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Next-gen MacBook Pro "Penryn" chips revealed

The next evolution of Apple Inc.'s MacBook Pro professional notebook line, on track for the first quarter of 2008, will tap a new breed of Core 2 Duo processors, details of which have just leaked on the web.

Rooted in Intel's Penryn technology, the future processors will share the same underpinnings as the Santa Rosa-based chip designs found in today's MacBook Pro systems but will shrink the manufacturing size from 65 nanometers (nm) down to 45, simultaneously cooling the processors and clearing room for both a ramp-up of clock speeds as well as more on-chip features.

In speaking to developers at its IDF forum this week, Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said the initial line of Penryn processors will provide up to a 20 percent performance increase over the 65nm models they will replace. The new chips will also use halogen-free packaging, he added, yielding chips that will not only be more energy efficient but also better for the environment.

Previous reports have indicated that Intel plans to launch the first five Penryn-based mobile Core 2 Duo processors in January, and thanks to the increasingly reliable DigiTimes, there are now part numbers and pricing to go along with those chips. The cost of the new chips, when viewed alongside their corresponding clock frequencies, offers a near fail-safe method for determining which variants Apple will inevitably adopt for its professional notebook refresh.

The chips scheduled to launch in January will have the model names X9000 for the 2.8GHz CPU, T9500 for the 2.6GHz, T9300 for the 2.5GHz, T8300 for the 2.4GHz and T8100 for the 2.1GHz. They'll be priced at $851, $530, $316, $241 and $209 in 1000-unit tray quantities, respectively. All five of the chips will continue to make use of an 800MHz front-side bus like those in the current iteration of Apple's MacBook Pro line.

Of the five chips, the X9000 2.8GHz model is considered a mobile Core 2 Extreme processor, and it's unclear if Apple has any plans for that variant in a notebook system. In its brief history of using Intel processors, the Cupertino-based company has shied away from using the pricier, more power-hungry Extremes in its streamlined portable systems.

MacBook Pro-bound Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile Penryn specs and prices

On the other hand, the upcoming T9500 2.6GHz and T9300 2.5GHz Penryn chips are slated to arrive at exactly the same price points ($530 and $316) as the T7700 2.4GHz and T7500 2.2GHz Merom-based processors currently situated in the Mac maker's Santa Rosa-based MacBook Pro line, almost assuring their adoption in next year's models. The 2.6GHz and 2.5GHz chips will also sport 6MB of L2 Cache, differentiating them the 2.4GHz and 2.1GHz models, which contain only 3MB of L2 Cache.

Expectations for the next refresh to Apple's consumer-oriented 13-inch MacBook notebooks are less certain, however. Since the MacBook did not make the jump to Intel's Santa Rosa platform earlier this year, Apple effectively holds two options for progressing the portable line — it could introduce a more cost-effective 65nm Merom-based line in the coming months or alternatively make the leap to the fresher 45nm Penryn-based chips early next year.