Good, But Not Great

Apple announced their upgrades to most of their MacBook line today in an event that wasn’t quite as exciting as some had hoped.   How it’s hard to compete with the level of expectations for Apple, the last couple events have been a bit of a snooze.

The upgrades are to the primary laptop lines; the MacBook and the MacBook Pro.   No significant designs upgrades this time, mostly just tweaks.  


For starters, the line is now 100% aluminum.   This was widely expected.   The next design tweak is that the MacBook is now made from a solid piece of aluminum, which gives it a more solid feel, while making it lightweight.   This also makes the keyboard more like that of the MacBook Air.  

Another upgrade is the touchpad, which is now made of the same glass surface as that on the iPhone.   This goes along with what Apple insiders say is Steve Job’s design idea.   He loves aluminum and glass right now.   The touchpads also allows for Multi-Touch, which gives you better control over applications.

Keeping in line with the aluminum and glass style concept, all the screens are now glass.   This is going to upset a lot of your programers who don’t like the reflective nature of the the glass versus the traditional matte displays, but it’s clear that most people do prefer glass.  

From a technical specs stand point, there are less changes than I would have hoped.   First off, the processor wasn’t given a whole lot of push.   My current machine is 2.33 GHz, and it looks like the standard models top out now at 2.5 GHz.   Not exactly a difference that will legitimize laying down a couple thousand dollars.

The biggest upgrade in power would seem to come from the decision to go with a separate 3D graphics card from Nvidia, as opposed to continuing to use the integrated graphics chipset from Intel.   Since Apple has been trying to entice more gamers to their machines, this is a solid move.   This will allow for much, much better gameplay for those who use their laptops for 3D games.   This is something Apple should have done long ago.  

Apple is also offering new choices in hard drives, with bigger numbers and even an SSD drive.   I would be more excited with the SSD option if it meant better battery life or speed.   But as the MacBook Air has demonstrated, it’s not making the difference it should in Macs.  

The one item I am likely to purchase soon is the new Cinema Display.   I would say this was exciting, if it wasn’t years behind when it should have happened.   For years MacBook users have been without the option of upgrading their monitors to something that included an iSight.   Apple even stopped making the iSight over a year ago, leaving us without any real option other than hooking up a separate camera.  

Now Apple has pushed out a new display that is made specifically for the MacBook line.   This includes better power handling, the iSight and a much better picture using LED.  

One thing to note is that Apple has made big strides in making their machines green.   When the environmental groups started targeting Apple for being one of the least green of all computer makers, I knew Jobs would take personal offense and change things.   That’s the great thing about Steve Jobs, he is all about being cool.   And being green is the cool thing to do.  

If I were to be a new laptop, it would likely be the MacBook, not the Pro.   I would go with the 2.4 GHz model.   I think for most the MacBook is the perfect machine.   It ‘s enough power to do just about everything you need.   The only difference I can see between the Pro and the standard is the screen size and HD speed.   You add the weight difference and price into the mix and I think to most the MacBook is the clear winner.   How it weighs 50% more than the Air, the fact that it’s about 2/3 the price makes it worth an extra 1.5 pounds for most people.  

In the end it looks like I’ll be cleaning off my MBP and keeping it in use for at least another few months, but I will be getting a shinny new Cinema Display, and maybe a new keyboard to fool myself into thinking I have a new computer.  Although since I already have an older (5+ years now) 23″ display, I’m likely to wait for the 30″ to offer up the iSight.   I would like to get a little more room to play if I’m going to spend the money.


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