Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New MacBooks Are Out!

Apple announced new MacBook models today. Looks like the rumors about "the brick" were true -- the new MacBook bodies are made out of one block of aluminum. Speaking as an engineer, I am highly impressed with Apple's new manufacturing process.

Notable improvements include increased graphics cards, backlit keyboards, and a more streamlined appearance. Unfortunately, the 13" models do not include a fire-wire port -- making them less usable for video editing. The other thing I'm sad to see gone is the metallic MacBook Pro keyboard. I understand from a design perspective why this was done to reduce the thickness of the computer, but I consider the older keyboard to be one of the best in the industry -- right in line with ThinkPads and my AlphaSmart Neo.

Another big change is the increased size of the multi-touch pad and absence of any buttons. (Apple has gone from one button to none.) Base prices on the 13" models are $999 for the white plastic model (a drop of $100) and $1299 and $1599 for the aluminum models. Unfortunately, there is no hoped for $800 MacBook.

Here are specs from The Unofficial Apple Weblog:

Lower-end model:

  • Price: $1299
  • Main Specs: 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo, 3MB L2 cache, 2GB of RAM expandable to 4 GB, 160GB HD
  • Display & Other: 13.3" screen, 8x Superdrive, 2 USB
  • BTO: Add RAM (up to 4 GB), up to 320 GB HD or 128 GB SSD

High-end model:

  • Price: $1599
  • Main Specs: 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo, 3MB L2 cache, 2GB of RAM expandable to 4 GB, 250GB HD
  • Display & Other: 13.3" screen, 8x Superdrive, 2 USB
  • BTO: Add RAM (up to 4 GB), up to 320 GB HD or 128 GB SSD

More details on features, graphics, tech specs and environmental compliance are up at Apple's site.

Apple also updated the 15" model using the same manufacturing process with two versions priced at $1,999 and $2,499.

What has me nearly as impressed as the new MacBooks is Apple's new 24" cinema display with a built-in iSight camera, mic, and speakers. What else is so cool about it? Well, beside the hefty price tag the new display has a single cable that connects to three ports on the MacBook transferring power, sound, USB, and video. That means the AC adapter for the laptop is built into the monitor. How cool is that? This is a far more elegant solution than a docking station and a stroke of genius for Apple. One of the benefits of keeping your hardware so tightly integrated.

I've written a lot before about how much I love the design of the iMacs. With this new arrangement, if I were in the market for a Mac, I'd be sorely tempted to buy a 13" MacBook and one of these displays rather than an iMac. You'd end up giving up a little computing power, the elegance, and a firewire port; but you'd gain a ton of flexibility and end up with a dual display set-up. Of course with a price of $899 for Apple's new monitor, I'd settle for a new 13" MacBook in conjunction with my 24" HP monitor and learn to put up with a couple extra cables in between.

P.S. -- Gizmodo has pictures and dimensions of how the new units size up to the old.

P.P.S. -- Gizmodo also describes their experience with the new buttonless trackpad. Apparently if you press it with one finger it is like a left click. Press with two fingers and it's a left click. You can also use it to scroll through Cover Flow in iTunes and use two fingers to shrink, expand, and rotate photograhs. Sounds like another great feat of engineering by Apple.

1 comment:

thinking said...

I love the new devices and the upgrades...the glass trackpad, the better video chip, etc.

However, I was disappointed that Apple did not dramatically drop the price of the Macbook as much as was rumored.

Also, they only dropped the price of the current entry level white model...not the fancy new ones.

I guess when you're selling Macs as fast as Apple is, you can keep your profit margins high.

Speaking of which, my takeaway is that the refusal of Apple to dramatically lower the Macbook pricing indicates they are probably more reluctant to enter the netbook market than presumed.

Netbooks are great for consumers, but lousy for computer vendors as they come with far lower profit margins.

Finally, as some have noted, what was interesting about the event was how Jobs used so many other Apple employees in his presentation.

It's almost like he's preparing the world for when he leaves Apple, and letting people know that Apple is far more than Steve Jobs.