The new MacBook Pro will be sleeker, faster and more graphically powerful than any laptop we've seen before -- at least, that's what we think. Apple has debuted incredible technology within the last year -- the ultra-sharp resolution of Retina Display on the new iPad, for example, which could very well make it into the Pro. And the industry as a whole has witnessed the advent of faster processors, more energy-efficient graphics chips, and ever-slimmer Ultrabooks. We fully expect Apple to incorporate many of these new advances in the latest iteration of its flagship notebook while adding some important innovations of its own. Here are 10 things we expect to see (or not to see, as the case may be) in the new MacBook Pro.
Intel Ivy Bridge Processor
When Intel rolls out its new 22-nanometer processor, code named "Ivy Bridge", the new CPU will set the standard for processor performance. Intel predicts that users will see up to a 20 percent increase in CPU performance and as much as a 30 percent graphics boost. The processor also includes native support for Thunderbolt and USB 3.0. By the third quarter of 2012, almost all new laptops will use some model of Ivy Bridge -- making it a sure bet that the new MacBook Pro will have one inside. For more information about Ivy Bridge processors, see our Ivy Bridge FAQ.
After seeing the startlingly sharp resolution on the iPhone 4S and new iPad, it's hard to believe that Retina Display isn't the future for every Apple product. According to Apple, the incredibly high pixel density makes it virtually impossible to distinguish individual pixels. Our own eyes have been proof enough -- as we demonstrated in our roundup of the best Retina Display apps for the new iPad, the screen delivers truly breathtaking visuals. While we probably can't expect the same level of pixel density on a 15-inch screen as on the iPad and iPhone, it's likely that the new MacBook Pro will feature the highest resolution that we've yet seen on a notebook.
Given the popularity of the MacBook Air, it seems likely that the new MacBook Pro will also feature a super-slim chassis. Now that we've seen the Samsung Series 9 15-Inch, it may be only a matter of time before Apple proves it can release the best ultraportable laptop -- of any size. The move to a thin chassis will necessitate the removal of some features (see slides 4 and 5), but the MacBook Pro's slim wedge profile and light weight will put it on the bleeding edge of portability. Check out our roundup of the Top 10 Ultrabooks to see the slimmest Windows machines money can buy.
No Optical Drive
As we mentioned in our 10 Laptop Features You Can Skip to Save Money, the optical drive is becoming increasingly irrelevant as digital distribution, streaming media and storage capacity expand. Moreover, if the new MacBook Pro sports a super-slim chassis like the MacBook Air, it won't have room for an optical drive. When push comes to shove, we'd rather have a slim design and reduced weight than a DVD drive.
Flash Hard Drive?
The move to ultra-slim laptop designs has forced manufacturers to embrace solid-state drives, which are more expensive but faster, less prone to damage and more energy efficient. When it released the MacBook Air, Apple was one of the first laptop manufacturers to adopt SSDs on a wide scale, and it seems likely that they'll continue to embrace this trend with the new MacBook Pro. What Apple may do differently with the MacBook Pro is pair flash memory with a larger hard drive to give users both speed and lots of capacity, similar to the cache included on value-priced Ultrabooks such as the Samsung Series 5 14-inch. Except, we expect Apple's flash to be much faster. If if you just can't wait to install an SSD on your notebook, check out our guide on how to install an SSD.
Nvidia Kepler GPU?
The current 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pros feature AMD Radeon graphics processors, but as Nvidia continues to eat AMD's lunch, it seems like only a matter of time until Apple joins the fold. In March, Nvidia unveiled its brand-new 600M Series of GPUs, which use the the 28-nanometer Kepler architecture. 600M GPUs promise to be twice as efficient as its 500M predecessors. We saw the results for ourselves with the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3, which features some of the most impressive graphics we've ever seen on a 0.78-inch thick, 15-inch laptop. More importantly, the smaller Thermal Design Profile (25 watts on the 600M versus 50 watts on the 500M) means that Kepler-based GPUs can fit into laptops with a thin frame -- like a super-slim MacBook Pro. For more information about Nvidia's Kepler GPUs, check out our FAQ.
Thunderbolt Kills FireWire
Sure, Apple helped develop FireWire, but Thunderbolt is the way of the future -- and Apple was the first to roll out the technology. Like FireWire, Thunderbolt allows users to daisy chain Thunderbolt-compatible devices, making a lack of ports a problem of the past. More importantly, Thunderbolt offers a huge boost in speed -- as much as 12 times faster than FireWire and 20 times faster than USB 2.0. We recently reviewed a Thunderbolt-compatible external hard drive from LaCie and a Thunderbolt adapter for Seagate GoFlex portable hard drives, and were suitably impressed with their speeds.
No More Ethernet
Among the features we listed as "skippable" in our 10 Laptop Features You Can Skip to Save Money, Ethernet was one of the most controversial around the office. Still, in an age of near-ubiquitous wireless connectivity, a dedicated Ethernet port just ties up one more space that Apple could use for a Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 port. What's more, an adapter could easily allow users to connect an Ethernet cable. If Apple goes with an ultra-thin chassis for the new MacBook Pro, we wouldn't be surprised if the company forgoes Ethernet altogether.
Increased Battery Life
The 15-inch MacBook Pro already boasts epic battery life (7 hours and 54 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, more than double the category average), but if Apple eliminates such battery-draining hardware as optical drives, makes the transition to SSDs (which consume less energy than hard drives), and adopts power-saving chips such as Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs and Nvidia's Kepler GPUs, users should see even longer endurance from the new MacBook Pro. Who knows? Maybe the new Pro will outlast the laptops on our list of the longest-lasting notebooks.
Mountain Lion Ready
The developer preview of Apple's ninth version of its OS -- dubbed "Mountain Lion" -- has been available since February and brings many of the best features of the iPad to Macs. We went hands-on with the developer preview of Mountain Lion and came away impressed with the superior integration of iCloud, the ease with which Messages allows Mac users to quickly communicate with anyone using an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, the handy Notifications Center, and other new features. While the developer preview of Mountain Lion has a few kinks in it, we anticipate that the new MacBook Pro will feature the final version of the OS when it ships.