Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Some Unexpected Announcements From Apple

I was meaningfully distracted most of the day yesterday with some wonderful lectures and conversations at my summer school in Santa Fe. When I finally got back to my room, I discovered Apple made several major product announcements. Most notably for me, they improved both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros (the 13-inch is now considered a Pro) with the following significant changes:
  • Built-in 7 hour battery. (This is a huge plus in my book.)
  • Adding in an SD card slot. (A big improvement for me. Unfortunately, the new 15-inch lost the Express Card slot.)
  • All 13-inch models now have better screens (another huge plus!), backlit keyboards, and a Firewire port.
  • The higher-end 13-inch now comes with 4 GB of RAM.
  • An increase in processor speed on both units.
  • A $300 price drop on the base model 15-inch (which loses the discrete graphics card).
With my student discount, this means I could now buy a base 13-inch model for $1,099 or the upper end for $1,399. The base 15-inch model is now only $200 more (basically equivalent to the upper level 13-inch in every way other than larger screen). With Apple's current promotion for a free iPod Touch for students (a $229 value) and a free printer with this purchase, buying a Mac suddenly becomes very, very tempting for me. (I spent most of my last day in Virginia reinstalling Vista on my tablet PC after discovering Lenovo sent me a defective XP disc. It's mostly working mostly okay now, but still has occasional system freezes which are very frustrating.)

Apple made some minor updates to the MacBook Air and dropped the price to $1,499.

In addition to all of this, Apple also announced a new iPhone which will be available on June 19th -- a 16 GB model for $199 or a 32 GB model for $299. One of the coolest features of the new iPhone is the ability to use MobileMe to find your phone using GPS if you lose it and the ability to remotely wipe it clean. Other new features include:
  • 3.2 MP camera- autofocus, macro mode, low light improvements, video recording, edit video on the phone
  • Voice control — music playing and phone calls via voice
  • Digital compass
  • Improved battery life — 9 hours web surfing, 5 hours talk time
All in all, these look like some great improvements from Apple. I wish the MacBook Air had the built-in 7 hour batter as well, but am pleased to see an increase in battery life on the iPhone.

If I were to buy one of these new Macs, I'd probably either go for an upper-end 13-inch or lower-end 15-inch. Basically the only difference is in the size of the screen and an increase in cost is $200. Normally, I'd never consider a 15-inch over a 13-inch, but after using several of them, I really love the extra real estate the 15-inch screen gives and could just about make do without my 24-inch monitor at home. (Similar to how Tim Ferriss uses his 17-inch MacBook Pro.)

Does anyone have any thoughts on the trade-off between size and portability between a 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook? Also, does anyone have any have a perspective on how much user maintenance the typical Mac takes relative to the typical PC and how frequently a Mac locks up relative to a PC? (Overall, I probably lose several days a year doing maintenance on my PC.)


Ali Hasanain said...

Given that you already have the screen at home, I'd suggest going with the 13inch. Portability is a big plus, and now that I'm used to my computer, I don't know how I used to lug my old Dell around.

For reasons I have never been able to fathom, your experience with Windows is an outlier. Neither I nor any of my other close friends using Windows waste time on maintenance. The most it required was a restart now and then. My MacBook has been no different.

The two biggest pluses for a Mac over a PC are: the simplicity of the OS and the unibody construction.

However, two words of caution: first, wait until both Apple and Microsoft update their respective OSs in a month or two. The next Windows is supposed to be a significantly different animal than Vista. Given that XP and their earlier OSs used to work just fine, I'd give Microsoft another chance if they fix the bugs in Vista.

Second, I was disappointed to notice some flaws beginning to appear on my hitherto pristine computer chassis. There was some warping on the base and a dent on the front side. When I close the screen, it also doesn't sit as flush as it used to, and in the absence of a latch, it sometimes pops slightly open. VERY minor things, but Apples aren't indestructible either!

Hope Santa Fe goes well. Looking fwd to seeing you when you get back.

P.S. Angry at not having the latest Apple products anymore =P

Shawn said...

I'm surprised Ali and his friends haven't had to spend any time on maintenance. Perhaps mine was preventative, but I would spend 30+ minutes every friday doing multiple spyware/adware/etc. updates/cleanings on my PC. Granted, I'm a computer geek, and this was preventative maintenance (I never had any problems with my computer not starting or crashing, so that 30mins/week was well spent, I'd say, and I'd do it while surfing, so it wasn't *completely* 30 mins.)

With that said, and considering myself a very very very adept user of XP (our old IT guy knew less, in some respects, than I did about XP), I've made the jump to OSX and never looked back. (Incidentally, after taking nearly 1.5 years to convince, I finally got my wife into a Mac after her only knowing pc's about 6 months ago. Now, after she spilled water on her macbook--aargh--, and is forced to use a loner IBM in Italy? "Oh my, do I miss my Mac.")

I do concur w/ ali on the waiting, though...I'm skeptical of Windows 7's abilities, but it is always good to get 1.1, so if your investment is already sunk, wait for that and see if you can test it out to see if it's worth it.

My wife has the newer (like ali, not the newest anymore) 13" unibody macbook, and I again agree with Ali. If I easily had access to a larger screen for when necessary, I'd probably get the 13", vs. my 15". If I didn't have the screen, a 15" all the way.

Aluminum does dent, though...again, I agree with Ali. Though, I've had my 15" mbp for...oh...4 years? No, that can't be true...maybe 3 years? And it still runs like a champ, and I literally NEVER have issues with it.

You still need to come over and check out my mac mini/htpc setup.

Peace man...enjoy NM.

Clint said...

I'm going to be getting a new 13" MacBook Pro and using it with my 24" LCD while at home (probably with Bluetooth keyboard/mouse).

I'm simplifying what I do and I think going back to Mac will probably be a good thing for my freedom of movement. I've come full circle (twice?) and I think I'm ready to leave Windows behind (or at least just run it in a window as needed).