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The Progression and Evolution of Apple's MacBook Pro

Apple has always been known as an innovator and a trailblazer in the tech space. Ever since Steve Jobs’s ouster and eventual return to the Cupertino tech giant, the company has built a name for itself as a haven and industry leader; much of this success is attributed to the company’s user-friendly hardware—be it the Lisa, the Macintosh, or the iMac. One of Apple’s flagship products—the MacBook Pro—has been an industry standard and stalwart since its introduction back in 2006. The model has undergone various upgrades and changes since those days, and with rumors swirling of an imminent update, HYPEBEAST decided it was time to take a look back at the history of the MBP.

First Generation: Say Hello to the MacBook Pro

Announced: January 10, 2006
Price: $1,999 USD (1.67 GHz Intel Core Duo)/$2,499 USD (1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo)

When Steve Jobs took the stage 10 years ago and introduced the granddaddy of all MBPs, the reasoning behind the product’s rollout was simple: Intel’s processors were simply exponentially faster than the PowerPC’s G4 and G5 models found in PowerBooks. The 15” MBP was 4-5x faster than its predecessor, the PowerBook G4, and boasted several upgrades and industry-changing innovations. Firstly, the MBP introduced a built-in iSight webcam—previously, notebook users had to carry separate webcams around with them (built-in webcams have since become an industry standard); the Pro also introduced Apple’s infrared sensor, which allowed users to control Front Row using the Apple Remote, allowing users to “enjoy your media from across the room.”

The first-gen MBP also introduced MagSafe; Jobs and his design team found that laptops and other devices were being jerked off of workspaces when people tripped over their charger cords. Apple’s innovative charger port used a slight-but-secure magnetic connection that connected the charger to its device but also disconnected when tugged, leaving the notebook safe and sound.

While the MBP marked a significant improvement in terms of performance, its design was only a marginal improvement on the PowerBook: for example, the laptop was only a sliver thinner than its predecessor, coming in with a 1-inch thickness and weighing 5.6 pounds. Apple initially offered two different models of the MBP: one priced at $1,999 for more casual users, and one for spec and performance-inclined users that came in at $2,499 USD.

The first-gen was tweaked and updated twice a year: first, in October 2006, when Apple brought Intel’s Core 2 Duo processors and larger hard drives, giving the computers a notable performance upgrade; and then again in June 2007, when the company introduced the LED-backlit screens, which helped improve the notebook’s battery life.

Second Generation: Unibody Construction

Announced: October 14, 2008
Price: $1,999 USD (2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo) or $2,499 USD (2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo)

Apple overhauled much of the MBP’s design in 2008 after the introduction of the MacBook Air. The most notable of these changes was the implementation of an unibody construction made from a single block of aluminum, thus halving the amount of major structural parts from the previous generation’s discrete structure. With it, Apple introduced a multi-touch glass trackpad with a 39% larger tracking area that allowed for four-finger gestures and functioned as a button. The screen featured a glossy full-glass, instant-on display with a thin bezel. All of the computer’s connectors were moved to one side (the FireWire 400 port was nixed, but the computer retained the FireWire 800). The glowing battery indicator was moved to the side of the device, so that users didn’t have to flip their device to get an idea of how much juice they had left.

Underneath the hood, a built-in NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics card provided next-generation graphics capabilities, while Apple also added the GeForce 9600 MGT — a state-of-the-art GPU that boasted 32 parallel graphics cores, 120 Gigaflops and 512 Mbs of memory. Both of these were included in the unibody model. When it was running on the 9400M GPU, the computer had 5 hours of battery life, while the maxed-out graphics led to a 4-hour battery life.

Apple’s next move with the unibody focused on entry-level accessibility. When Apple exec Phil Schiller took the stage in 2009 to announce the release of a 13-inch MBP, which would go on to replace both the iBook and 12” PowerBook, the device didn’t sacrifice much by way of performance: the more compact model would deliver between six and seven hours of battery life, just like the 15-inch model (both of these were two-three hours better than previous models); the industrial design and engineering team helped the notebook earn its Pro status by adding support for up to 8GB of memory, not to mention the addition of an SD card slot, a Firewire port, and solid state hard drive options. Perhaps most significantly, the 13-inch MBP made inroads in the affordability department: all of these improvements brought the baseline price down $100 USD below the 15-inch model, starting at $1,199 USD.

Most of the changes over the next two years were largely spec-heavy: Apple added battery-life and -size improvements, which stretched battery life to around eight hours under stress testing. Intel’s Core i5 and i7 CPUs were also integrated into the larger MBP models in 2010. Inertial scrolling was added in 2010, making the experience reminiscent of the iPhone’s iOS. Apple also eventually made the switch from NVIDIA graphics processors over to discrete AMD graphics processors. Processing speed bumps were made in 2011.

Third Generation: Hello, Retina

Announced: June 11, 2012
Price: $2,199 USD

The third generation of the MacBook Pro was marketed as the “MacBook Pro with Retina Display,” in order to differentiate it from past models. The MBP with Retina measured at .71 inches thick, which was comparable to the MacBook Air’s 0.6-inch-thick chassis, while Phil Schiller boasted onstage that the device was “thinner than my finger!” This kind of portability was only made possible by cutting out the computer’s optic drive — a decision which ired the wrath of many reviewers and tech journos at the time of its release. This never really bothered Apple much, though, as the company has made a reputation for itself for killing darlings like the floppy disk, serial and parallel ports, and most recently the headphone jack.

Crucially, The Retina also sacrificed little by way of performance, including Intel Core i7 processors, USB 3.0 ports, a second Thunderbolt port, an HDMI port, and a thinner MagSafe charging port, dubbed the MagSafe 2. The model’s primary selling point, however, was right there in the name: the new MBP boasted a high-resolution, 15-inch 2880×1800-pixel display powered by Iris Graphics. Subsequent updates included Intel’s Haswell processors and Iris 6100 graphics cards.

So what can we expect from the next generation of MacBook Pro? Will it bring forth the technology and innovation the previous MBPs have given the pro-level laptop market? Wait and see when Apple holds its next event on October 27.