New MacBook Pros feature Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge

Apple has unveiled this year's range of MacBook Pro notebooks, which all feature significant performance and data-transfer boosts over their predecessors

Apple has unveiled its new MacBook Pro range, introducing faster Sandy Bridge Core processors and Intel's new Light Peak data transfer technology, now dubbed Thunderbolt.

Announced on Thursday, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro uses either a 2.3GHz Core i5 processor or a 2.7GHz Core i7 processor, which can 'turbo boost' up to 3.4GHz. Apple said the new version of this machine performs "up to twice as fast as the previous generation".

Apple MacBook Pros 2011

Apple's latest range of MacBook Pros feature Intel's Thunderbolt data transfer technology and Sandy Bridge chips. Photo credit: Apple

The new 15- and 17-inch models have also seen a performance boost with the introduction of Intel's quad-core 2.3GHz Core i7, which can also be bumped up to 3.4GHz when needed. The 13-inch model uses the integrated HD graphics capabilities of Sandy Bridge, while the larger models add discrete AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPUs.

All the new MacBook Pros feature Thunderbolt, which Apple said offers dual channel transfers at up to 10Gbps per channel, or 12 times faster than FireWire 800. Apple has collaborated with Intel on Thunderbolt's development and these latest MacBook devices are the first to use the technology, which is integrated with DisplayPort and will work over copper or optical cables.

Existing DisplayPort devices will work as before, with Thunderbolt multiplexing PCIe and DisplayPort packets when it detects another Thunderbolt adaptor on the cable.

The new models also feature high-definition FaceTime webcams for videoconferencing over the web or with iPhone and iPod Touch users.

Apple is pitching the new MacBook Pros as "the industry's greenest notebook line-up", as the bodies are made from recyclable aluminium and use energy-efficient LED-backlit displays that are "mercury free and made with arsenic-free glass". The notebooks do not use brominated flame retardants or PVC.

All the new models come with Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Also on Thursday, Apple released a developer preview of the successor to that operating system, Mac OS X Lion. According to the company, this upcoming iteration "takes some of the best ideas from [the] iPad and brings them back to the Mac".

Lion will feature a function called Mission Control, to give the user a view of everything that is running at the time; a new Launchpad application launcher; full-screen apps; and new multi-touch gestures. Lion will also include the Mac App Store, and will ship this summer.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at £999 including VAT, while the 15-inch model starts at £1,549 and the 17-inch model at £2,099. All are available now.

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