Sandy Bridge Chips Ship Feb. 20; New MacBook Pro in March?
Intel announced yesterday
that it would start shipment of its next generation Series 6 processors for laptops on February 20th. Shipment of chips based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture had been delayed by a problem discovered at the end of January that impacts the performance of SATA devices. As it's generally accepted that the 2011 MacBook Pro will use the laptop version of these chips - which do not have the error - the news that shipment of new Core i5 and i7 processors will proceed on schedule adds credence to recent reports that a MacBook Pro refresh is coming as early as next month.
Intel had disclosed the issue on January 31, and announced that it was halting shipments of all Sandy Bridge Core processors
until the extent of the problem had been determined. The flaw in the serial ATA controller on the first batch of Sandy Bridge chips shipped - quad-core processors codenamed Cougar Point - would eventually degrade performance on SATA hard disks and optical drives. The company stated on Monday that the dual-core line was unaffected and would begin shipping as planned on February 20.
The MacBook Pro was last refreshed in April of last year, and so is widely expected to receive a speed bump. Additionally, rumors have been around since last year suggesting that the "instant-on" solid state drive technology from the MacBook Air - described by Steve Jobs as "the future of notebooks" - would find its way to the MacBook Pro in 2010. The Three Guys and a Podcast Blog, which correctly predicted
the MacBook Air in September 2010, suggested that an "all-out redesign
" including 512 MB SSDs and Light Peak
optical connectors would debut by April.
Reports of tightening inventory
at third party retailers supports the idea that a refresh is coming soon. Also, a recent leak from Best Buy's inventory system
showed a new MacBook Pro with an availability date of March 11, though many observers have noted that Best Buy's dates are usually a few days off, and are based on "guesses" rather than hard information from Apple. The leak also showed the new 13-inch model with the same $1,199 price as the current model.