Last week, Apple introduced new portable computers. As usual, we’re here to tell you what they’re all about.
- The 15″ MacBook Pro has been completely redesigned for the first time in nearly six years. It looks sharp, with a new, one-piece aluminum body. It comes in two standard configurations, priced at $1,999 and $2,499, and has many customizable options when ordered directly from Apple. It is slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor.
- The mid-level and top-level models of the 13″ MacBook line have been replaced by two configurations of a new 13″ aluminum MacBook with a similar design to the new MacBook Pro, priced at $1,299 and $1,599. The cheapest MacBook is still the same white plastic model as before, but with DVD burning capability and a lower price of $999.
- The MacBook Air retains the same design and features but gets many under-the-hood performance and storage improvements. The price of the standard configuration remains the same at $1,799, but the high-end configuration with the solid-state drive has been lowered by $600, to $2,499.
- The 17″ MacBook Pro is much the same as before, except the standard configuration now includes a high-resolution screen, maxed-out RAM, and a bigger hard drive, for the same price of $2,799. I predict that before long it will be replaced with a model similar to the new 13″ and 15″ machines, or else it will be discontinued entirely.
That’s the quick info. The big news here is the new 13″ MacBook and 15″ MacBook Pro, so we’ll look at those a little bit more deeply.
The new MacBook and MacBook Pro are designed. Apple has practically redefined “fit and finish” with these products, continuing their recent emphasis on making computer hardware that feels luxurious to use.
It is not very often that a company shouts from the hilltops about its manufacturing process, but that’s what Apple is doing. They are clearly proud of not only what this Mac does, but how it is actually made. Here’s the big deal: the entire body of the computer is precision-sculpted from a single block of aluminum, rather than being molded or assembled, and all the parts are attached to this single “unibody” piece. The bottom of the computer is little more than a cover, rather than being the foundation upon which everything is built. So what, you say? Well, to hear Apple tell it, the unibody makes the computer lighter and stronger, without visible seams. It does look pretty awesome, I have to say.
Also noteworthy is the new trackpad, which is borrowed directly from iPhone technology. It’s huge, made of glass, and you can make all kinds of different things happen by using one, two, three or even four fingers. Furthermore, the mouse button is now the entire trackpad — when you want to click, you just press the pad down.
What’s under the hood in all configurations of the new models has been improved in almost every way. All components perform more quickly than those in the previous models; in particular, the video system in the 13″ MacBook is vastly improved, making it usable for pro video applications like Final Cut. Other enhancements include better speakers, quieter fans, and a brighter display. It’s even eco-friendlier. And upgrading is simple — as a consultant, I think they made it too easy to replace the hard drive! (Kidding.)
Of course, as in all things, there are tradeoffs. With the new 15″ MacBook Pro, there is no matte (non-reflective) screen option, and the new screen is very glossy, which some users find distracting. There is FireWire 800, but not 400. You must now purchase an adapter to use a DVI external display. Some will complain about the very different keyboard, though I like it fine.
The new 13″ MacBook appears every bit as elegant as its larger sibling, but it has some significant compromises. While the MacBook Pro has an expansion slot, better graphics processing hardware, and faster CPU options, the MacBook does not. No biggie. But a dealbreaker for many will be the complete omission of a FireWire port. Forget that camcorder, goodbye Target Disk Mode, hello slower USB hard drives. Apple has evidently decided that FireWire is on its way out, and as with the MacBook Air, they’re forcing the point. If you want FireWire, you’ll have to get a MacBook Pro, or the white plastic MacBook. Going forward, I wouldn’t invest heavily in FireWire peripherals.
Of course, when new Macs are fresh on the scene, it’s a good time to buy last week’s model for cheap — especially if you want a fast MacBook which also has FireWire. Here’s a link to Apple’s clearance page where you can find good deals.
As always, if you have questions about any of the new Apple laptops, give a shout and we’ll help you out.