BitDepth 650 - October 21

Apple introduces new "unibody" Macbooks.
New laptops, few surprises

Apple's new Macbook notebooks reduce the number of available ports and line them up on the left side. Photo courtesy Apple.

I'll confess right up front. I wanted a good reason to sell off my Macbook and get me a shiny new sumpin' sumpin'.
The buzz leading up to last Tuesday's Apple event was particularly hopeful, with standout rumours suggesting that Apple was machining their new line out of a solid block of aluminium (almost true, but not quite) and the new systems would add quadcore systems to the dualcore Intel processors that are now standard across the company's consumer line.

Alas, my tech lust would have to go unsated. No quadcore chips, no BluRay drives ("a bag of hurt" according to Jobs), and no massive price drops at the bottom of the line.
There was little reason for Apple to take drastic measures to stoke sales. The company is claiming market share double figures, up to 17.6 percent of the US market, after spending most of the last two decades as a barely perceptible blip on the computer sales charts. IDC's analysts place Apple third in the third quarter, 2008 with a 9.1 percent share.

Drilling out metal blocks
That confidence gave the computer maker license to spend quite a bit of presentation time on their new manufacturing techniques for the new notebooks, the main piece of which is hewn from a solid block of aluminium. At the end of the press conference, the frame, a shell with ribs and cutouts for the keyboard was passed around to the press in attendance for their admiring appreciation. Whatever.

More interesting was what Apple giveth in this revamp of the laptop line. The original white Macbook remains in the line untouched save for a price drop of $100, bringing its new retail price to US$999. At US$899, the notebook would probably fly off the shelves.
There's now an upscale Macbook built from the new "unibody" aluminium casing that's a "Mini Me" version of the new Macbook Pro, the mid-sized laptop that anchors the high-end of Apple's notebook line.

Apart from their redesigned shells, Apple has upgraded screens across the line to LED displays and has built two NVIDIA GeForce 9600M video chips into the Pro  notebooks, a low powered version that extends battery life and a full bore chip that maximises performance.
The new Macbooks ditch the lame X3100 Intel graphics chip for the GeForce 9400M from NVIDIA. Apple claims the new integrated graphics chip (still steals 256MB from your system memory) boosts graphics performance by a factor of five.

Bad with the good
In a nod to the very vocal critics of their manufacturing processes, Apple has made sweeping changes to the materials they use in these notebooks, earning an EPEAT environmental gold certificate. If you've been concerned about brominated retardants, these are the Macs for you.
A new 24 inch LED based display was also announced as a natural partner to the new notebooks. The bundle of cables has been narrowed down to just three, a connector for the new display port video connection, a USB cable that expands to three outlets on the monitor case and a Magsafe power adapter that charges any Macbook.

Apple giveth, but it also taketh away. Firewire is disappearing from the company's laptop line. The new Macbook pro has just one Firewire 800 port and there is no Firewire connector at all on the new Macbooks.
Firewire 800 to 400 cable adapters are easy enough to find, but notebook users with desktop installations that make heavy use of Firewire will be, at the very least, annoyed.

Annoyed by Apple's insistence on a single trackpad button on its notebooks? Well the company has heard your complaints, and now there is no trackpad button at all. The entire trackpad is now made of glass and inherits the touch and gesture sensitivity of the iPhone and iPod Touch. To click, you press firmly on the touch sensitive glass.

Checklist for the Macbook buyer
Aluminium cases now available in a Macbook form factor.
LED based displays across the line.
Faster integrated graphics in Macbook, two graphics chips in Macbook Pro.
New display port for external monitors is industry standard.
User can upgrade hard drive in Macbook Pro.

User upgrades require the removal of lots of tiny screws.
No more Firewire 400, single FW800 port on Macbook Pro.
Trackpad gestures will require some user adjustment.
No major CPU changes, speeds range from 2GHz at the bottom of the line to 2.5 GHz. No quadcore model.
Top of the line Macbook Pro (2.8GHz) is a special order item.
Minimal changes to 17 inch model.
blog comments powered by Disqus