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What are the differences between the 17-Inch "Early 2009/Unibody" MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo and the 17-Inch "Early 2008/Penryn" model that it replaced?
Please note that all Macs mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The "Early 2009/Unibody" MacBook Pro systems were replaced by the "Mid-2009" MacBook Pro line on June 8, 2009.
There really is no mistaking the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.66 17-Inch (Early 2009/Unibody) for the system it replaced -- the MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.5 17-Inch (Early 2008/Penryn) -- as both look quite different from one another.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Early 2008 - Left, Early 2009 - Right)
By default, the "Unibody/Early 2009" model uses a black and silver case design milled from a single block of aluminum providing greater strength and a superior finish than the previous model which also is made from aluminum but assembled from multiple pieces (the "Early 2009" configuration option with an "anti-gloss" display has a silver bezel around the screen rather than a black one). The "Early 2009" model also has a "no button" glass "multi-touch" trackpad with support for "four finger" gestures and programmable "zones" -- compared to a single button and more limited functionality on the "Early 2008" model -- and a magnetic "latch" rather than a physical one. Both models have backlit keyboards although the "Early 2009" model uses the "chiclet-style" keyboard first introduced with the original MacBook.
The "Early 2009" models also are slightly lighter -- 6.6 pounds (2.99 kg) compared to 6.8 lbs. (3.08 kg) -- and minutely thinner (0.98 inches compared to 1.0 inches) -- but have a slightly larger footprint (15.47 x 10.51 inches compared to 15.4 x 10.4 inches).
The differences between the displays also are worth noting, as by default, the "Early 2008" model has an anti-glare CCFL-backlit 17" widescreen 1680x1050 active-matrix display (a glossy display was available via build-to-order at no extra cost, and a higher resolution LED-backlit 1920x1200 display also was available for an extra US$100). The "Early 2009" model, on the other hand, by default, has a glossy LED-backlit 17" widescreen display with a native resolution of 1920x1200 but also it is offered in an "anti-glare" configuration for an additional US$50.
The "Early 2009" model also has a different built-in battery design -- i.e. it is not swappable, just like the battery in the MacBook Air models -- compared to the "Early 2008" models which has an easily swapped battery. The estimated battery life, however, has increased dramatically from 4.5 hours to 8 hours of "wireless productivity" (when using the slower "integrated" graphics option on the "Early 2009" model).
Unfortunately for many, connectivity has been reduced on the "Early 2009" models compared to the earlier line -- as it drops the previously available Firewire "400" port -- although this merely mirrors the change made by the 15-inch "Unibody" models, so it should not have been unexpected. Connectivity otherwise effectively is the same, with an ExpressCard/34 slot, AirPort Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Gigabit Ethernet, a Firewire "800" port, three USB 2.0 ports, and optical digital/analog audio in/out. However, the "Early 2009" models have a "Mini DisplayPort" in lieu of DVI out, but both models support an external display at 2560x1600.
Internally, the "Early 2009" system has a faster 45 nm "Penryn" Intel "Core 2 Duo" processor -- by default, 2.66 GHz up from 2.5 GHz -- and uses a faster architecture with a faster system bus -- 1066 MHz up from 800 MHz -- faster memory -- 1066 MHz PC3-8500 DDR3 compared to 667 MHz PC2-5300 DDR2 -- and faster and dual graphics processors -- a NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT with dedicated GDDR3 SDRAM and a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256 MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory compared to a single NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT in the replaced model.
The major differences between the 17-Inch "Early 2008/Penryn" and MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo (Early 2009/Unibody) models -- display, architecture, battery, connectivity, configuration, and dimensions -- are summarized below:
|MacBook Pro 17"||2.5 (Early 2008)||2.66 (Early 2009)|
|Processor Speed:||2.5 GHz*||2.66 GHz*|
|Level 2 Cache:||6 MB||6 MB|
|Frontside Bus:||800 MHz||1066 MHz|
|Hard Drive Size:||250 GB, 320 GB**||320 GB|
|Standard RAM:||2 GB, 4 GB**||4 GB|
|Maximum RAM:||4 GB (6 GB)||8 GB|
|Video Type:||NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT||NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M
|Video Memory:||512 MB||512 MB/256 MB (Shared)|
|SuperDrive:||8X DL||8X DL|
|Est. Battery Life:||4.5 Hours||8 Hours|
|Width x Depth (In):||15.4 x 10.4||15.47 x 10.51|
|Weight:||6.8 lbs (3.08 kg)||6.6 lbs (2.99 kg)|
|Apple Part No:||MB166LL/A||MB604LL/A|
* By custom configuration, the "Early 2008" model also was offered with a 2.6 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T9500) processor for an additional US$250 and the "Early 2009" model also was offered with a 2.93 GHz "Core 2 Duo" (T9800) processor for an additional US$300.
** On October 14, 2008 Apple boosted the configuration of the "Early 2008" model to include 4 GB of RAM and a 320 GB hard drive standard.
† By default, the "Early 2008" model has an anti-glare CCFL-backlit 17" widescreen 1680x1050 active-matrix display and the "Early 2009" model has a glossy LED-backlit 17" widescreen display with a native resolution of 1920x1200.
§ By custom configuration, the "Early 2008" model could be equipped with a glossy display at no extra cost, and a higher resolution LED-backlit 1920x1200 display also was available for an extra US$100. The "Early 2009" model also is offered in an "anti-glare" configuration for an additional US$50.
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