updated 09:30 am EST, Thu February 24, 2011
MacBook Pro has Light Peak details and unusual CPU
Apple's launch of the new MacBook Pro has provided major insights into Thunderbolt, the new official name for Light Peak, as well as revelations that Apple is going outside of spec for its processors. Thunderbolt reaches the full 10Gbps speed even while using Mini DisplayPort and can daisy-chain a total of six devices together. Companies such as AJA, Apogee, LaCie and Promise will have RAID drives and other peripherals to use the speed; Apple has also noted that daisy-chaining a Cinema Display works, although this would likely involve only USB devices.
Intel has added that Thunderbolt is dual-channel and backwards compatible with both full and Mini DisplayPort screens. It can talk to both optical and wired cables and will supply power for those devices that have a low enough draw to work. Adapters will support DVI, HDMI and VGA, and users can even link to an ultra high-speed network over Fiber Channel, normally reserved for server clusters.
Beyond Thunderbolt, Apple is also going beyond Intel's official specifications for the quad Core i7 in the base 15-inch model. Intel's listings make no mention of a 2GHz quad processor and instead start at the 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz used in the high-end 15- and 17-inch models as stock or build-to-order options. The company is known to occasionally get special treatment from Intel, such as first access to a quad-core 3GHz Xeon for the Mac Pro in 2007.
Quietly, Apple has also mentioned that the Intel graphics standard on the line have hardware video decoding that should improve performance in relevant apps. It's not known if they will accelerate Flash, but 10.2 does add hardware GPU acceleration.