Apple Updates The MacBook Pro Line With Sandy Bridge Intel CPUs, AMD GPUs, FaceTime HD, and Thunderbolt

Happy Birthday, Steve! Just like the rumors stated, Apple refreshed the entire line of MacBook Pros today, which just so happened to be Steve Jobs’ birthday. These new models aren’t exactly revolutionary with the same basic unibody casing, layout, and batteries. The updates are evolutionary in nature, just steps towards the next generation of MacBook Pros.

Gone are Nvidia graphics as the latest MBP models feature Sandy Bridge Intel CPUs paired with switchable graphics between an integrated Intel chip or a discrete AMD GPU. (The 13-inch only has integrated graphics) The mini DisplayPort interface now shares its port with Apple’s impentation of Intel’s Light Peak technology re-dubbed Thunderbolt. Base RAM levels remained the same, although 1333MHz chips are used rather than the 1066MHz type used in the previous generation. Besides the SD slot now supporting SDXC, the rest of the connectivity options are a carryover from the previous crop.

FaceTime got an HD makeover and now broadcasts in 720p. Apple also pushed the FaceTime app out of beta and it just hit the Mac App Store for $.99. The program comes pre-installed on the latest MBP so version 1.0 is for existing Macs.

Intel’s declared the Light Peak interconnect will be the next generation of data transfer protocols. The WSJ Digits blog speculated that the reason it uses the mini DisplayPort jack is that Apple designed said port and licenses it for free. Plus, the USB Implementers Forum wasn’t all that happy about early versions of Light Peak using their connector. Whatever the case, it’s still somewhat puzzling that Apple opting to have the single Thunderbolt port share duties with the only mini DisplayPort jack.

Obviously Intel didn’t leak the new MBP. Good or bad, these models utilize the same aluminum unibody from the last few generations, which was expected as the refresh was essictially announced via a website update rather than a Tim Cook dog and pony show. The updated 13-inch and 15-inch both carry the same base price as the previous models — $1199 and $1799. The 17-inch however now rocks a 2.2GHz quad core CPU and 750GB HDD standard, and so the base price is slightly higher at $2499. With prices set at the same levels as the previous models, there’s no reason to hate on the latest. They’re just more computing bang for your credit card buck.