13″ MacBook Makes It to the Big Leagues, Turns “Pro”


Apple (s aapl) announced a slew of hardware updates today, including a number of upgrades to its notebook lineup.

For me, the most notable among these was the upwards shift of the 13-inch aluminum MacBook into the MacBook Pro category, alongside the 15- and 17-inch models, both of which also got their own feature and hardware improvements. The white, plastic polycarbonate MacBook is looking mighty lonely down at the low end of the scale.

Alongside the name change, the 13-inch MacBook Pro (I’m glad I no longer have to specify “unibody” or anything else to distinguish it from the regular white MacBook anymore) gets an SD card slot, up to 8GB (if you’re partial to a $1,000 upgrade) of memory, a max hard drive size of 500GB (or 256GB SSD), and a backlit keyboard, standard.

Also, making a triumphant return, is FireWire thanks to an FW800 port, as is standard for the Pro line of computers. All this at a new entry-level price point of $1,199, which comes standard with a 2.26GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 160GB HDD. Another higher-priced option with a 2.53GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 250GB HDD goes for $1,499.

The price drop, combined with the spec upgrade, makes this one of Apple’s most appealing machines to those of us who are cost-conscious Mac addicts. Add in the inclusion of the same battery tech that was first introduced in the 17-inch MacBook Pro, with a reported battery life of seven hours (likely exaggerated), and I’m sold. If you’re an education customer, you get another $100 off, bringing the total price of the laptop to $1,099 before taxes. Someone’s going shopping later today, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s me.

I’d wait for Snow Leopard to come out in September, but with $29 upgrade pricing, and a $49 family pack (I have three Macs), there’s not really any cause to wait. One might argue that not enough has changed with this upgrade to justify slapping the “Pro” moniker onto the end of the name, but honestly, the company cut the price along with the title rather than raising it, so I’m not complaining. I seriously believe that this is the best value proposition in Apple’s lineup as it stands, especially given that it’s still relatively easy to upgrade RAM and hard disk (compared with the Mac mini) on your own — much cheaper than it would cost to do so with Apple-installed components.