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Comparing New to Old, Apple MacBook is Killer; MacBook Pro Less So

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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…


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!

35 Responses to “Comparing New to Old, Apple MacBook is Killer; MacBook Pro Less So”

  1. it simple sucks, its not a pro anymore, its simple a Macbook and why?
    1-No matte screen for real DESIGN with REAL Colors, therefore you can rule out a pro touch in any adobe or Maya desings.

    2- no firewire, what? no film editing? no final cut?

    LOL! try to edit and use a virtual scenario on that mirror!!! wahahah!!

    3-This a mainsteam laptop with a mirror instead of a mate screen.

    4- The price!!! LOL!! thankfully i got my now “CLASSIC” MBP and i just knew that they are selling at the same price of the new model on E-bay.

    5- if you want a $3000 laptop for use MS Office only then its ok.

    I rest my case.

  2. I’ve had one of the new MacBook Pros for a bit over a month now and I absolutely love it; fantastic machine, it’s made an outstanding replacement for my iBook and P4 XP desktop.

    I did have the honour of having the first bad hard drive (almost right after I got everything set up the way I like) the Apple store in Yorkdale had seen with the new batch of MBPs and MBs. :-P

  3. i love my 15″ MacBookPro, mat screen, shiny aluminum body and keyboard, i don’t like the look of the new MBP’s, as a graphic designer i prefer the mat screen, and won’t do without it, i also don’t like the ‘new’ black keyboard make’s it look like the new ‘MacBook’. This switch up looks Great for new MacBook owners, aluminum body, all the upgrades, again no choice for mat or shiny screen.

  4. Geez guys…what a bad move making the screen in the new Mac-Pro glossy glass only. Doesn’t Apple like photographers anymore? I bought a Mac-Pro back in June. I did a side by side comparion between the glossy screen and the matte on several low, medium and high contrast, color and B&W P-Shop images. The ambient store lighting was the same. I even swithced them left to right for left to right eye compensation.

    No comparison….the matte screen gives you better fidelity and grey scale than the glossy, every image, every time. And once you calibrate it using “eye-one” or simular, it is 95% on the money to your print.

    I hope that Apple still has a few matte screen in the parts store for that “just in case you need it” warranty situation. Good Luck Apple!

  5. Jeff, you don’t necessarily need the extra port. Most external firewire hard drives have two firewire ports to facilitate daisy chaining devices. If your hard drive has two FW800 ports, you can buy a FW800 to FW400 cable and still pull video directly from your video camera to your external hard drive.

  6. Jeff in Texas

    I bought my first macbook pro (drank the Koolaid) a year or so ago and have never looked back to the PC world I left behind. Having the two Firewire ports was one of the selling points for me. I have used them both (FW400 & 800) for capturing video direct from the camera (FW 400) and saving it to disk (external FW 800). The new MBP does not have that, so I will need to keep my baby running for another generation or two of machines. I already bumped the disk up to 200MB and the memory to 2GB, but I can’t change he processor or speed… Looks like I’m stuck for a bit while I save up for a Mac Pro to do the video editing and rendering on.

  7. Annoyed Apple Freak

    Not all of us have a high end machine to do video editing on-or care to buy another camera to be be able to import video…. I’m annoyed with the lack of firewire on this new Macbook.

  8. John from Downunder

    Nice laptops from Apple but prices suck in the Land of the Downunder.

    At EDU prices, the new entry-level aluminium Macbook costs $700 AUD more than the previous model!!

    The “new” Macbook White seems a good deal as does the previous entry-level MBP which was $600 cheaper.

    Man, times are tough Apple, give us a break. I want a Mac but my 15.4″ Compaq laptop only costs $500 AUD and has an S-Video port and DVD-DL burner.

    No FW port on the new MacBook makes my video camera kind of lonely.
    Isn’t iLife with iMovieHD supposed to make the Mac a killer platform for the average family computing situation?


  9. I love Apple, but I’m getting a little tired of the insanely priced adapters. Now I have to buy completely new DisplayPort adapters for like $30 each. One for home, one for work. It adds up.

    And since they’ve got a death-grip on MagSafe, no one else is innovating with cool MagSafe connectors. I WOULD be willing to pay $30 for a triple-headed cable like the one that the new Cinema Display is equipped with, that is triple-terminated on the other side. It would make my work area much cleaner. But no, only way to get that is to buy a monitor that is spec’ed and priced only for pros.

    Free MagSafe!! Free Mini-DVI and Mini-DisplayPort!! Please, Apple!

  10. Well I was really excited leading up to this morning, i just started school for Graphic Design/Vicom and was in the market for a new notebook and was gonna make the switch to a Mac after being a PC for about 15 years now. However i gotta say im a little disappointed with the refresh and probably wont make the switch now. I was in the market for the 17″ macbook pro, but dont like that now i have to choose between a series of options that i can only get on one but not the other. I want a 17″ with a matte screen with 1600×1200 resolution, the new graphics chip, the new keyboard and trackpad, and the new housing(least important) but i cant have all of that all on one machine, I have to choose. This doesn’t really make sense to me. I can have a low res (1400×900 maximum) 15″ glossy thing i wont be able to see when there is light in the room with all the new features or i can pay full price for the 17″ that doesnt come with any of Apple’s new “breakthrus”, what gives? Hopefully enough people will complain and by the new year and i will be able to purchase the macbook pro with all the features that i want, if not they have lost one customer already. It’s to bad too because i will be purchasing a copy of Adobe CS4 before next semester begins for what ever operating system I own at that time as well. Meaning whatever version i get (either mac or pc) will dictate what the next few computers i will purchase will be over the next few years, since you cant change versions of the software without purchasing a new full version. But anyway hope they address this, peace.

  11. Juan-John

    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.

  12. 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)

  13. 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.

  14. 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*

  15. 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.