Apple has added the new Intel Core 2 Duo processor to an updated line of MacBook Pro laptops. The new line also includes twice the standard RAM and higher capacity hard drives, as well as FireWire 800 ports.

The new MacBook Pro is up to 39 percent faster than the previous generation MacBook, Apple said, and more than seven times faster than the 1.67GHz PowerBook.

Application specific tasks are greatly improved over previous generation models, as well, with video rendering and encoding increasing by 39 percent and Aperture running 25 percent faster. "The great thing about the performance of the Core 2 Duo is that you don't sacrifice desktop performance to get mobility," said David Moody, Apple Mac marketing manager. "With the MacBook you can take your studio completely mobile."

Standard RAM configuration has gone from 512MB to 1GB on the low-end 15-inch model and 2GB on the high-end 15 and 17-inch models. The build-to-order option allows RAM to be further increased to 3GB.

Hard drive capacities have also seen significant upgrades with standard models on the 15-inch MacBook rising to 120GB and 160GB on the 17-inch model. Using the build-to-order option hard drive capacity can be increased to 200GB.

"There are several things driving higher capacity hard drives," said Moody. "Digital video and audio is very important, especially as customer migrate to HD - you are talking about massive amounts of data to store and manipulate. Professional photography is also important for us - photographers are increasingly using RAW image formats and that takes up a lot of space."

The MacBook Pro includes the ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics with up to 256MB of dedicated GDDR3 graphics memory, and a double-layer SuperDrive for burning professional-quality DVDs. Every new MacBook Pro also comes with built-in 10/100/1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet, built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), a FireWire 800 and a FireWire 400 port, combination analog and optical digital audio input and output ports, an ExpressCard/34 expansion card slot and a DVI video output to connect up to a 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is shipping today; the 17-inch MacBook Pro will ship next week. Prices range from $1,999 for the 15-inch 2.16GHz model to $2,799 for the 17-inch 2.33GHz MacBook Pro.