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MacBook Pro Stocks Run Low: Are New Sandy Bridge, MBA-Like Models Incoming?

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I’m not quite sure I’d hold your breath just yet, but a new MacBook Pro refresh might be due soon, if reports of near-empty stocks of both the 15-inch and 17-inch unibody models are anything to go by. If that refresh happens, it’s likely to be a long-overdue update from the Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs that Apple currently uses to the newest Sandy Bridge processors.

Multiple sources in both Apple Stores and third-party resellers are reporting that they are running low on supplies of Cupertino’s premium notebooks, with even Amazon listing a one to two month delay on shipping the 17-inch MBP.

Usually, when Apple’s extant stock runs low, it means there’s a refresh coming, and so there’s a lot of scuttlebutt that this low stock could herald the advent of new Sandy Bridge MacBook Pros.

That’s possible: reports issued in December suggested that Apple was undertaking significant processor and GPU testing. The GPU testing is the most important part here, as switching to Sandy Bridge will be a radical change for Apple’s notebook line: right now, all MacBooks have a bare minimum of an integrated NVIDIA GeForce 320M to help drive OS X’s GPU-heavy UI, but Sandy Bridge will require Apple to switch away from this solution and rely on Intel’s own integrated Sandy Bridge graphics (which — while affording decent power gains due to being included on the same die — aren’t quite as capable) and supplement them with a discrete GPU for beefier tasks, relying upon their own GPU-switching software within Snow Leopard to juggle power efficiency and a need for horsepower.

It’s been a couple of generations since the unibody MacBook Pros first appeared, so Apple might be due to make a more dramatic refresh to the line, which might include a jump to ubiquitous SSD memory and taking more design queues from the wildly successful new MacBook Air (possibly by eschewing a built-in DVD drive entirely in the sake of portability and cramming as much battery into slimmer Pros as possible?) If rumors are true, we should know for certain sometime in the coming couple of weeks.