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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  • DCstewieG - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    The complaints about the glossy screen are incredibly overblown IMO. I (and many others I've found online) was of the opinion that the glossy screen is terrible. But early this year when I was buying my MacBook Pro, I read a lot online and then went to the store. I decided to go with the glossy screen and I love it. Unless you'll always be using your laptop with a light or window right behind you, you never really notice it.

    I would guess that most of the complaints you read online are from people who've never really used the glossy screen for a serious amount of time and just assume that this reflective finish must suck. But seriously, go see for yourself. What are you listening to people on the internet for? I know mine is beautiful.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Friday, October 17, 2008 - link

    "Unless you'll always be using your laptop with a light or window right behind you, you never really notice it. "

    You make no sense at all. A notebook is a portable device I want to use everywhere - also and especially outside my own house. Glossy screens are a failure there. Glossy screens can work just fine on a desktop system if the environment is right, but its as dumb as it can get for a notebook, because not everyone, like you, will use it on the same table in the same position every day. Period.

    Reply
  • code65536 - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    > Unless you'll always be using your laptop with a light
    > or window right behind you, you never really notice it.
    >
    That's like saying, "unless you find yourself using your laptop far away from a power supply for very long periods of time, 5 hours of battery life ought to be enough for anyone." Sure, that might apply in many cases, but I still want the flexibility and robustness of a matte screen so that when I do encounter adverse lighting, things still work fine.

    And I'm surprised at how many defenders of glossy use the "you must have never seen one before" line. Well, I used to have a glossy screen. And it was so unbearable that I actually went through the trouble (and it was a LOT of trouble) to get the screen replaced with a matte screen.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    Honestly, there's a lot more to an LCD than the glossy vs. matte discussion. In fact, I know Anand is happy to see the new specs, but I'm not convinced the new MacBook will actually have a display that's on par with the Pro - we'll see when he gets a chance to actually test it in person.

    One of my major complaints with laptop LCDs is contrast ratio and color gamut. I have yet to test anything that comes anywhere near the ASUS G2P I tested over two years ago, which still falls behind pretty much every single desktop LCD I've tested.

    I've got an LED backlit LCD right now that one might expect to perform well... but it doesn't. The contrast ratio is about 200:1, because the black level is about 1.0 nits. Sitting next to it is a non-LED laptop with a black level of around .25 nits, and let me tell you it makes a huge difference. I've tested LED lit laptops that do much better, and I've tested non-LED backlit laptops that do worse. Bottom line is that LCD panel technology still has a lot of variation.

    Maybe if I'm lucky, I can get Anand to send me a few Apple MacBooks for some quick LCD testing. I've always heard they're "better" than other models, but have never had a chance to sit down and run some objective tests to prove that. I think they even used to use S-IPS panels on some notebooks, but I'd be very surprised if they still do that - which is really a shame.
    Reply
  • marsbound2024 - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    This is a new glass screen... and Engadget is a pretty respectable site. http://www.blogcdn.com/www.engadget.com/media/2008...">http://www.blogcdn.com/www.engadget.com...8/10/app...

    And this is from Gizmodo: "The glossy screen is what it is, and is bright, fast to light up and a bit too reflective if you position it with the sun behind you (no matte option anymore)."

    But of course I'd be absolutely pleased if the glare isn't so bad. I just know that I'll be using my laptop for what laptops are intended for: mobility. I want to go anywhere... a cafe, a park, the deck, who knows. I am not afraid of the sunlight like many geeks are sometimes stereotypically portrayed, but I certainly don't want my laptop's glare to instill that fear.
    Reply

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