Apple on Tuesday released two new laptops, the MacBook and MacBook Pro. These two machines have more in common with each other than the two computers that remain from previous revisions still in their product group. I am of course referring to the 13-inch plastic MacBook which is being sold for $999 and the 17" MacBook pro which retains the old look and feel from 2002. I'll get to the MacBook Air tomorrow.
Apple has on its hands a very uncharacteristically confusing laptop product matrix. I'm speculating that this wasn't the plan, at least I hope it wasn't. I think Apple, hearing the calls of the last few weeks for a lower priced laptop, decided to keep a previous edition's MacBook around until Christmas. It will be gone at Macworld. Also, at Macworld, I expect the 17-inch MacBook pro to get the "Brick makeover". I assume that manufacturing couldn't ramp up to speed in time to get 17 inchers out the door for this event.
Look and feel
The new laptops certainly feel stronger than the previous model - they are very rigid and heavy. It isn't just my imagination either. Even though the process creates a light unibody shell, the new MacBook Pros are slightly heavier than previous editions (5.3 lbs vs. 5.5 lbs). The glass screen obviously adds weight to the package which probably makes the difference. They are also slightly thinner, both new models coming in at under an (.95) inch.
The glass display is a wonder to behold with its rich vibrant colors and instant on capability but will undoubtedly infuriate those who don't enjoy the glare and color matching of a glossy screen. I've got bad news for you matte screen lovers: Apple is going away from matte screens on both the laptop and desktop lines, get used to it - or buy an easy to find matte external display. I've talked to someone who knows the leadership of Apple and they are anti-matte.
Honestly, spec-wise the new laptops aren't a step up in the processor department. They carry the same Penryn pocessors with the relatively the same speed. In fact, the slowest MacBook processor-wise is the midrange MacBook at 2.0 GHz. The second fastest is the $999 plastic at 2.1Ghz. Applications, however, will most likely run faster on the midrange because of the new NVIDIA graphics cards and the faster front side bus (800MHz vs 1066Mhz). It is the same story on the Pro models. Benchmarks are just starting to trickle out.
Strangley, these aren't the best Intel chips you can put in a laptop right now. Centrino 2 chip are. I wonder if the move to NVIDIA strained the Apple-Intel relationship?
Not much has changed here in terms of capacities. 4GB is still the limit. 2Gb is standard. The memory is much easier to replace/upgrade. It is a mostly moot point because Apple has lowered its price on RAM upgrade to the point where ($149) you might as well upgrade from them.
The hard drive options are good but since they are so much easier to replace on the new design (160, 250 and 320 GB), a lot more people might be going to cheaper 3rd party. I believe there is a 500Gb 2.5 inch hard drive with my name on it. There are also 3rd party SSD options. I think Patriot makes a 128GB SSD that you can get for less than $500 on the Internets.