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MacBook Pro Q&A - Published March 4, 2008

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What is the difference between the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Early 2008/Penryn" models and the MacBook Pro "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" models that they replaced?

Please note that all models mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The 15-Inch "Early 2008/Penryn" MacBook Pro models were replaced by the 15-Inch "Late 2008/Unibody" MacBook Pro models and the 17-Inch "Early 2008/Penryn" MacBook Pro was replaced by the 17-Inch "Early 2009/Unibody" MacBook Pro.

Externally, it would be unlikely for one to quickly notice a difference between the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Early 2008/Penryn" models -- the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 15" (2008), "Core 2 Duo" 2.5 15" (2008), and "Core 2 Duo" 2.5 17" (2008) -- and their predecessors as each share identical cases.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

However, upon closer inspection, one would likely would notice a difference in the keyboards. The keyboard on the "Early 2008/Penryn" MacBook Pro models eliminates the "embedded numeric keypad", replaces the "enter" key next to the right-hand "command" key with a second option key, and has different function key mapping. Additionally, the "Early 2008/Penryn" models unveil a new trackpad "borrowed" from the MacBook Air -- which adds support for "multi-touch gesturing" (two finger scroll, pinch, rotate, swipe, tap, double-tap, and drag).

The 15-Inch "Early 2008/Penryn" MacBook Pro models have the same display as their predecessors -- a 15.4" color "antiglare widescreen TFT LED backlit display" with a 1440x900 native resolution. By default, the 17-Inch models have the same display also -- an antiglare CCFL-backlit 17" widescreen 1680x1050 active-matrix display, but whereas the "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" model could be upgraded to a CCFL-backlit higher-resolution 1920x1200 display, the "Early 2008/Penryn" model can be upgraded to an LED-backlit higher-resolution 1920x1200 display for US$100.

Connectivity effectively is the same, with an ExpressCard/34 slot, AirPort Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n), Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire "400" port, Firewire "800" port, two USB 2.0 ports (three on the 17-Inch system), optical digital audio in/out, and DVI out (although Bluetooth has been upgraded to the 2.1+EDR standard). The "Early 2008/Penryn" and "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" models also share the "MagSafe" power connector and integrated iSight video camera. The Apple Remote -- bundled for free with the "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" models -- is a US$19 upgrade for the "Early 2008/Penryn" series.

Internally, the differences are still are modest, but worth noting nevertheless. The "Early 2008/Penryn" models use modestly faster and more energy-efficient 45 nm "Penryn" processors -- compared to 65 nm "Merom" processors in the "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" series -- larger 6 MB level 2 caches (on the 2.5 GHz models, compared to 4 MB caches on their predecessors, albeit the 2.4 GHz model has a 3 MB cache), more video memory (256 MB or 512 MB, compared to 128 MB or 256 MB), and larger stock hard drives. The underlying architecture is effectively the same -- with an 800 MHz frontside bus, 4 GB of RAM capacity, and NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics. The 8X dual-layer SuperDrive is the same as well.

It's also worth noting that Apple changed how the company measured battery life for the "Early 2008/Penryn" models. For the "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" systems, Apple reported that the 15-Inch models provided 6 hours and the 17-Inch model 5.75 hours of battery life -- with wireless off. For the "Early 2008/Penryn" systems, the company reported that the 15-Inch models provide 5 hours and the 17-Inch model 4.5 hours -- but this is for "wireless productivity".

For your convenience, the major differences between the MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Early 2008/Penryn" model and the configuration that each immediately replaced are summarized below. Please refer to the specs page for the model of interest for complete details.

MacBook Pro 15": Core 2 Duo Santa Rosa 2.2 Core 2 Duo Penryn 2.4
Processor Type: 2.2 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T7500) 2.4 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T8300)
Frontside Bus: 800 MHz 800 MHz
Standard RAM: 2 GB 2 GB
Maximum RAM: 4 GB 4 GB
Video Type: NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT
Video Memory: 128 MB 256 MB
Backlight: LED LED
Hard Drive: 120 GB 200 GB
SuperDrive: 8X Dual-Layer 8X Dual-Layer
Est. Battery Life: 6 Hours* 5 Hours*
Apple Part No: MA895LL MB133LL/A
Original Price: US$1999 US$1999

MacBook Pro 15": Core 2 Duo Santa Rosa 2.4 Core 2 Duo Penryn 2.5
Processor Type: 2.4 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T7700) 2.5 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T9300)
Frontside Bus: 800 MHz 800 MHz
Standard RAM: 2 GB 2 GB
Maximum RAM: 4 GB 4 GB
Video Type: NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT
Video Memory: 256 MB 512 MB
Backlight: LED LED
Hard Drive: 160 GB 250 GB
SuperDrive: 8X Dual-Layer 8X Dual-Layer
Est. Battery Life: 6 Hours* 5 Hours*
Apple Part No: MA896LL MB134LL/A
Original Price: US$2499 US$2499

MacBook Pro 17": Core 2 Duo Santa Rosa 2.4 Core 2 Duo Penryn 2.5
Processor Type: 2.4 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T7700) 2.5 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T9300)
Frontside Bus: 800 MHz 800 MHz
Standard RAM: 2 GB 2 GB
Maximum RAM: 4 GB 4 GB
Video Type: NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT
Video Memory: 256 MB 512 MB
Backlight: CCFL† CCFL†
Hard Drive: 160 GB 250 GB
SuperDrive: 8X Dual-Layer 8X Dual-Layer
Est. Battery Life: 5.75 Hours* 4.5 Hours*
Apple Part No: MA897LL/A MB166LL/A
Original Price: US$2799 US$2799

* Apple changed how the company measured battery life. For the "Mid-2007/Santa Rosa" line, the company reported battery life with wireless off, and for the "Early 2008/Penryn" systems, the company reported battery life in terms of "wireless productivity" (effectively with wireless on, but with light usage).

† Unlike the 15-inch models, the 17-inch MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo "Early 2008/Penryn" system does not use an LED-based backlit display by default. A higher-resolution 1920x1200 LED-backlit display is available by custom configuration, however.

Site sponsor PowerMax has new and used configurations of the MacBook Pro models available free of sales tax.

Please refer to the Ultimate Mac Comparison feature to dynamically compare any MacBook Pro model to any other G3 or later Mac.

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