Santa Rosa is Coming to Town. (Apple MacBook Pro Updates.)

Following the MacBook update three weeks ago, Apple today introduced updates to the MacBook Pros.

The MacBook update was disappointing to some, though I wrote that it was a lot better than I think it was given credit for. There were new laptop technologies out, and some were hopeful the MacBook update would incorporate them, but as I noted: “those changes were clearly going to appear on Apple’s professional (i.e., MacBook Pro) line first.”

Well, today the MacBook Pro updates are here, and those technologies are in place: Intel Centrino Pro chipset (a.k.a. “Santa Rosa”), and LED screen technology (on the 15″ model).

The Santa Rosa chipset offers a few things, but the principle ones for Mac users are faster CPU speeds, faster front-side bus (800MHz vs 667MHz), and better power management. Other advantages of Santa Rosa, such as wireless “N” networking and a top memory speed of 667MHz, were already in the MacBook Pros.

So what do you get for your money? Unlike the MacBooks, which improved very nicely in value on the low- and mid-range models, but not on the high-end (black) model, the updated MBPs are better values throughout the line.

First, the entry model gets the following for the same price as before ($1,999):

  • “Santa Rosa” chipset
  • Faster processor (from 2.16 to 2.2GHz)
  • Increased memory (from 1 to 2GB)
  • Maximum RAM increased (from 3G to 4GB)
  • LED back lit display
  • Better video (From ATI X1600 to NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT) with 128MB
  • Faster DVD drive (from 6x to 8x)
  • Weight loss of a few ounces (LED display is lighter)
  • Increased battery life (from 5 to 6 hours)

The middle model gets the same as the entry, except where noted below, for the same price as before ($2,499):

  • Faster processor (from 2.33 to 2.4GHz)
  • Better video (From ATI X1600 to NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT) with 256MB
  • Bigger hard drive (from 120 to 160GB)

The high-end model gets the same as the middle, except where noted below, for the same price as before ($2,799):

  • A 17″ screen instead of the 15″ (note that the 17″ screen is not LED).
  • Increased battery life (from 5.5 to 5.75 hours).

The bottom line is that, at minimum, each model gets the “Santa Rosa” chipset, faster processor speed, better battery life, increased maximum RAM, faster DVD drive speed, and nicely upgraded graphics. Since prices remain the same, those updates alone are very nice improvements.

The 15″ models get the additional benefit of the LED screen, with associated improvements in battery life and lower weight. The entry model gets more memory, the middle model gets more hard drive space.

The 17″ model gets two additional options: A high-resolution display (1920 x 1200) for $100; and a 250GB drive for $150. These options are new, and not available on the lower models.

All in all, a solid set of updates. Faster performance all around, yet with longer battery life, for the same prices as before.