Apple has added a Thunderbolt port featuring two bi-directional channels to its MacBook Pro line. Thunderbolt is a new technology Intel unveiled on Thursday and is based on the Light Peak optical cable technology Apple developed jointly with Intel in order to offer high-speed data transfer and HD display connectivity on a single cable. Thunderbolt runs at 10 Gbps, allowing users to transfer a full-length HD movie in less than 30 seconds.
Thunderbolt aims to replace an existing plethora of incompatible interfaces such as SATA, eSATA, USB, FireWire, PCI Express and DisplayPort by supporting some existing options including FireWire and DisplayPort while accelerating the transfer of data. The MacBook Pro is the first PC product to feature Thunderbolt, but it will roll out across manufacturers in the coming year.
"We're thrilled to collaborate with Intel to bring the groundbreaking Thunderbolt technology to Mac users," said Bob Mansfield, Apple's senior vice president of Mac Hardware Engineering, in a statement. "With ultra-fast transfer speeds, support for high-resolution displays and compatibility with existing I/O technologies, Thunderbolt is a breakthrough for the entire industry and we think developers are going to have a blast with it."
As expected, Apple also refreshed its MacBooks with Core i5 and i7 Sandy Bridge integrated graphics processors, paired with a GPU from rival AMD. The 13-inch model features a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core Sandy Bridge processor, four gigabytes of RAM, and a 320-gigabyte hard drive.The 17-inch version comes with a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7 quad-core Sandy Bridge chip, four gigabytes of RAM, 750-gigabyte hard drive, and an AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics chip with one gigabyte of memory. Apple's MacBooks can also be upgraded with up to eight gigabytes of optional RAM, and 128-, 256- or 512-gigabyte solid state hard drives.
The refreshed 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro systems include a discrete AMD Radeon graphics card running alongside Intel's Sandy Bridge platform. Nvidia previously had its GeForce discrete graphics in the 13-inch version, but Apple has replaced Nvidia's GPUs with Intel's integrated graphics with 384 MB of shared memory.
According to analyst Chris Caso of Susquehanna Financial, Apple's latest move will push Nvidia technology out of the picture for the Mac platform, and will severely affect Nvidia's future earnings. "We think the magnitude of the revenue shift is on the order of $100 million in annual revenue," Caso wrote in a note to clients on Thursday. "Following this change, Nvidia's only remaining exposure to Apple will be on the MacBook Air - and once that business moves to Sandy Bridge, Nvidia will have zero remaining exposure to Apple."
Next: Updated MacBook Pro Specs