MacBook Pro refresh coming before Christmas?

AI reports that the MacBook Pro line will receive minor processor updates before the holiday shopping season.  In fact, they say the updates should come before the end of the month.

According to people with proven insight into Apple’s future product plans, the late-2011 MacBook Pro refresh will deliver marginal speed bumps to the notebooks’ Core i-Series of Sandy Bridge processors but will otherwise introduce no material changes over the existing models.

While precise timing for the update may change, those same people say the Mac maker currently anticipates an introduction of the refreshed line before the end of the month,

The report seems to stem from the recent release of Intel Core i7 2700 series processors fit for use in MacBook Pros (right).

This seems to fly counter to earlier reports from MacRumors that the next update to the MacBook Pro line would be a big redesign.

MacRumors has heard reliable confirmation that the next revision of Apple’s MacBook Pro line will utilize a new case design for the first time in several years.

For what it is worth, we’re seeing no hiccups in the supply chain on current models.  Silent updates aren’t unheard of however.

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MacConnection coupon: 3% off already low-priced Apple desktops and laptops

From 9to5Toys:

MacConnection offers readers an additional 3% off Mac desktops and laptops via coupon code “3%MacDeal”. The coupon applies to MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, Mac Mini, and iMac computers. It’s the best percent-off coupon we’ve seen from MacConnection in recent months. Even better, free shipping applies to most deals, yielding a trove of lowest-we-could-find prices.

Best Bets: New Core i5 MacBook Airs now start $921 (Amazon is $949).  Mac Minis start at $551.88  (Amazon is$569)

MacConnection also has the lowest price we could find on the new Thunderbolt display at $979 and a 128GB Crucial 6Gb/s SSD for $189.99.  AppleTVs are $94.99 as are Airport Express base stations..  Wireless Magic Mouse – $64.99. Read more

Macworld: for simple tasks, a decked out Mini beats a base iMac handily (or SSDs rule)

Macworld decided to put a decked out Mac Mini Mid-2011 against a current baseline iMac 2.5GHz to see what kind of performance could be gotten from Apple’s diminutive little machine when an SSD is added.

When we say “decked out”, we’re referring to the $100 2.5->2.7GHz CPU improvement + $600 SSD upgrade which almost doubles the price of the $799 ($769) high end Mini and pushes it above the price of the base model iMac. Minis start out at around $568.

The results are pretty apparent: when running simple tests, especially ones that rely only on CPU and disk access, the Mini beat the iMac handily (above). That’s almost entirely due to the added speed of the SSD compared with the iMac’s 3.5-inch HDD. When doing more graphics intensive tests (below), the iMac and its more powerful GPU took over.

The takeaway on this however is that a HDD to SSD upgrade can make a heck of a lot of difference in performance. For those handy out there, adding an SSD to a Mac Mini doesn’t have to be a $600 proposition either. Reasonable SSDs can start out at $100 and can be added to the new Minis’ hard drive configuration (not swapped) with a simple kit.

Another important tweak not detailled in these tests is adding 8GB of RAM to the Mini which will run you somewhere south of $40. Added RAM really improves performance when lots of windows or applications are open at the same time.

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Apple Stores begin Lion transition

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We’re getting word from numerous Apple Stores that the Lion transition has begun.  In this photo taken at the 14th St. Apple Store in NYC by a passerby, you can see Apple employees updating Macs as well as some heavy hardware in the foreground.  Those are reportedly the new signage packages.

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Lifehacker posts guide to building a Mini Hackintosh

Lifehacker has posted a nifty guide to building a Hackintosh, Mini style. This Hackintosh is very similar to Apple’s Mac Mini in price but more burly in specs. Hackintoshes offer a great way to learn about the innards of computers and how they work.

The end product ran up a price tag of $599.65, which is a very fair price for what you’re getting.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3 Motherboard $104.99
  2. Intel Core i3 Processor i3-540 3.06GHz 4MB LGA1156 CPU $110.00
  3. ZOTAC nVidia GeForce GT240 512 MB DDR3 DVI/HDMI PCI-Express Video Card $84.99
  4. 2x2GB Corsair PC3-10666 1333Mhz Dual Chanel 240-pin DDR3 Desktop RAM $43.99
  5. Western Digital 1TB SATA III 7200 RPM 32MB Cache Desktop Hard Drive $59.99 (2TB: $79)
  6. SilverStone SG05BB-450 ALL Black Plastic/SECC Mini-ITX Computer Case with SFX 450W 80+ Bronze Certified/Single +12V rail Power Supply $119.99
  7. Sony Optiarc 8X SATA DVD+/-RW Slim Drive $34.99
  8. StarTech.com MCSATAADAP Micro SATA to SATA Adapter Cable with Power $11.71
  9. Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard $29.00
  10. OPTIONALOCZ Agility 120GB SSD $199.99 (note: this is optional and not included in the total cost of the machine)

The squad over at Lifehacker used tonymacx86’s CustoMac Mini tool and a good suite of hardware. While this isn’t as small as a Mac Mini, it is very close and is a lot faster. Check out Lifehacker’s video above on how to set this up and visit their post for a list of hardware. We have to warn you, this isn’t for every computer user, because you need to know how to build your own computer and do a little tinkering.

If a Hackintosh Mini isn’t for you, check out tonymacx86’s guide to making a Sandy Bridge Hackintosh. Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor is rumored to be included in many of the new Macs. Why not go ahead and build one on the cheap? Tonymacx86 has all the answers.

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