Steve Jobs' Smoke and Mirrors on 13'' MBP's CPU

The new MacBook Pros, released earlier this week, which help boost Apple's 'professional' line of laptops up to the modern Intel Nehalem-based Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs… except for the 13-inch version. While the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros were updated with the latest from Intel, the 13-inch MacBook Pro got refreshed with a brand new chipset that included a custom integrated GPU from Nvidia and got stuck with the same sort of Core 2 Duo that it had the previous two generations.

So what's up with that? That's what 'DJ' wanted to know why the 13-inch MacBook Pro didn't get the same Core i5 treatment, so he emailed Steve Jobs about it – and guess what, the Apple CEO responded.

"Far faster graphics and 10 hour battery trump 10-20% faster CPU," Jobs responded.

Another report notes that Steve Jobs gave the following response: "We chose killer graphics plus 10 hour battery life over a very small CPU speed increase. Users will see far more performance boost from the speedy graphics."

While we do recognize that having a fast GPU is critical, especially with the GPGPU thing coming into fruition, there are a few inconsistencies in Apple's messages to consumers.

First of all, Steve Jobs says that keeping the 13-inch MacBook Pro on a Core 2 Duo instead of a Core i3/i5/i7 is only a loss of a CPU that's between 10 to 20 percent faster, which Steve Jobs characterized as "a very small CPU speed increase." But in Apple's own press release, it wrote, "The new 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models are up to 50 percent faster than the previous systems," which have been confirmed in early benchmark comparisons. Those previous systems were running Core 2 Duo chips too, not clocked at around the same speeds that the latest MacBook Pro 13.

Of course, Jobs in his mind could be comparing the new MacBook Pro's Core 2 Duo with a Core i3 -- and in some benchmarks the Core i3 may outpace the Core 2 Duo by only 20 percent or less -- but he's still using a different sort of metric where he downplays the need for a new CPU in the 13-inch model as the company line lauds the massive gains in the 15- and 17-inchers.

Another inconsistency, though it could just be misinterpretation or the enthusiasm for his own products, is when Steve Jobs characterizes the graphics as "killer" and "far faster." While the new 320M is indeed up to 80 percent faster than the old 9400M, it's no more killer or faster than the superior 330M that's inside the 15- and 17-inch laptops.

There is one thing that's better and improved on the 13-inch over its bigger brothers, and that's the highly impressive 10-hour battery life, which is no doubt helped by the 320M being more 40 percent more energy efficient over the previous IGP.

There's the possibility that Apple and Nvidia wouldn't have been able to fit the discrete graphics inside the 13-inch MacBook Pro, leading Jobs to say that it's one-or-the-other, but we're inclined to believe that it comes down to a cost/profit margin issue and keeping the $1199 price.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • TemjinGold
    I think what he's getting at is that, for Apple to keep it at a certain price point, the tradeoff was worth it. The 15 and 17 inch ones have higher prices and thus they can better justify using both.

    I'm not defending Apple's prices in any way, just trying to put reason to why they might have done it that way (THEIR logic, not mine.)
  • Hilarion
    Smoke, mirrors and infinite BS that's what Apple Almighty does the best.
  • cscott_it
    Apple using smoke and mirrors?
    What kind of bull is this.
    The next thing you are going to be telling me is that the media industry doesn't care about the consumer at all and would file suite against a 12 year old girl!

    Oh wait....
  • godwhomismike
    And..... I will not be buying a 13" Macbook Pro. Thanks Steve, you made that decision easy for me. I will not spend $1200-$1500 for outdated technology technology.
  • godwhomismike
    Hey Steve, I got 2007 on the phone. They said they want their Core 2 Duo processors back.
  • N.Broekhuijsen
    somebody should take steve's money, position, and everything tying him to apple away. then, place him in the real world, so he can get some "REAL" perspective.

    then he might see what we want, and not what a rich, famous person wants.
  • siman
    Its an approch that AMD has been useing and one intel has yet come to grips. You have a cheap but adicuate CPU to feed a nice GPU in truth if you look at it you really dont need an i5 or an i7. Would you rather have a 1200 USD laptop or a 2500 USD laptop. Also the i3/i5/i7 arnt the best on power consumption or thermal output... Dont get me wrong its nice to have the firepower but its like you brought a cannon to a gun fight.
  • I was actually thinking of buying a new 13" but now the only way I'll do that is if I get a "killer" deal on one of the old models. If no deals are "killer" than I'll probably just stick to my well known PC. Such a bummer, I would have already ordered it regardless of the price.
  • Asus, Sony, Lenova, everyone is touting i-core in 13 inch models. This is just an Apple letdown, no less.
  • ZEPd3Z
    shouldn't the i3's and i5's have less power consumption than previous cpu generation? just thinkin...