Photo courtesy of Apple.

Those of you in the market for a new MacBook Pro are no doubt already tuned into the product news. So let’s talk about what isn’t changed on the new MacBook line, because it’s a good thing.

  • You still get FireWire 800 ports on all models, including the entry-level 13″ machine.
  • ExpressCard is still standard on the 17″ MacBook Pro.
  • Your dongles for video adapters still work.

I’m researching implications for audio of the new Thunderbolt connection. My guess is it’s a little too early to say; 10 GBps storage sounds fantastic, but it’s far beyond the needs of all but the craziest audio applications. (That is, fast FireWire and USB drives work really well already.)

Where you’ll see it in audio is likely two places: one, more high-performance audio I/O, and two, clearing the bottleneck with DSP chips that has long plagued external hardware DSP. The latter is maybe a bit ironic as we look at ongoing performance gains from GPUs and integrated architectures there, but it’s no accident that Universal Audio and Avid are excited about it, as they have DSP products. And enthusiasm from Avid and Apogee means you can expect to see high-end audio with lots of I/O for this format. See the Intel technology page. As for specifics, we’ll be watching.

For adoption, this is certainly big news. Thunderbolt faced a chicken and egg problem; Apple is the 800-lb chicken.

The short version of the other specs: these machines are faster. Again, though, current audio applications run pretty well on the previous machines; I’m pleased to say we’re now in a place where people aren’t red-lining their CPU every day.

In fact, for those reasons, if you want a bargain on a MacBook Pro for audio work, now could be a great time to pick up a closeout on the old machine. On the audio side, the new models are largely appealing because their Thunderbolt port ensures future-proofing for whatever comes next – without having to give up the I/O on the previous models.

More discussion on the Motion side, focusing, naturally, on what we know about the graphics chips:
MacBook Pro Revision Updates GPU, adds Thunderbolt, but No New Display Dongles (Phew)

And yes, you have choices in this competitive marketplace, including PCs. But there you go – anyone who thought we’d see a step backward in I/O today can now exhale. And anyone looking for greater architecture performance, your machines have arrived. And anyone saying that laptops aren’t still awesome and improving in the age of low-end mobile and tablets? You’re just kinda all-around wrong. As for tomorrow, well, who knows, who knows…