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Unibody MacBook Pro Q&A - Published October 28, 2011

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What are all the differences between the "Late 2011" 13-Inch, 15-Inch, and 17-Inch MacBook Pro models and the "Early 2011" MacBook Pro models that they replaced?

Please note that the "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models have been discontinued. These models were replaced by the "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro line on June 11, 2012.

Externally, the "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models -- MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.4 13-Inch, "Core i7" 2.8 13-Inch, "Core i7" 2.2 15-Inch, "Core i7" 2.4 15-Inch, and "Core i7" 2.4 17-Inch -- are identical to the "Early 2011" MacBook Pro models -- the MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.3 13-Inch, "Core i7" 2.7 13-Inch, "Core i7" 2.0 15-Inch, "Core i7" 2.2 15-Inch and "Core i7" 2.2 17-Inch.

Even internally, the "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models are almost identical -- with the later line only packing modestly faster processors across the board and faster graphics or larger hard drives in some models. However, because these lines are so similar, a detailed comparison can be particularly useful to help tell them apart.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

External Differences

As noted above, each model with the same size display is identical. All have a black and silver "Unibody" case -- milled from a single block of aluminum -- and all have a backlit keyboard and a "no button" glass trackpad with support for "inertial scrolling" -- which Apple describes as an "intuitive way to scroll through large photo libraries, lengthy documents and long web sites."

All of these systems have LED-backlit displays and by default each display has a glossy finish. However, the 15-Inch models from both lines also can (or could) be configured with a high-resolution 1680x1050 display in either a glossy or anti-glare finish for an additional US$100 or US$150, respectively, and the 17-Inch models from both lines likewise are (or were) offered with an anti-glare display at the same 1920x1200 resolution as a US$50 upgrade. As a minor point of differentiation, the anti-glare configurations have a silver "frame" around the display rather than a black one. Regardless of its color, both lines have an identical "FaceTime HD" webcam integrated in the frame.

All "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models have a built-in non-swappable battery design, and this battery is not designed to be removed or serviced by end users although it can be replaced with a bit of effort. Apple estimates a flat seven hours of battery life for all of these models regardless of display size in a "wireless web" test.

Connectivity Differences

Connectivity between the "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models with the same display size also is identical. All of these Macs include AirPort Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Gigabit Ethernet, and a single Firewire "800" port.

However, the 15-Inch and 17-Inch models have an independent audio line in minijack (digital/analog) and an independent audio line out/headphone minijack (digital/analog). The 13-Inch models instead have a single "audio in/out" port. The 13-Inch and 15-Inch models have an SD card slot, whereas the 17-Inch has an ExpressCard/34 expansion slot instead. The 17-Inch model also has three USB 2.0 ports and the 13-Inch and 15-Inch models only have two.

All models in the "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" lines also have a single Thunderbolt port. Thunderbolt supports an external display at 2560x1600 as well as other peripherals that support the Thunderbolt standard. The Thunderbolt standard provides a maximum theoretical throughput of 10 Gbps in both directions and supports as many as six devices "daisy-chained" together. Unfortunately, Thunderbolt only can support a single display, but it is backwards compatible with Mini DisplayPort-equipped monitors and works with DVI, VGA, dual-link DVI and HDMI adapters as well.

Identification Differences

Externally, the "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" lines unfortunately use the same model numbers as several earlier MacBook Pro lines and EMC numbers are only listed internally, so they are not particularly convenient to use for identification purposes. As such, these models only can be externally differentiated by the serial number courtesy of EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature.

In software, the 13-Inch, 15-Inch and 17-Inch models from both lines can be spotted by the model identifiers MacBookPro8,1, MacBookPro8,2 and MacBookPro8,3, respectively, but these model identifiers can only be used to specifically identify a particular model when combined with a secondary, or in one case even a tertiary, identifier.

All but the 2.2 GHz GHz models in both lines can be identified with the model identifier and processor speed, but the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.2 15-Inch (Early 2011) and MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.2 15-Inch (Late 2011) require a third identifier -- such as VRAM (1 GB and 512 MB, respectively) or by running third-party diagnostics software for the exact processor type (I7-2720QM and I7-2675QM, respectively), but neither are particularly convenient for quick identification. The model identifier additionally is not available if the system will not boot.

Consequently, for the "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" MacBook Pro lines, the most convenient method to precisely identify these models is by the serial number using EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature.

Internal Differences

Internally, there are many similarities between the "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" lines -- all have "Sandy Bridge" processors, similar graphics, support for 1333 MHz PC3-10600 DDR3 SDRAM SO-DIMMs, a 6 Gb/s Serial ATA connector, and an 8X DL SuperDrive. Officially, both the "Early 2011" MacBook Pro and "Late 2011" MacBook Pro lines support a maximum of 8 GB of RAM, but site sponsor OWC has determined that both actually can support up to 16 GB.

However, there are processor, graphics and storage differences.

Comparison Charts

Complete details of each "Late 2011" model and the "Early 2011" model that each replaced are provided below.

The entry-level MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.4 13-Inch gains a modestly faster processor and a larger hard drive compared to the MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.3 13-Inch replaced.

  2.3 13" (Early 2011) 2.4 13" (Late 2011)
Processor Type: Core i5 Core i5
Processor Number: I5-2415M I5-2435M
Processor Speed: 2.3 GHz 2.4 GHz
Processor Cores: Two Two
Video System: Intel HD Graphics 3000 Intel HD Graphics 3000
Video Type: Integrated Integrated
Video Memory: 384 MB 384 MB
Display Size: 13.3" 13.3"
Native Resolution: 1280x800 1280x800
Ext. Display: 2560x1600 2560x1600
RAM Type: 1333 MHz PC3-10600 1333 MHz PC3-10600
Default Memory: 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum Memory: 16 GB* 16 GB*
Hard Drive Size: 320 GB 500 GB
Serial ATA: 6 Gb/s 6 Gb/s
SuperDrive: 8X DL 8X DL
SD Card Slot: Yes Yes
ExpressCard/34: No No
Firewire 800: Yes (1) Yes (1)
USB 2.0: Yes (2) Yes (2)
Thunderbolt: Yes (1) Yes (1)
Size (Inches): 0.95 x 12.78 x 8.94 0.95 x 12.78 x 8.94
Weight: 4.5 lbs (2.04 kg) 4.5 lbs (2.04 kg)
Battery Life: 7 Hours 7 Hours
Battery W/Hr: 63.5 W/Hr 63.5 W/Hr
Apple Order No: MC700LL/A MD313LL/A
Intro Price: US$1199 US$1199


The high-end 13" MacBook Pro model -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.8 13-Inch -- gains a modestly faster processor and a larger hard drive compared to the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.7 13-Inch replaced.

  2.7 13" (Early 2011) 2.8 13" (Late 2011)
Processor Type: Core i7 Core i7
Processor Number: I7-2620M I7-2640M
Processor Speed: 2.7 GHz 2.8 GHz
Processor Cores: Two Two
Video System: Intel HD Graphics 3000 Intel HD Graphics 3000
Video Type: Integrated Integrated
Video Memory: 384 MB 384 MB
Display Size: 13.3" 13.3"
Native Resolution: 1280x800 1280x800
Ext. Display: 2560x1600 2560x1600
RAM Type: 1333 MHz PC3-10600 1333 MHz PC3-10600
Default Memory: 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum Memory: 16 GB* 16 GB*
Hard Drive Size: 500 GB 750 GB
Serial ATA: 6 Gb/s 6 Gb/s
SuperDrive: 8X DL 8X DL
SD Card Slot: Yes Yes
ExpressCard/34: No No
Firewire 800: Yes (1) Yes (1)
USB 2.0: Yes (2) Yes (2)
Thunderbolt: Yes (1) Yes (1)
Size (Inches): 0.95 x 12.78 x 8.94 0.95 x 12.78 x 8.94
Weight: 4.5 lbs (2.04 kg) 4.5 lbs (2.04 kg)
Battery Life: 7 Hours 7 Hours
Battery W/Hr: 63.5 W/Hr 63.5 W/Hr
Apple Order No: MC724LL/A MD314LL/A
Intro Price: US$1499 US$1499


The low-end "Late 2011" 15" MacBook Pro -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.2 15-Inch has a faster processor and significantly faster graphics than the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.0 15-Inch that it replaced.

  2.0 15" (Early 2011) 2.2 15" (Late 2011)
Processor Type: Core i7 Core i7
Processor Number: I7-2635QM I7-2675QM
Processor Speed: 2.0 GHz 2.2 GHz
Processor Cores: 4 4
Video System: Intel HD Graphics 3000
Radeon HD 6490M
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Radeon HD 6750M
Video Type: Integrated/Dedicated Integrated/Dedicated
Video Memory: 384 MB/256 MB 384 MB/512 MB
Autoswitching: Yes Yes
Display Size: 15.4" 15.4"
Native Resolution: 1440x900 1440x900
Ext. Display: 2560x1600 2560x1600
RAM Type: 1333 MHz PC3-10600 1333 MHz PC3-10600
Default Memory: 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum Memory: 16 GB* 16 GB*
Hard Drive Size: 500 GB 500 GB
Serial ATA: 6 Gb/s 6 Gb/s
SuperDrive: 8X DL 8X DL
SD Card Slot: Yes Yes
ExpressCard/34: No No
Firewire 800: Yes (1) Yes (1)
USB 2.0: Yes (2) Yes (2)
Thunderbolt: Yes (1) Yes (1)
Size (Inches): 0.95 x 14.35 x 9.82 0.95 x 14.35 x 9.82
Weight: 5.5 lbs (2.49 kg) 5.5 lbs (2.49 kg)
Battery Life: 7 Hours 7 Hours
Battery W/Hr: 77.5 W/Hr 77.5 W/Hr
Apple Order No: MC721LL/A MD318LL/A
Intro Price: US$1799 US$1799


The high-end stock 15" MacBook Pro -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.4 15-Inch -- likewise gains a modestly faster processor and graphics compared to the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.2 15-Inch replaced.

  2.2 15" (Early 2011) 2.4 15" (Late 2011)
Processor Type: Core i7 Core i7
Processor Number: I7-2720QM I7-2760QM
Processor Speed: 2.2 GHz 2.4 GHz
Processor Cores: 4 4
Video System: Intel HD Graphics 3000
Radeon HD 6750M
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Radeon HD 6770M
Video Type: Integrated/Dedicated Integrated/Dedicated
Video Memory: 384 MB/1 GB 384 MB/1 GB
Autoswitching: Yes Yes
Display Size: 15.4" 15.4"
Native Resolution: 1440x900 1440x900
Ext. Display: 2560x1600 2560x1600
RAM Type: 1333 MHz PC3-10600 1333 MHz PC3-10600
Default Memory: 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum Memory: 16 GB* 16 GB*
Hard Drive Size: 750 GB 750 GB
Serial ATA: 6 Gb/s 6 Gb/s
SuperDrive: 8X DL 8X DL
SD Card Slot: Yes Yes
ExpressCard/34: No No
Firewire 800: Yes (1) Yes (1)
USB 2.0: Yes (2) Yes (2)
Thunderbolt: Yes (1) Yes (1)
Size (Inches): 0.95 x 14.35 x 9.82 0.95 x 14.35 x 9.82
Weight: 5.5 lbs (2.49 kg) 5.5 lbs (2.49 kg)
Battery Life: 7 Hours 7 Hours
Battery W/Hr: 77.5 W/Hr 77.5 W/Hr
Apple Order No: MC723LL/A MD322LL/A
Intro Price: US$2199
US$2199


Finally, the stock 17" MacBook Pro -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.4 17-Inch -- gains a modestly faster processor and graphics compared to the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.2 17-Inch replaced.

  2.2 17" (Early 2011) 2.4 17" (Late 2011)
Processor Type: Core i7 Core i7
Processor Number: I7-2720QM I7-2760QM
Processor Speed: 2.2 GHz 2.4 GHz
Processor Cores: 4 4
Video System: Intel HD Graphics 3000
Radeon HD 6750M
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Radeon HD 6770M
Video Type: Integrated/Dedicated Integrated/Dedicated
Video Memory: 384 MB/1 GB 384 MB/1 GB
Autoswitching: Yes Yes
Display Size: 17.0" 17.0"
Native Resolution: 1920x1200 1920x1200
Ext. Display: 2560x1600 2560x1600
RAM Type: 1333 MHz PC3-10600 1333 MHz PC3-10600
Default Memory: 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum Memory: 16 GB* 16 GB*
Hard Drive Size: 750 GB 750 GB
Serial ATA: 6 Gb/s 6 Gb/s
SuperDrive: 8X DL 8X DL
SD Card Slot: No No
ExpressCard/34: Yes Yes
Firewire 800: Yes (1) Yes (1)
USB 2.0: Yes (3) Yes (3)
Thunderbolt: Yes (1) Yes (1)
Size (Inches): 0.98 x 15.47 x 10.51 0.98 x 15.47 x 10.51
Weight: 6.6 lbs (2.99 kg) 6.6 lbs (2.99 kg)
Battery Life: 7 Hours 7 Hours
Battery W/Hr: 95 W/Hr 95 W/Hr
Apple Order No: MC725LL/A MD311LL/A
Intro Price: US$2499
US$2499


* Officially, both the "Early 2011" and "Late 2011" MacBook Pro lines support a maximum of 8 GB of RAM, but OWC has determined that each line actually can support up to 16 GB.

Comparison Summary

Ultimately, most users likely would be pleased with the modest upgrades provided by the "Late 2011" MacBook Pro line, particularly as price points remain the same. However, as the upgrades are modest, others may find the "Early 2011" line to remain a good value given discount prices on the used market.

Site sponsor PowerMax has new and used configurations of the MacBook Pro models available free of sales tax and OWC sells quality memory and hard drive/SSD upgrades for all MacBook Pro models at affordable prices.

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


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