Today Apple announced updates to its MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. The notebooks aren't available until tomorrow, but I've started putting together some analysis on the specs. It turns out there's quite a bit of give and take in Apple's new announcements; you get more, but you do give some up.

The new notebooks are also very important as they put to rest rumors of NVIDIA's departure from the chipset business, at least at this point. All of the notebooks I'm talking about here use a brand new Intel chipset by NVIDIA, called the GeForce 9400M. Apple is actually the first OEM to announce support for the 9400M, the chipset itself doesn't actually launch until tomorrow.

While Apple is sticking to Intel CPUs, it has forgone G45 in favor of NVIDIA's offerings - sending a huge message to Intel: the quality of its integrated graphics must improve. While it's unlikely that Nehalem's eventual on-package GPUs will be enough, Larrabee could eventually win Apple's affection once more.

For consumers, this should mean snappier graphics performance (as well as more attractive iMac and Mac mini options assuming NVIDIA's chipsets make their way over there as well). However my quick discussion today will focus more on size and battery life.

Starting with the MacBook Pro: Smaller, Bigger, Lower Power and Lower Battery Life?

Ok now this is kind of sneaky, Apple made the MacBook Pro thinner than any other MacBook Pro, but it's wider, deeper and heavier. Granted, these are minor increases in dimensions, total volume actually decreased by about a percent. The 0.1 lbs increase in weight is most likely due to the use of glass on both the display and trackpad.

But for so much glass only a 0.1 lbs increase in weight isn't bad, oh but wait, the battery went from a 60WHr unit to a 50WHr unit. A lighter battery to offset weight gains elsewhere.

The give and take continues when you look at the hardware specs. Apple did a lot to reduce power consumption on the MacBook Pro: the GeForce 9400M chipset will use less power than Intel's G35M which was used on the previous notebook, DDR3 runs at a lower voltage than DDR2 (1.5V vs. 1.8V) and thus we see a drop in power there as well. However the reduction in total system power needs is offset by the fact that the new MacBook Pro has a smaller battery, so I'd expect battery life to stay roughly the same.

Granted the MacBook Pro was never a slouch when it came to battery life, I measured a worst case of 3.38 hours on the MacBook Pro and a best case of over 5.1 hours - just don't expect any better from the new one.

  New MacBook Pro 15" 2008 Penryn MacBook Pro 15" 2007 Merom MacBook Pro 15"
Dimensions H: 0.95"
W: 14.35"
D: 9.82"
H: 1.0"
W: 14.1"
D: 9.6"
H: 1.0"
W: 14.1"
D: 9.6"
Weight 5.5 lbs 5.4 lbs 5.4 lbs
Screen Size/Resolution 15.4" / 1440 x 900 (LED backlit) 15.4" / 1440 x 900
(LED backlit)
15.4" / 1440 x 900
(LED backlit)
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz, 2.53GHz or 2.80GHz (45nm Penryn, 1066MHz FSB) Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz - 2.6GHz (45nm Penryn, 800MHz FSB) Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz - 2.6GHz (65nm Merom, 800MHz FSB)
GPU NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (mGPU) + GeForce 9600M GT dGPU (256MB or 512MB GDDR3) NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT (256MB - 512MB) NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT (128MB - 256MB)
Memory 2GB - 4GB DDR3 1066 2GB - 4GB DDR2-667 2GB - 4GB DDR2-667
HDD

250GB - 320GB 2.5" 5400RPM SATA
320GB 7200RPM SATA
128GB SSD

200 - 250GB 2.5" 5400RPM SATA
200GB 7200RPM SATA
120 - 250GB 2.5" 5400RPM SATA
200GB 7200RPM SATA
Optical Drive Integrated SuperDrive Integrated SuperDrive Integrated SuperDrive
Networking 802.11a/b/g/n
10/100/1000 Ethernet
802.11a/b/g/n
10/100/1000 Ethernet
802.11a/b/g/n
10/100/1000 Ethernet
Built in iSight Yes Yes Yes
Inputs 2 x USB 2.0
1 x FireWire 800
1 x ExpressCard/34
1 x Audio in
1 x Integrated mic
2 x USB 2.0
1 x FireWire 400
1 x FireWire 800
1 x ExpressCard/34
1 x Audio in
1 x Integrated mic
2 x USB 2.0
1 x FireWire 400
1 x FireWire 800
1 x ExpressCard/34
1 x Audio in
1 x Integrated mic
Outputs 1 x Audio
1 x Mini DisplayPort
1 x Audio
1 x dual-link DVI
1 x Audio
1 x dual-link DVI
Battery 50WHr 60WHr 60WHr
Price $1999 $1999 $1999
The New MacBook: I Think I Might Like It
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  • Dennis Travis - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Anand, if you see this post, is the whole chipset made by Nvidia? Both Northbridge and Southbridge and just an Intel CPU? A few people have been discussing this and I figured I would ask.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    The GeForce 9400M is a single chip solution, north and south bridges in one. The CPU is Intel. So it's two chips and you've got the vast majority of the system :)

    -A
    Reply
  • LTG - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Don't know why they didn't opt for the new Intel SSD drives.

    Will these new MacBooks have the stuttering SSD problem?
    Reply
  • Griswold - Friday, October 17, 2008 - link

    Arent they using samsung SSDs? They come with their own proprietary controller and not with the jmicron junk. Reply
  • JAS - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    How much money is Apple saving by removing the Firewire port from their MacBook models? Firewire is still the preferred way to connect external drives, and it is virtually essential for importing DV video from camcorders. With no ExpressCard slot on the MacBook, users don't even have the option to add Firewire themselves.

    On the 15-inch MacBook Pro, Apple took away the Firewire-400 port while retaining the Firewire-800 port. Yes, Firewire-800 is downward compatible with Firewire-400; but you need an adapter cable to accommodate the two different types of connectors.

    It is odd to see Apple backing away from Firewire in their laptops, especially considering how the company pioneered the Firewire (1394A) protocol in the first place.

    I'm glad that I bought my MacBook Pro earlier this year. I'm not sure that I'd want to buy one of the new models with the non-optional glossy screen and Firewire deficiency.
    Reply
  • tim851 - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    I love how people continue to bash Apple's pricing. It's not that Apple has ever been anything but high end. And you know what - they are one of the fastest growing IT companies. Their profits are through the roof, unlike most high volume vendors that engage in price wars.

    If you're thinking Apple is too expensive, it's really you (like me), that is just too poor...
    Reply
  • demiurge3141 - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Is this a joke? Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    To anyone except those affected by Steve Job's Reality Distortion Field, it is a complete joke. Reply
  • SoCalBoomer - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    not only no LAN, but still only one USB and only the special display adaptor. . .

    Competitor laptops (same size, same weight) from Dell, Lenovo, etc. all have normal VGA (which, at this resolution, is JUST fine and makes giving presentations very easy - no stupid dongles to lose), multiple USB, LAN, etc. etc. etc.

    And for less.

    Yep - I'm laughing.
    Reply
  • ksherman - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    The MacBook received a pretty sweet makeover. I know its a slight bit pricier, but it sure is a stellar shift for the MacBook.

    The MacBook Pro is an epic fail in my book. I like the chicklet keyboard, I have one of the new Apple keyboards and adore it. NOT a fan of the black. Why not keep it gray like the rest of the laptop? Then, glossy only. I know some will say its fine etc, but I don't like Apple's trend of forcing the glossy screens. They are simply not my cup of tea and interfere with my work as a photographer that works on the go. True, I have a Samsung 24" on my desk for serious work, but not even giving us the option of a matte screen is a step back. Then, the huge black border... yuk! I am fine with the border, but so thick? I think this new trackpad sounds like slick work, look forward to see them. Nice bump in the Video Card (wish they wouldn't have put 256MB in the lower model, should just be 512MB all around) and DDR3 is a nice change.

    Now here is the other big negative for me: the mini-DisplayPort. LAME. I understand that DisplayPort is the wave of the future, okay. But that connector is only capable of 1920x1200 on the $30 adapter (seriously, not included?!) and if you want/need D-DVI, the adapter is $99!!!! WTF?? Big mistake, the way I see it.

    I am a fan of the construction styling of the lower section, looks impressive! If only Apple hadn't screwed over the Pros...
    Reply

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