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Apple Throttles Up New MacBook Models With Penryn Processors

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Feb 26, 2008 11:53 AM PT

More than a month after Apple introduced its super-thin MacBook Air with the innovative multi-touch gesture-based trackpad, the company in Cupertino, Calif., has delivered a long-awaited refresh to its high-end MacBook Pro (MBP) line.

Apple Throttles Up New MacBook Models With Penryn Processors

On top of that, it threw in a beefy update to its consumer-grade MacBook (MB) line for good measure.

Getting Carded

Both the MacBook and MacBook Pro feature the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors, larger hard drives and 2 GB of memory standard in most models. The MacBook Pro also picked up the multi-touch trackpad found in the MacBook Air, though the size of the trackpad is still the original, smaller MacBook Pro size.

The Pro model also comes with the new Nvidia graphics processors, the GeForce 8600M GT with either 256 MB or 512 MB of GDDR3 (graphics double data rate 3) memory.

The MacBooks retain the same processor-integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 that it used in the previous generation.

The upgrades are essentially a refresh -- neither break new ground or revolutionize their respective lines. However, some Mac-focused enthusiasts will be pleased to see the performance upgrades at the same standard Apple price points. The MacBook Pro has been long overdue for an upgrade, while the addition of the 2.4 GHz Intel Penryn-based processor to the MacBook wasn't widely expected.

Similar Specs

While the looks of the MacBook and MacBook Pro seem worlds apart -- the MBP is silver and aluminum and features a larger screen, while the MB is white or black plastic -- the core processors used in the laptops are closer than ever.

The high-end black MacBook retails for US$1,499 and ships with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3 MB shared L2 cache, an 800 MHz front-side bus, 2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 (double data rate 2) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory), and 250 GB Serial ATA (advanced technology attachment) hard drive running at 5400 RPM with a sudden motion sensor, and a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support.

The lower-end silver MacBook Pro retails for US$1,999 and ships with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3 MB shared L2 cache, an 800 MHz front-side bus, 2 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, and 200 GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 5400 RPM with a sudden motion sensor, and a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support.

From a core processing standpoint, the two units are remarkably similar.

Screens and Graphics

The big differences come in screen size -- the MBP has a 15.4-inch widescreen LED (light emitting diode)-backlit 1440 by 900 LCD display, while the MB has a 13.3-inch widescreen 1280 by 800 display (no LED). Plus, the MBP has a dedicated graphics processor, which enables the MBP to outperform the MB for graphics-intensive applications.

The MBP also has more ports than the MB, making it more suitable for a wider variety of working conditions.

Of course, while the black MB starts capping out near the low-end MBP, the MBP can scale even higher -- up to a 2.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with a faster 200 GB 7200 RPM hard drive. It also ships with a massive 17-inch screen.

Tough Choices

For consumers, Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup has presented some tough choices as the product lines have become more closely aligned in terms of basic processing power.

This is an issue of particular concern for so-called prosumers -- customers who are doing much more than just iTunes, e-mail and Web surfing. They're hungry for the snappiest performance but might not be doing extremely advanced tasks like editing movies with Final Cut Express 4.

"The MacBook Pro is still a road warrior/business machine. With its higher-end graphics card for such apps as Aperture 2 and others that use GPU (graphics processing unit) and a larger L2 cache, business guys will still pay the premium," Sven Rafferty, founder of the IT and Web solutions company hyperSven, told MacNewsWorld.

"The MacBook is still trendy in its appearance, and this separates it from the MacBook Pro as a true and serious machine," Rafferty added. "It's like the difference between the Porsche SUV and 911 -- they're both fast and they're both sweet looking, but the 911 will always be the car you bring to the track to win races."


Should government regulators force the breakup of big tech companies?
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