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Summary:

With nary a yellow sticky saying the Apple Store will be back soon, today Apple quietly updated the white MacBook. The company’s value laptop got a slightly faster CPU, better graphics, and longer battery life, but not a better price.

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With nary a yellow sticky saying the Apple Store will be back soon, today Apple quietly updated the white MacBook. The company’s value laptop got a slightly faster CPU, better graphics, and longer battery life, but not a better price.

Like the recently updated 13″ MacBook Pro, the MacBook continues to use a Core 2 Duo CPU, now at 2.4 GHz, up from 2.26 GHz. Also like the 13″ MacBook Pro, the MacBook now uses the Nvidia GeForce 320M GPU and advertises up to 10 hours of battery life on a slightly larger 63.5-watt-hour battery.

Unlike the updates to the MacBook Pros, the MacBook saw no increase in memory (still 2GB) or hard drive size, which is still 250GB. The price remains $999, and that’s arguably the problem. Is the MacBook really a value anymore?

The biggest difference between the 13″ MacBook and the 13″ MacBook Pro is now the price, $999 versus $1,199. However, increasing the amount of memory to 4GB like the 13″ MacBook Pro narrows the difference to just $100. For that extra $100, the 13″ MacBook Pro adds an aluminum unibody enclosure, backlit keyboard, FireWire 800 port, and an SD card slot.

You also get a subwoofer in the MacBook Pro, not that it matters with tiny laptop speakers, but the those other features easily combine for a $100 of value. It’s hard not to see the MacBook as little more than a price point attraction to lure customers into an Apple Store where friendly associates can upsell to the MacBook Pro, not there’s anything wrong with that.

What might be wrong is the lack of a true value-priced MacBook at say, $799. While it could be argued that the iPad is the “post PC” portable at $499, the iPad requires a computer if for no other reason than software updates. This means a price-conscious consumer wanting an iPad is better off buying a PC, especially a laptop, if they want the iPad, too. Is that what Apple really wants? It’s something to think about.

The other thing to think about is when, or maybe if, the MacBook Air will be updated. Once again, the niche laptop was passed over. The MacBook Air was last updated in June 2009 at WWDC, meaning history may repeat itself this year, or maybe not.

Unless Apple has kept some magic in reserve, it’s hard to imagine how the five-hour battery in the thinnest of Mac portables will be increased. With the advent of the iPad, a truly portable computing device, it’s becoming more and more difficult to see where the MacBook Air fits into Apple’s portable future.

  1. i got pretty damn excited when i saw a black macbook on the front page thumbnail for this post! i thought apple was re-releasing the black macbook model with upgraded features! :(

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  2. There is actually a $759 Macbook right now – refurbs of the previous model are available in the Apple store. But yeah, I think Apple ought to sell a lower spec Macbook at under $800 as a regular product.

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    1. I thought about that, too, but that won’t lure people into the Apple Store. Also, a new MacBook at $799 would drive the price of refurbished units to $559 or $600. That’s closing in on the $500 Mac that Apple executives have sworn the company can’t make, excluding the G4 Mac mini at $499. I also thought about the current Mac mini, but adding a display, keyboard, and mouse moves the price closer to the price of a MacBook. Perhaps in the future, when the next iteration of the iPad is released, Apple will bundle a first generation iPad with a Mac at a discount.

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  3. In fact here in europe the price is worse…

    Apple added 100€ to the price

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    1. Eric, I think that has more to do the Euro’s at a 4-year low vs. the US dollar than Apple.

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  4. Upgraded specs without a price increase? Sounds like a “value update” to me.

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    1. It depends on what is meant by value. For $200 more, the MacBook Pro is far more compelling in terms of features. Further, if you want a cheap laptop to use with an iPad, the $999 MacBook’s value is dubious. You can get a Dell for half that to sync the iPad with iTunes. So, is it better to sell an iPad for $500, or a lower-priced MacBook and iPad at, say, $1300?

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  5. The battery upgrade alone makes it a better value, imo.

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  6. Well, now I know why the difference between MB and MBP, but why is there a 300$ gap between the 2.4 and 2.6 GHz MBP?
    I mean, the processor couldn’t possibly be 300$ more,

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  7. With the update they raised the educational price. It was $899 for the MacBook. After the update it is $949.

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  8. Better stuff, same price = better value in my book.

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  9. Totally agree with you. This MacBook is absolutely NOT worth the $999 price tag. It’s actually a complete joke, considering that the MacBook Pro is $1199. This MacBook needs to come down in price by a LOT in order to make the Mac platform attractive to PC switchers.

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    1. Or, you could buy a basic mac mini, for a lot less than the macbook, and then get an ipad to go with it. Its a little more expensive in total than just a macbook, but you have a fairly decent desktop machine, and a great around the house machine too

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  10. What a bunch of dunces. Upgraded tech at the same price IS a value upgrade. The fact that the MB Pro 13″ is a superior incremental value is true for many buyers, but that is not the point. Many MacBooks are sold to school districts and other purchasing officers who buy on price alone. They will never pay more for anything because inside the Purchasing Office, there’s no concept of usability. Also, many bureaucrats justify their jobs by negotiating lower prices with suppliers. At a $999 price point, Apple can allow these people to achieve competitive pricing through their RFP/RFQ process. In the miserable world of school district politics, showing you squeezed the supplier is often more important than the actual terms of a contract. When the vendors supplying “a box of crap that sort of runs Windows” can quote “$599 list and our Best and Final Offer is $569 and a five minute head start,” Apple needs to be able to offer “just for you, $699 each for a list price $999 beautiful MacBook.” That way, everyone wins something at the negotiating table. All prices made up for this example.

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    1. The point about value is much more simplified than youre making it.

      The day before the refresh, i wanted a macbook. Buying one from the Apple store would set me back around £800.

      The day after the refresh, i wanted a macbook. Buying one from the Apple store would set me back around £800.

      If I was a first time Apple laptop buyer, the price today is no better than the price last week. I dont care about what internals it has, buying a brand new Apple laptop will still cost me the same amount of money.

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