Apple has today announced a refresh to its popular range of MacBook Pro notebook computers. All models feature new nVidia graphics processors, and now claim even longer battery lives.

While the two 13in-screen models keep Intel Core 2 Duo processors - albeit faster chips, and backed with twice as much memory - the larger 15 and 17in MacBook Pros sport new Core i5 or Core i7 dual-core processors.

In place of Intel Core 2 Duo chips specified at 2.26GHz and 2.53GHz, the latest two 13in MacBook Pro models now run at 2.4GHz and 2.66GHz. Memory has gone up from 2GB of DDR3 RAM, to 4GB for both laptops. And storage has increased from the previous 160GB and 250GB, to 250GB and 320GB respectively.

Apple MacBook Pro family

The 13in, 15in and 17in models have all been updated

In place of the nVidia 9400M integrated graphics processor that has been the mainstay of various MacBooks, and the entry-level iMac and the Mac mini, Apple has rolled out a new nVidia chip - a GeForce 320M graphics controller.

This is listed as 80% faster than the previous part; Apple tells us it's the fastest integrated graphics processor on the market.

Yet the new graphics engine is quoted as being 40% more power efficient than before. Combined with a slightly larger battery, still built-in and up from 58Wh to 63.5Wh, the new 13in MacBook now advertises three hours longer battery life. This takes it from 7 hours to 10 hours of unplugged, wireless productivity.

The price of these revised 13in MacBook Pro notebooks is now £999 and £1249.

15in MacBook Pro revisions

As before, three versions of the 15in MacBook Pro are offered. In order of price and performance, they are fitted with an Intel Core i5 2.4GHz, Core i5 2.53GHz and Core i7 2.66GHz.

A dual graphics processor option is now included on all 15in models, featuring the Core chip's built-in Intel integrated graphics processor (IGP) for good battery economy - and switching to an nVidia GeForce 330M discrete processor for graphics-intensive duties.

Unlike the previous MacBook Pro generation which required the user to log out to complete a manual switch, the new series will automatically toggle between discrete and integrated graphics according to demand on the system by running apps.

This instant switching of graphics, combined with the latest 32nm Intel processors and slightly larger lithium-polymer batteries also contribute to longer runtimes off the mains. Battery life is now quoted at two hours longer, up from 7 hours to 9 hours.

Apple explained to PC Advisor that it's auto-switch graphics technology is even more sophisticated than the nVidia Optimus solution proffered by original chipmaker nVidia for the Windows platform. As executed by Apple, when the discrete graphics is in use, the IGP is switched off entirely.

When these MacBook Pro notebooks are set up to run a Microsoft Windows OS through the dual-partition Boot Camp system, only the discrete graphics processor is available.

Price of the entry-level 15in has risen £100 to £1499, with the ‘better' and ‘best' models now at £1649 and £1799 respectively.

Lightest giant

The largest MacBook Pro remains the world's thinnest and lightest 17in notebook, at 2.99kg weight and just 25mm thick. It's now fitted with a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 processor, and also takes the same auto-switching Intel/nVidia graphics solution. This model, which sees a one-hour battery extension to 9 hours, is priced at £1899.

A revision to Apple's glass Multi-Touch trackpad means that all models now feature inertial scrolling, resembling the real-life physics seen on the iPhone.

Build-to-order options for the 15in MacBook Pro include an Intel 2.66GHz Core i7 processor, and anti-glare matt screen. The latter sees a price hike from £50 to £120, and includes an increase in screen resolution from 1440x900 to 1680x1050 pixels.

No revisions have been announced to the white MacBook or MacBook Air.