Following the appearance of a benchmark potentially signaling a near-term launch for Apple’s much-rumored thinner MacBook Pro, 9to5Mac reports that it has received specific information on the new 15-inch MacBook Pro’s design from a source who has handled prototype casings and other components.
Mockup of thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro design (left) compared to current design (right)
The most obvious change for the new machine is its design, and while the report’s source indicates that it will be considerably thinner than the existing MacBook Pro due to the removal of the optical drive, it will look essentially like a thinner version of the current MacBook Pro rather than adopting the tapered design of the MacBook Air as had been rumored previously.
While many have speculated that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro will pickup the design from the late-2010/mid-2011 MacBook Air, sources familiar with the prototype units say that this is untrue. Instead, the new 15-inch MacBook Pro is described as being an ultra-thin version of the current MacBook Pro. Basically, the prototype design is a thinner, yet more robust, version of the late-2008 design. It has no tapering like the MacBook Airs.
The casing of the forthcoming MacBook Pro reportedly includes ports for the MagSafe power connector, two USB ports, and audio in/out jacks along the left side, with a battery level indicator also included along the same side. The right side is said to offer a pair of Thunderbolt ports, another USB port, an SD card slot, and a Kensington lock slot.
Mockup of port layout on thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro
The machines are said to lack a dedicated Ethernet port, with users apparently needing to rely on the USB-to-Ethernet dongle introduced with the original MacBook Air if they wish to use a wired connection. Given its height, the Ethernet port is one of the primary features limiting how thin the MacBook Pro can be, and it appears that Apple may simply have removed the port entirely in order to achieve the thin design it desired. The new MacBook Pro may also forgo FireWire connectivity, although the report appears unsure on that point.
In line with previous rumors, the machine is said to include a “Retina” display, a development that has been rumored for some time and for which evidence has been showing up in builds of OS X Lion and Mountain Lion. According to the report’s source, OS X will simply offer a set of resolution quality options for the new machine (“such as big, small, or optimal”) to allow users taking advantage of this new “HiDPI” support to select their desired combination of sharpness and resolution.
The report indicates that the USB ports on the new MacBook Pro will support USB 3.0, a feature some had questioned whether Apple would adopt given the move to Thunderbolt connectivity. But last September it was reported that Apple was still considering support USB 3.0 alongside Thunderbolt, and that appears to be the route the company has taken as Thunderbolt peripherals have been rather slow to roll out in many cases. A fresh report from Digitimes also claims that Genesys Logic has won a contract to supply USB 3.0 chips for a forthcoming MacBook Air revision, and it seems likely that such compatibility would also be coming to the MacBook Pro.
A launch timeframe for the new MacBook Pro remains unknown, with the company expected to be able to introduce updated machines any time now as Intel’s Ivy Bridge production ramps up. With Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference just four weeks away, it is possible the company could use that event for a major product introduction, although Apple typically limits its hardware announcements at the event in order to focus on iOS and OS X discussion Digitimes claims that Apple’s MacBook suppliers will begin increasing their shipments in June with production peaking in July, suggesting that Apple may indeed be targeting a major push for June.