the lithium polymer one inside the 17-inch MacBook Pro squeezes up to 8 hours of runtime. Apple said it created 40% larger environment-friendly battery without taxing computer’s sleek form factor. The battery features adaptive charging technology and comes with a chip inside that talks to each cell to adjust the current accordingly, resulting in a three times the charges and lifespan of the industry standard.

“We’ve developed new battery technology that is better for the user and better for the environment,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “Apple’s advanced chemistry and innovative technology deliver up to eight hours of use on a full charge cycle and up to 1,000 recharges.” The company claims that a “properly maintained” battery in this notebook will retain 80% or more of its original capacity during a lifespan of up to 1,000 recharge cycles.

Connectivity options include wireless 802.11n networking courtesy of the built-in AirPort Extreme card, a Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR module and Gigabit Ethernet. The machine also has one FireWire 800 port for connecting video cameras and other professional audio and video equipment, three USB 2.0 ports, audio line in and out ports, each supporting both digital and analog, and ExpressCard/34 expansion card slot. Storage features include 320GB SATA HDD running at 5400 rpm, with Apple’s Sudden Motion Sensor that prevents head to scratch platter surface if the machine is suddenly dropped, and a slot-load 8X SuperDrive with double-layer support.

Prospective buyers can customize their machine with a 2.93 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 8GB of memory, faster (7200 rpm) 320GB hard drive, anti-glare display ($50), a 128GB or 256GB SDD (first time ever for this notebook) and a host of adapters that users will need to connect DisplayPort-enabled computer to displays beside the latest 24-inch LED-backlit Cinema Display. Apple will start shipping the new 17-inch MacBook Pro at the end of the month for $2,799.