Apple refreshes MacBook Pro family with Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors... at long last!

This transition from the last crop of Core 2 Duo chips (which Apple introduced in June of last year) to Intel's Core 2010 chips has caused quite the unprecedented wait, but at last we're staring down a fresh crop of MacBook Pros and all is right with the world. The 13-inchers are sticking with Core 2 Duo, but the 15.4-inch and 17-inch models are now Core i5 and Core i7 through and through. The higher end models are nabbing NVIDIA's GeForce GT 330M graphics with something akin to Optimus switching (though Apple just calls it "automatic graphics switching technology," and claims to be using its own tech), while the 13-incher get NVIDIA GeForce 320M scraps. Along with the faster 2.4GHz and 2.66GHz chips in the 13-inch, Apple claims to be able to squeeze 10 hours of battery life from the machine, but the real meat is in the Core i5 2.4GHz (520M), Core i5 2.53GHz (540M), and Core i7 2.66GHz (620M) processors in the larger models. The 330M graphics are twice as fast as the 13's 320M, but thanks to the magic of Optimus, er, "automatic graphics switching," which switches the GPU on and off on the fly based on the needs of the task at hand, Apple still thinks you'll manage 8 to 9 hours of battery life on these big guys.

All machines come with 4GB of RAM, and while hard drives are standard (320GB and 500GB in the higher end), you're free to add a 512GB SSD to your machine if you so choose, for a mere $1,300. Interestingly only the 15-incher is getting that top Core i7 chip, with the sole 17-inch model is consigned to the 2.53GHz Core i5 (though you can choose Core i7 in the build to order options). Prices range from $1,799 on the 15 (up from the last-gen's $1,699 base price!) to $2,299 on the 17, with a $1,199 starting price on the 13. On the 15-inch you can pick between a 1440 x 900 "glossy" display, a 1680 x 1050 glossy display for $100 more, and an anti-glare hi-res display for another $50 on top of that (you 17-inch users are stuck with 1920 x 1200 and glossy). The biggest tweak outside of these beefy internals is "inertial scrolling" support for the trackpads, à la iPhone, though we're not sure why this couldn't have been added with just a software update. Everything's up on the Apple Store right now for your perusal, with the bigger models shipping "within 24 hours" and a 2-4 day delay on the 13-inch.

Update: Ars Technica confirms that the autonomous graphics switching is indeed from Apple. The boys in Cupertino wrote their own code in order to extract the longer battery life. Unlike Optimus, Apple's solution powers down the integrated graphics when the discrete GPU is required -- something that happens automatically whenever an application requires advanced graphics frameworks like OpenGL, Core Graphics, or Quartz Composer. Optimus works off a master list of GPU intensive apps that NVIDIA maintains. Yeah, we can definitely see Apple not going for that.