Apple events always have even the most jaded computer user somewhat curious as to what the Cupertino company could be coming out with next, and today’s MacBook event delivers on nearly all from the rumor mill.
Steve Jobs took the stage, but eventually handed it off to Jonathan Ive, senior VP of design, to discuss the new chassis of the new MacBooks. Although it wasn’t conveyed as dramatically as early rumors put it, Ive basically said that Apple has went back to the drawing board to come up with a new way to make its MacBook casings.
“We discovered if we started with a thick piece of aluminum we could make a lighter and stronger part… So we make it from a solid piece of aluminum,” said Ive, confirming the early reports of the ‘Brick’ process. “We started with a 2.5 lbs piece of metal and end up with a piece that weighs a quarter of a pound.”
The new unibody construction now makes the new MacBooks the most environmentally friendly Apple notebooks to date, while making the chassis stronger with only half the major structural parts.
The floor is passed back to Jobs to introduce the silicon technology that will power this new generation of MacBooks. The new MacBook Pro for example, comes with integrated graphics, powered by an Nvidia GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 memory, shared with system memory. The kicker here is that the new laptops also come with a discrete graphics solution in the form of a GeForce 9600M GT with up to 512MB of discrete GDDR3 memory — two GPUs in one unit for the MacBook Pro, and the MacBook comes only with the GeForce 9400M.
Users will be able to switch between GPUs dynamically, depending on what they want to do.
Both the new MacBook and MacBook Pro are decked out with glass. The track pad is now completely glass, which is said to allow for “silky-smooth travel.” Perhaps even more interesting is that there is no button to be found next to the track pad. Instead, the entire pad is the button, with multi-button via software. The removal of the button has allowed for a 39 percent larger tracking area, also paving the way for support of multi-finger gestures, now supporting up to four digits.
Also glass is the display, which features a black border that now matches the look of the iMac. With the display surfaces made of glass, being the glossy surface it is, now does away with the matte screen option – probably much to the dismay of those working in less controllable lighting conditions. Apple’s answer to this is that the LED backlighting now helps to mitigate any lighting problems. Apple also gave a slightly less satisfactory answer that notebooks aren’t stationary and may be repositioned for less glare.
The new chassis and LED displays means that the new MacBooks are thinner than ever, with both the regular and Pro being 0.95-inches thick. This is slightly thinner than the previous MacBook Pro’s 1-inch, and the MacBook’s 1.08-inch.
The new MacBook also gets a weight savings of half a pound, with the new one at 4.5 lbs. The new MacBook Pro, however, has a small gain going from 5.4 lbs to the new 5.5, likely due to the addition of glass.
For the first time, Apple is ditching the venerable DVI display connector in favor of the new DisplayPort industry standard. DisplayPort not only comes in the form of a much smaller connector, but the standard also supports much higher resolutions beyond dual-link DVI of 2560x1600. While some may scoff at the fact that the new MacBook and MacBook Pros don’t include HDMI, DisplayPort does nearly everything HDMI does, except audio. However, both the MacBook and MacBook Pros have digital optical audio output.
In terms of smaller, but still appreciable changes, the keyboard is now backlit and black like on the MacBook Air. The old mechanical latch is now magnetic as well.
Speaking of the MacBook Air, it also gets an upgrade to its internals. The refreshed Air will gain the Nvidia 9400M, Mini DisplayPort, as well as an option for 128 GB SSD.
Apple today also introduced a brand new 24 inch Cinema display. Powered by brand new LED backlighting — this is the first LED Cinema display that Apple has made. The new 24 inch display is a DisplayPort LCD, which is clearly meant to coexist with the new laptops. The display also has a built in MagSafe power cable, so that MacBook owners can leave their AC power bricks inside their bags while still keeping their units powered.
With all the improvements in hardware, most of which was developed internally at Apple, it’s clear that Mac products will continue to command a premium price.
The MacBook Pro will start at $1,999, with a $2,499 option that will buy a faster CPU, more system and video RAM and extra hard drive space. The new MacBook Pro is shipping today and hitting stores tomorrow.
Contrary to some wishful thinking, the new MacBook will start at $1,299 – far away from early rumors of the $800 MacBook. $1,599 will buy a faster CPU, more hard drive space and a backlit keyboard. It also ships today.
The refreshed MacBook Air will hit in early November at $1,799 and $2,499. Interestingly enough, the old 13-inch MacBook in white will continue to live on in stores as the entry-level notebook at $999.
Could this finally be the MacBook hardware that manages to impress the PC crowd? Only time, and sales, will tell.