Apple unveils new MacBook and MacBook Pro

Apple on Tuesday introduced new models of its consumer-level MacBook and high-end MacBook Pro laptops, adding the newly unveiled Penryn chips to its portable line and boosting processor speeds. In addition, the MacBook Pro adopts the MultiTouch trackpad first introduced in Apple’s MacBook Air laptop.

The MacBook Pro comes in three configurations: a 15-inch model with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo chip; a 15-inch 2.5GHz offering, and a 17-inch 2.5GHz system. A 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo chip is available as a $250 build-to-order option for the MacBook Pro.

The MacBook also comes in three configurations. The white MacBook features either a 2.1GHz or 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor. The black model features a 2.4GHz chip.

The Core 2 Duo processors are part of Intel’s new mobile Penryn line introduced by the chipmaker last month. Penryn mobile processors use a 45-nanometer microprocessor architecture, which is more energy-efficient than the previous 65nm architecture. The instruction set—Streaming Single Instruction, Multiple Data Extensions 4—can improve the speed of some tasks in applications rewritten to include SSE-4 support.

Some Penryn chips also boost the shared L2 cache size to 6MB. Indeed, the two 2.5GHz MacBook Pros sport 6MB of L2 cache, up from 4MB in the previous models. However, the 15-inch 2.4GHz MacBook Pro features only 3MB of L2 cache, a drop-off from its predecessor.

All three MacBook offerings come with 3MB of L2 cache. The previous models offered 4MB.

MacBook Pro update

In addition to the processor changes, the new MacBook Pro models come with 2GB of installed memory and an 8X SuperDrive. All models come with an Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor; the entry-level 2.4GHz model features 256MB of video memory, while the other two configurations offer 512MB.

The 2.4GHz system comes with a 200GB hard drive, up from 120GB in the previous entry-level offering. The two 2.5GHz MacBook Pros offer 250GB of storage, with a 300GB hard drive available as a $75 build-to-order option for the 17-inch laptop.

David Moody, Apple vice president of worldwide product marketing said the larger capacity hard drives in the new models were made with creative pros in mind. “We have a lot of people that are studio pros and want to take their projects with them,” he added.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro joins the MacBook Air in using arsenic-free glass and it also has an optional mercury-free LED backlit display. This, says Moody, helps Apple in its commitment to reduce trace amounts of mercury in its products. The 15-inch MacBook Pros added LED-backlit displays in last summer’s laptop update.

This update to the MacBook Pro line also adds the MultiTouch trackpad, similar to the one featured on the MacBook Air. The trackpad recognizes pinch, rotate and swipe gestures, allowing users to zoom and rotate photos from their trackpad.

There is one significant difference between the MultiTouch capabilities on the MacBook Air and the new MacBook Pro models. While the Air features a larger trackpad, the revamped MacBook Pro line-up retains the existing trackpad size.

Apple says the latest MacBook Pro is up to 74 percent faster than the original 17-inch 2.16GHz MacBook Pro Core Duo introduced in early 2006. Macworld Lab plans to test each new MacBook Pro to see how it compares to previous generations.

The MacBook Pro models are now shipping at the following prices:

  • $1,999 for the 15-inch 2.4GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo with 200GB hard drive;
  • $2,499 for the 15-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo with 250GB hard drive; and
  • $2,799 for the 17-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo with 250GB hard drive.

MacBook update

Tuesday’s laptop update also changes up the MacBook line for the first time since a November processor upgrade. In addition to the processor changes, this latest MacBook update also boosts hard-drive capacity in the consumer-oriented laptop. Previous models of the MacBook came with 80GB, 120GB and 160GB of storage. The new white 2.1GHz and 2.4GHz models come with 120GB or 160GB hard drives, while the black 2.4GHz model has a 250GB hard drive.

Apple also boosted the amount of RAM that ships on some MacBooks. The 2.4GHz MacBooks come with 2GB of memory, up from 1GB in the previous generation. The 2.1GHz offering still ships with 1GB of RAM.

When compared to the original MacBook Core Duo that shipped in May 2006, the new models come out 50 percent faster, according to Apple.

The latest MacBooks are now shipping at the following prices:

  • $1,099 for the 2.1GHz white MacBook with 1GB of RAM, a CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo drive, and 120GB hard drive;
  • $1,299 for the 2.4GHz white MacBook with 2GB of RAM, a SuperDrive, and 160GB hard drive; and
  • $1,499 for the 2.4GHz black MacBook with 2GB of RAM, a SuperDrive, and 250GB hard drive.

The big picture

Tuesday’s moves mark the third update to the MacBook line and the second change to the MacBook Pro offerings in the past 12 months. The pace of change may be a a reflection of the importance of laptop to Apple’s bottom line. Apple laptops have outsold its desktop offerings for seven consecutive quarters, which in turn is helping drive record Mac sales.

“Our Mac business is better than ever,” Moody said. “We just finished a quarter where we shipped over 2.3 million Macs — we are really happy with the momentum we have.”

Updated at 6:39 a.m. PT with more detailed information about the new notebooks and comments from an interview with Apple.
Updated at 10:45 a.m. PT with background on Intel’s Penryn chips and more information on the updates.

Macworld.com executive editor Philip Michaels contributed to this report.

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