Earlier today Apple quietly updated its online store to include upgraded MacBook Pro models, which feature improved Sandy Bridge processors, more storage, and other tweaks such as better graphics for the 15-inch and 17-inch Pros. As the rumors suggested in the previous weeks, this is indeed a minor refresh for the line that doesn’t yet come with Bluetooth 4.0, rumored to be making its debut on the MacBook Pros but still nowhere to be seen in the product’s Tech Specs page.

First off, the late-2011 MacBook Pros (the line was last updated in February of this year) feature improved processors: the 13-inch model goes from 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 and 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5 (both dual-core) to 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core and 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7 dual-core; the 15-inch model jumps from 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7 and 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7 (both quad-core) to 2.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 and 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7; last, the 17-inch variation has been upgraded from 2.2 Ghz Intel Core i7 (quad-core) to 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7.

As for storage, the MacBook Pro 13-inch now starts with 500 GB or 750 GB of internal storage (up from 320 GB and 500 GB for the previous base configurations), whilst the 15-inch and 17-inch models haven’t seen any storage upgrades. Graphics, however, have been upgraded in these two models, with the 15-inch now getting AMD Radeon HD 6750M and AMD Radeon HD 6770M alongside the Intel HD Graphics 3000(previously, the 15-inch got AMD Radeon HD 6490M and AMD Radeon HD 6750M) and the 17-inch now available with an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 1GB GDDR5 (previously AMD Radeon HD 6750M 1 GB).

The late-2011 MacBook Pros are mostly a CPU and GPU upgrade, perhaps in preparation of the big line refresh that’s been rumored for quite some time to be on track for 2012. Prices are unchanged from the early-2011 models, and you can find the refreshed line on Apple’s online store now.

Full-size comparison chart here.

According to 9to5 Mac, supply for all current MacBook Pro models are constrained in anticipation of an imminent refresh. They claim that new part numbers have appeared in Apple’s inventory system for all three MacBook Pro sizes. The new model numbers are K90IA for the updated 13 inch model, K91A for the 15 inch and K92A for the 17 inch.

These model numbers, combined with last month’s rumour of a refresh, suggest that these models will be just a minor specification bump – rather than the rumoured redesign of the MacBook Pro. MacRumors reported earlier this year that such a redesign will probably debut sometime after Intel’s Ivy Bridge line of processors is released.

[Via MacRumors]

Two days ago we reported Apple was moving closer to the release and retail distribution of Thunderbolt Displays (announced in July) with an EFI firmware update for the MacBook Air, which improved performances in Lion Internet Recovery and added a number of Thunderbolt-related fixes. Today Apple has released two additional EFI firmware updates for the Mac mini and MacBook Pro.

Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.3

This update includes fixes that enhance the stability of Lion Recovery from an Internet connection, and resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on Mac Mini (mid 2011) models.

Macbook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2

This update enables Lion Recovery from an Internet connection and includes fixes that resolve issues with Apple Thunderbolt Display compatibility and Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode performance on MacBook Pro (early 2011) models.

Notably, Apple has enabled Lion Internet Recovery in the new MacBook Pro models introduced back in February. Lion Internet Recovery debuted alongside Lion in July, but it was exclusive to the updated mini and Air models; the feature allows Mac users to reinstall Lion over the air from Apple’s servers.

Both updates are available on Apple’s website or through Software Update. Direct links below. The Thunderbolt Display, priced at $999, is shipping in 2-3 weeks from Apple’s website.

- Mac mini EFI Firmware Update 1.3 (4.26 MB)

- Macbook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2 (4.17 MB)

Shake-To-Undo On A MacBook Pro

Paul Horowitz at OS X Daily writes:

The tiny app works by activating Command+Z when movement is detected by the SMS.

If you’re concerned about accidental undos from moving your Mac laptop around, you can prevent this by enabling the ‘Confirmation Overlay’ from Shake To Undo.app’s menubar.

This is basically useless unless you’re really into shaking your MacBook while writing, but the technology behind it is what intrigues me. I first learned about Sudden Motion Sensors (SMS) last year, when I opened my MacBook Pro to install a brand new SSD, and had done a bit of research online before replacing my hard drive. It turns out, this sensor was first implemented by Apple in a refreshed PowerBook line in 2005, and later in the July 2005 iBook. Since then, every portable Mac came with a Sudden Motion Sensor, albeit with differences between G4 laptops and Intel MacBooks.

The SMS acts as a security measure for the spinning hard drive. By calculating sudden acceleration in real time through an accelerometer, the SMS can “predict” when a computer is about to drop off a surface or your lap, and thus tells the hard drive to disengage the drive’s heads from the platters. In theory, this should prevent data loss or at least make for less damages to the drive.

As you can imagine, a number of hacks have arisen around SMS — tilt-based games and utilities like Shake To Undo. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can download the app over at GitHub. I don’t recommend it (it’s bad for your hard drive), but it sounds so ridiculous it might just be fun to test for an afternoon.

Remember when Leopard came out in 2007? Apple quickly refreshed their line of MacBooks to include a new keyboard layout to accommodate the changes made in Lion. The Exposé and Dashboard keys were added, and integration with OS X 10.5 and 10.6 has remained until now. As of Lion and the new MacBook Airs, Apple has introduced Mission Control and Launchpad keys, while removing the Dashboard key from its F4 spot.

MacTrast is giving us a glimpse at Apple’s new packaging for their MacBook line that reveals the Lion desktop, Andromeda Galaxy. Manuals are also being updated to accommodate the new OS and Apple is removing the install disc. As for MacBooks (and as spotted before), Apple is tweaking keyboards to fit the new functions. Previous Macs should soon be updated to come with Lion preinstalled. As before, Apple is keeping the packaging elegant and is pursuing reducing the amount of clutter to be found in box.

One concern that MacTrast noted is that while MacBooks are coming without the install disc, they don’t include the ability to install Lion over-the-air (likely this ability will come with a hardware revision to the MacBook Pro line). Apple will offer a USB thumb drive in the future for $69 to users who want to maintain their own machines, and only the current MacBook Air and Mac Mini include Internet Recovery for users who need to reinstall OS X in case of a failure — Apple is encouraging users to visit the Apple store for hardware failures.

[MacTrast via MacRumors]

Update: The cable has made its way on to the online US Apple Store and it is indeed US$49.

Following yesterday’s Thunderbolt firmware update that brought “performance and stability fixes”, Apple has released the ‘Apple Thunderbolt cable’ that allows users to connect and daisy chain multiple Thunderbolt capable devices. The 2m long accessory is simply a cable that features the Thunderbolt connector on both ends. It is priced at $55 in Australia, £39.00 in the UK but has not yet made it into the US Apple Store – although based on similarly priced accessories it will be roughly US$49.

Thunderbolt technology supports blazing-fast data transfer with two independent channels of 10Gbit/s each. Use the Apple Thunderbolt cable to connect your Thunderbolt-equipped peripherals to your new iMac or new MacBook Pro.

As explained in our Thunderbolt editorial a few months ago, the Thunderbolt specification works by daisy chaining multiple devices together – allowing just one cable from the Mac to actually connect a number of devices together. This Thunderbolt accessory cable is that cable that can connect multiple Thunderbolt capable devices together.

The other piece of Thunderbolt news is that Sony has announced details of its new 13.1-inch VAIO Z that features Thunderbolt, except they are calling it Light Peak (the old name of the specification). Interestingly it features a ‘Power Media Dock’ that includes an external GPU and optical drive – all connected by Light Peak. It is certainly an interesting use of the Thunderbolt specification, and with its speeds that external GPU will certainly make that laptop much more powerful when connected.

[Via This is my next]

If you were quick to purchase a new 2011 MacBook Pro with a Thunderbolt interface, you may be out of luck when it comes to your Optical Bay connection. With the first shipments of 2011 MacBook Pros, OWC has seen a silent update in consecutive shipments with a connectivity bump from SATA 2.0 to SATA 3.0, effectively changing the transfer rate from 3 Gbps to 6 Gbps to and from the optical bay. Multiple purchases of a 17” MacBook Pro by OWC revealed that not all of the new Macs were created equal as the possibility of getting a model that features a 6 Gbps optical baby connection is by chance (though more probable with a more recent purchase). Apple doesn’t include the spec upon purchase, which is understandable considering your CDs and DVDs should just work. The speed bump is important if you eventually want to scrap the optical bay for a second internal drive.

To check the connection on your optical bay, you simply need to open the System Profiler in your Utilities folder under Applications, and select Serial-ATA from the sidebar. You can check whether you do in fact have the speedier connection, and if not there’s certainly nothing to fret about unless you’re going to run two SSDs in RAID 0. OWC reported they got up to 1000 MB/s sustained from two of their 6G SSDs with the dual 6 Gb/s connections. Talk about fast! Although these tests were successful with 13” and 15” MacBook Pros, OWC does say that the 17” models didn’t always work in this configuration.

9 to 5 Mac’s Chris Zibreg writes that members on the Hardmac forum have reported similar findings, and it was unclear whether SATA 3 SSDs worked in optical bay interface. The Mac Performance Guide also notes that the 17” MacBook Pro may possibly have firmware issues with an additional 6G SSD in the optical bay as the negotiated speeds were dampened to 3 Gbps, but the next update to OS X could fix the issue in question. It’s suggested the recent OS X 10.6.8 beta solves the problem on 17” MacBooks, so those with the monster laptops may simply have to wait for the next update for a simple fix.

If you’ve purchased a new MacBook Pro, let us know in the comments what optical bay connection you have, and whether you’ll be taking advantage of an additional 6G SSD for a performance bump.

[via 9 to 5 Mac]
image via OWC

Apple posted a series of software updates overnight, all of them aimed at improving stability and performances of the new iMacs, MacBook Pros and Thunderbolt, the technology introduced in the MBPs back in February. The biggest update is for the early 2011 iMacs, which got an updated version of 10.6.7 with bug fixes, performance and security enhances. More specifically, the update improves the reliability of Back to my Mac, addresses Mac App Store bugs, improves Thunderbolt support and addresses other issues with graphics stability and 3D performances. It’s a 382 MB download. Another update for the iMacs — an EFI update — “includes fixes that improve performance and stability for Thunderbolt.”

The MacBook Pros received updates, too. The MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4 improves Thunderbolt, external display support and 3D performances, whilst the EFI update 2.1 “includes fixes that resolve an issue with Turbo Mode in Boot Camp, and improve performance and stability for graphics and Thunderbolt.”

You can find all the updates in the Software Update panel on your Mac, or by following the direct links below.

- Mac OS X 10.6.7 Update for iMac (early 2011) 1.0

- iMac EFI Update 1.6

- MacBook Pro Software Update 1.4

- MacBook Pro EFI Update 2.1

Let’s say you’re traveling amongst the lions of Africa, nose-diving off a cliff in Australia, or out-backing in the great wilds of New Zealand. Packing your MacBook, catastrophe strikes and your backpack goes tumbling down a vertical rocky hill even the greatest mountain bikers wouldn’t cross. Not to worry, however, because your Mac is straddled by G-Form’s Extreme Sleeve, offering the same durability that battle-hardened kneepads offer extreme sports enthusiasts. Reactive Protection Technology (a fancy way of saving impact resistance) suppresses hard falls by stiffening upon impact and rippling the shockwaves of the fall evenly through the structure of the case. Crack-ready glass displays and scratch-easy aluminum frames are firmly protected. Thanks to the G-Form’s water resistant, damage deflecting padding, it’s the sleeve that’s ready for everything from the urban jungle to the great outdoors. I can’t vouch for the Superman-like armor, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t believe the home-movie after the break. Available for $69.95 at g-form.com for laptops and $59.95 for iPads, the same people who bring bone protecting gear have taken their technologies to the metal logic-boxes you clank on each day.

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