MacBook Pros — now with Thunderbolt

This morning Apple announced its new line of MacBook Pro laptop computers including an industry first — the "Thunderbolt" port designed by Intel in collaboration with Apple.

Thunderbolt (previously codenamed "Light Peak") looks like a Mini DisplayPort, but as well as HD video it also includes high-speed data transfer (essentially PCI Express) up to 10Gb per second. It's compatible with existing DisplayPort devices, but — here's the cool bit — it's daisy-chainable, like FireWire. So you can have data storage devices, displays and other high-speed compatible peripherals all connected via a single bus. (FireWire and USB adapters will reportedly be available.)

Intel developed Thunderbolt with Apple — not the first time they've worked together — and the newly-unveiled MacBook Pros are the first computers on the market to feature the interface. As it's been developed with mobile devices in mind, it would also not be surprising to see it find its way to a future iPad. Other companies working on Thunderbolt-compatible devices include Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise, and Western Digital, so expect to see mass storage and A/V equipment with it soon.

As for those MacBook Pros, the 13-inch model is available in two configurations: 2.3GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 and 320GB hard drive for $A1399; and one with a 2.7GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 processor, Intel HD Graphics 3000 and 500GB hard drive at $A1698. The 15-inch version comes in two models: one with a 2.0GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6490M and 500GB hard drive for $A2099; and one with a 2.2GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6750M and 750GB hard drive for $A2499. The 17-inch model features a 2.2GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6750M and 750GB hard drive and is priced at $A2899.

Configure-to-order options include faster quad-core processors up to 2.3 GHz, additional hard drive capacity up to 750GB, solid-state storage up to 512GB, more memory up to 8GB DDR3 and anti-glare and high-resolution displays

All models include a built-in FaceTime HD camera with triple the resolution of the previous generation, allowing HD video calls between all new MacBook Pro models and standard-resolution calls with other Intel-based Macs, iPhone 4 and the current generation iPod touch (also likely to include the next iPad, but until that's actually announced who knows). FaceTime is included with all new MacBook Pro models and is available for other Intel-based Macs from the Mac App Store for $A1.19.

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