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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  • quiksilvr - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Honestly what the hell? The pricing is utterly ridiculous. $100 is what Dell and HP charges, so how is $200 worth it for Apple? Its better...how?

    13" Macbook:
    For $300 extra you get a bump to 2.4 GHz and 90 GB. On the base $1299 model, an upgrade from 160 to 250 GB is 100 bucks!...WHY? 1 GB of HDD space was worth LESS than a dollar not MORE. And even worse, if you just want a speed bump and not space, you are FORCED to pay $300 just to upgrade from 2.0 to 2.4. ONLY HAVE ONE BASE MODEL AND CUSTOMIZE FROM THERE AND STOP RIPPING OFF YOUR CUSTOMERS.

    It gets worse: because of their idiotic mini display port, you have to pay 30 BUCKS (instead of the original 20) just to get an adapter to DVI or VGA. You don't get both for 30, EACH cost 30.

    15.4" Macbook Pro
    REALLY? For 500 bucks you get a whopping bump from 2.4 to 2.53, 2 extra GB of RAM and 70 GB of space...oh and 256 MB bump on the video card but its redundant because you have 4 freaking GB of RAM. Who prices these things? Do they even think it through? Oh and its still 2 grand for the base model. Yeah...REALLY affordable.

    The only good that comes from this is the original 13" Macbook costs $999 with a Superdrive standard (but still only 1 GB RAM, and charging you 75 bucks just for an extra GB of RAM)

    17" Macbook Pro
    Not only did they NOT redesign it, they didn't bring the price down. All they did was give it 4 GB RAM and a 1080p LED screen. Which is all well and good, but its still 2800 bucks. How do they expect to make a strong position in the market if they don't do what is expected from a company? HAVE AFFORDABLE NOTEBOOKS.

    You'd think that with such a high price, there is a reason. Is the processor different from PCs? NO. How about the screen? Nope. Do they use special RAM? Nooo. How about video card? No. Hard drive? No. Optical drive? No. BUT ITS MADE FROM A SOLID PIECE OF ALUMINUM AND 33% THINNER and 20% LIGHTER THAN MOST NOTEBOOKS! Ok that's cool, but I'd rather NOT spend an extra 500-1500 bucks just for Aluminum casing and lightness and get a better spec'd computer. If I want a new OS that bad I can get Ubuntu or just buy Leopard and "hack" it so it runs on PCs.

    Simply put, these new Macbook releases always do what is expected (make DVD burning standard, make 2 GB standard, LED back lighting) but not what most consumers want (affordability, one base model to avoid being forced to pay extra just for one thing, some form of an accidental damage warranty, and a fingerprint reader of some kind). The sad part: I WANT to get a Mac (the notebook not the OS), but the price, its lack of game compatibility and continual stubbornness of not releasing the OS for PCs so that it CAN be compatible with everything keeps me away from it. Ubuntu does a better job in that and it has an even smaller footprint in the PC world.
    Reply
  • SirKronan - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Disgusting .... APPLE, not Anand.

    Pros to Macbook:
    LED
    nVidia
    Penryn
    DDR3 (although minor)

    Cons:
    No firewire????
    $200 MORE????

    The four changes above are completely evolutionary. Evolutionary changes in this day and age shouldn't raise the price. The Macbook has been scarcely upgraded at all since its release. The new body style shouldn't be accompanied by a ridiculous hike in price. I am impressed with the nice looking LED screens, but they take away your firewire port and don't even replace it with a third USB.

    I'm skipping this generation for sure. I love my Macbook, but if it died right now I certainly wouldn't be replacing it with one of these new expensive ones. I'm not impressed. The Penryn and DDR3 can't be costing Apple enough to justify a $200 price hike. That's not the way the computer business works. I honestly hope people don't buy them until the price comes down.

    Fail. (sorry if I sound a bit harsh ... long day at work!)
    Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    What they have done to these laptops is a travesty. They were awesome, and easy to sell. Firewire target disk mode is one of the most useful features for mac users. I use it all the time. Stripping out Firewire on Macbooks is such a penny-pinching, crappy move. It's bad enough you don't get many ports, and they took away the remote, and raised the price, and now you don't even get a $5 port.

    I don't care if it was Jobs who wanted the firewire port gone, and the Macbook Pro to be stripped to one FW800 port. Smack that person upside the head.

    This is in addition to the probable continuation of making the laptops and iMacs more and more difficult to service. Just today, I had to disassemble a White Intel iMac to replace the HD. With the earlier iMac G5 (same form factor) you could unscrew 3 or 4 screws, which were trapped, and open the back. Then you could replace memory, hard drive, power supply, optical drive, or anything else. With this unit, I had to remove the front bezel using a bent, cut credit card (Apple provides a "tool" to ASPs, which is a plastic card that they literally tell you to bend and cut) due to Apple trying to prevent smaller shops from servicing the units out-of-warranty. Then disconnect the iSight camera. I had to then remove an EMI shield that likes to tear, then remove a display connector, then remove EMI tape around the display, then 4 T10 screws (this model uses T6, T8, AND T10), then remove the display, then detach 2 display cables, then remove a HD thermistor cable, then remove the HD, exchange the bracket and plug screws into the new drive, replace the thermistor with the remainder of sticky tape onto the new drive, screw that back in, then replace the display cables, display, T10 screws (for which I do not have a magnetic driver, and yes, the holes are set down within the chassis, that was fun), then try to replace the tape, then the other cable had to be screwed in (T6), then the shield replaced, then the iSight reconnected, then the bezel back on. I was being careful, granted. But it took a freaking HOUR!!!

    Now, the real solution for that is physical pain inflicted on the idiot who decided that one should have to go through all of that to replace a hard drive, or even the clock battery (a little less work for one of those).
    Reply
  • v12v12 - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Yeah I've got a GLossy-FLossy PC lappy and the reflection is definitely an issue! I mean it's not enough for me to relinquish it for a matte, b/c the colors, esp watching vids, are leagues above matte... then again, the scratches and nicks are VERY easily seen and that drives me nuts more than anything. Gloss attracts the joe-blows/zealots alike with the cleverly, and tactile marketing: thus never showing the negatives of it.

    My advice is to the cautious: decide what you can and CANNOT tolerate, from the small list of pro's and cons from my exp. I have both a McPro (matte) and a glossy PC... I find myself using + tolerating the gloss, while silently complaining about it still.
    Reply
  • Doormat - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    "You do pay for all of this, the updated configuration will run you $1299 up from $1099 (although you can still buy the entry level MacBook at $1099). The display alone is worth the $200 price premium honestly."

    I beg to disagree. The res is the same, and I have no problems with my CCFL-LCD on my 2.5 yr old MacBook. I would have been happy if they would have kept it for another 6 months and waited until the price came down on both the display and DDR3 RAM.

    The $200 price increase really grinds my gears. I went from expecting to fork over about $1500 for a new MB to find that I would have to spend $1700, and the processor is only 133MHz faster than the one in my 2.5 yr old MacBook (May 2006).

    Apple screwed up IMO. May they find that their ASP goes south the next few months as people buy MBs instead of MBPs and $999 plasti-Macs instead of "Premium" MBs.
    Reply
  • vexingv - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    While my Powerbook has become anemic running Leopard, with its max RAM of 1.25 gb, and those superfluous flash-filled webpages, I still feel it had one of the best form-factors of an Apple portable. Disappointments with this new generation of MBP/MB:

    1.lack of a matte option; while they may look nice, glossy screens don't have the truest color representation and have issues with glare. I also feel that my eyes strain/fatigue faster when using a glossy screen.

    2. Apple is also nickel-and-diming users on these new adapters. When I bought my Powerbook, the mini-DVI to VGA and DVI adapters were included standard; the new Mini Displayport adapters $30 each. There is also no mention of any type of adapter for FW800 to FW400.

    3. lack of any mouse buttons: multitouch is an interesting feature, but why remove the mouse button to make the trackpad clickable? I don't see why the mouse button couldn't be left there.

    4. "chicklet" keys: I think the Powerbook/MBP keyboards were top notch and always hated using the keyboard on my friend's Macbook.

    5. Macbook and Macbook Pro lines have very few features separating them. As far as I can tell, the only two features it lacks are a discrete gpu (9600M GT) and firewire. But given its size, this new generation of Macbooks could fill the role that has been left by the 12" Powerbooks.

    6. Price: Macbooks have gotten more expensive and I only expect those plastic Macbooks to be around for $999 until supplies are out.

    I just hope that Apple can come out with better hardware revisions when it transitions to the Nehalem/Core i7 mobile platform, which is when I anticipate on upgrading my portable.
    Reply
  • steveyballme - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    The glare is so bad that most people mistake this thing for a mirror!

    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com">http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    Reply
  • blufire - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    The previous (2.1GHz white) MacBook is available for $999, not $1099 as stated on page 2.

    Thanks for the thorough comparison!
    Reply
  • marsbound2024 - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    I've seen articles on other sites (such as Engadget) talking about how annoying the glare was on the screen. Why is there no mention of this? Is it just that the glare isn't that bad? Or I suppose since the article is merely a discussion of specifications there really isn't a need to discuss the fact that this glass screen might be rather annoying for use under lights or outside? I really like the new design and specs, but the display's glare might prevent me from considering it. Reply
  • Christoph Katzer - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Let the man get his hands on the new ones first, review it and be sure to get an indepth analysis then. Reply

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