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Summary:

I’m not going to dwell on the base MacBook that’s now $999. It was a fine machine yesterday, and for $100 less it still is. The lower price may also appeal especially to schools, etc. that may be buying in bulk. No, the real action today […]

I’m not going to dwell on the base MacBook that’s now $999. It was a fine machine yesterday, and for $100 less it still is. The lower price may also appeal especially to schools, etc. that may be buying in bulk.

No, the real action today is in the rest of the MacBooks and of course the new 15″ MacBook Pro as well. When comparing these models, it’s clear that the new MacBook is a huge improvement over the older model, but that the MacBook Pro is not as significant a change. Let’s take a quick look…

MacBook

For the same $1,299 price of the “middle” MacBook, you get:

  • No more plastic case, but rather the solid (and with the new manufacturing technique, even more so) construction.
  • The same size footprint, and less than one inch thin.
  • A full half-pound lighter (this is pretty significant weight-saving, in my opinion).
  • A full half-hour more battery life (again, pretty significant).
  • Much, much, much better graphics than the previous MacBook line. Apple claims 5x performance, and with the relative “lightweight” performance of the Intel graphics in previous models, this seems likely.
  • Aside from video, the system bus bumps from 800 to 1066MHz.
  • LED screens with “instant on”.
  • Full track pad touch gestures (including new ones added today). Previously the full set of gestures was only available on the Pro and Air models.
  • The same glass track pad as the Pro models.

Let’s see, much more solid and professional looking. More durable. Better screens. Pretty much all the Pro features except FireWire. Faster performance (especially in graphics). Thinner. Lighter. Same price.

This is clearly a killer upgrade. For the high end MacBook you spend $100 more than yesterday, but compared to the old machine at that price you get all the above and a backlit keyboard. I think it’s great Apple brought this to the MacBook. Further, both models now have BTO options for a 320GB drive (yesterday they topped out at 250GB).

Apple continues to amaze me. Everyone (myself included) was thinking in terms of a new entry level MacBook at maybe $900 or something. And though the white MacBook at $999 is nice, they didn’t really do that. However, instead of lowering the entry level, what Apple was thinking of was lowering the so-called “pro” level. Think about it. What Apple has done with the MacBook is really make it a MacBook Pro “lite”.

Yes, there is no FireWire, but without that difference one wonders what would distinguish the two lines except for the physical size. I’ve had a FireWire port on every computer I’ve owned the last seven years. However, the flexibility to import video on every computer I’ve had since then never changed the fact that I only had one machine at a time I actually used for that ask (currently, my 24″ iMac). If my current MacBook had no FW port I’d never miss it, nor I believe will the majority of MacBook users. As for the future, any new camcorder I get will either allow for USB importing or I’ll stick with a higher-end machine to edit video anyway.

MacBook Pro

Unfortunately, the MacBook Pro did not quite get the killer upgrades the MacBook. Compared to yesterday’s model:

  • New case? Yes, in that it uses the new construction technology. But the MBP was already aluminum, so this is a less-noticeable change at that level.
  • Smaller? Um, no. It’s actually a quarter-inch wider and deeper than before (a little thinner, though).
  • Lighter? Nope. It actually gained a tenth of a pound.
  • Better battery life? Negative. Still the same claimed five hours.
  • Better graphics? Yes, but the improvement here is a lot less from the old model’s than what the MacBook experiences.
  • System bus is bumped to 1066MHz.
  • LED Screen? Yes, but the 15″ model already had that.
  • New track pad? Yes, and it will get the new gestures, but the MBP already had all the old gestures. Again, not as big a change as what the MacBook got.
  • Same price, thankfully.

Bottom line is the difference between the 15″ MacBook Pro of yesterday and today is just not huge, or stellar, or radical, etc, and you lose one FireWire port and the matte display option (i.e., it’s glossy only). Don’t get me wrong, the MacBook Pro is a great machine, but it already was a great machine. Maybe the key takeaway here is that the new model shows just how “advanced” the MBP already was (or the MacBook was not).

Other “Misses”

By the way, for those bemoaning the use of Display Port instead of DVI or mini-DVI, it seems to me this is the way to go. Adopters can be used for VGA, mini-DVI, etc., and the Display Port still supports up to the 30″ Apple Cinema Display.

Finally, one area I really, really wanted Apple to improve the value was to add an option for a higher resolution on the same screen. They did not do that to either model. However, since they did not move to the 16:9 screen ratio I thought they might, this is a little bit less of an issue. Still, that MacBook 13″ with a 1440×900 resolution would have been mine today!

  1. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but the combination of the macbook with the new 24 inch cinema display you are actually getting and MBP with a 24 inch screen for $100 less than a regular MBP, or, and detachable iMac for $100 more that and regular 24inch imac with a smaller drive.

    This seems like a really good value to me.

  2. the iMac and the MBP both have decent GPUs; the MB, even post update, is integrated video. The real loss is the much much worse memory bandwidth, as the “integrated” options use system ram. Graphics chips (and drivers) assume the higher intracard bandwidth, and behave that way (ie not optimising for fewest journeys across that bus in fetching data, etc)

    Then again, I just ordered an MBP, so I might be biased *shrug*

  3. Rahul,

    We can talk technical all we want, and I do appreciate your point, but it cannot be argued that the new MacBook’s graphics are MUCH faster than the old. It’s not even close.

    Clearly, it wasn’t the shared memory that formed the primary bottleneck for the Intel integrated graphics. I think it was simply because Intel just isn’t particularly expert at designing graphics subsystems.

  4. What about using Time Machine with your old Firewire drive? I have several drives I use, but they won’t work with the new machines. Oh well.

  5. Chris Herborth Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    I so wanted a 1680×1050 display without having to go all the way up to the massive size and expense of the 17″ MacBook Pro.

    I just need to figure out how to justify the expense for the 2.53GHz MBP to my wife. :-)

  6. I don’t know if I’ll bother with this new installment, just seems like a waste of money to be honest.

  7. Dear Analysts: The White MacBook is NOT Apple’s First Sub-$1K Laptop | The Apple Blog Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    [...] I wrote about the MacBook earlier, I mentioned that Apple’s strategy to make it more of a MacBook Pro [...]

  8. Jean-Francois Arseneault Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    I was looking at refurb MacBooks last week for my wife, but figured I’d wait for this event before making a decision. Glad I did, although still not sure I want to spring $1300 for the hotter MBs. Oh, and I need to sell my old G4 too… something about money not growing on trees (check my site if interested)

  9. Jean-Francois,

    The white MacBook not only went down to $999, but now includes the SuperDrive as well (previously it only had the combo drive), so it’s an even better value.

  10. The cool thing about the lower-priced White MacBook is that it’s not a $100 price drop, it’s a $300 price drop. The old entry-level MacBook — the $1099 one — had a COMBOdrive, not a SuperDrive. So it’s actually not a bad deal if you’re not planning on doing any major gameplay or photo/video work on it.

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