I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Notes on Apple’s notebook update

Don’t buy the $999 white MacBook. Wait until you can afford the $1299 metal one. It’s a significant upgrade.

Farewell, Intel GMA series (mostly). You won’t be missed.

With the new GPUs, the $1299 MacBook just removed much of the (very little remaining) motivation for budget-conscious buyers to get the $1999 MacBook Pro. That said, the new MacBook Pro looks amazing if you can swing the additional cost.

I’m intrigued by the MBP’s dual-GPU setup. Can it switch between them gracefully without requiring a reboot? That would be a very impressive technological feat, mostly by NVIDIA, if so.

The 15” remains at 5.5 lbs, identical to the previous weight. But the new 13” MacBook lost 0.5 pounds compared to the original, from 5.0 to 4.5 lbs. This will probably hurt sales of the MacBook Air (3.0 lbs.) a bit — the cheaper MacBook is now a bit closer to the Air’s extreme portability, and still retains advantages in every other area (price, performance, capacity, versatility, expandability).

I never think I’ll like glossy screens, but then I get them, and they don’t bother me.

The new 24” Cinema Display looks great and I love the built-in MagSafe cable. I hope it uses the same H-IPS panel as the 24” iMac — that’s the best-looking LCD I’ve ever seen, and it’s hardly available in anything. Also, built-in speakers: nice. But the $900 price is still steep when Dell sells their excellent 24” LCDs with far better connectivity for $550-650. And connectivity will be a problem for many people with the new Cinema Display unless there’s a cheap adapter to let you connect a DVI laptop to this DisplayPort-only monitor. (For $900, I’d expect it to come with one.)

I’m disappointed that the 15” MBP is still stuck at 1440x900 and didn’t get a 1680x1050 resolution option.

The 17” did change: it’s now exclusively the high-resolution version (1920x1200, same as a 24” LCD), and I think it now comes with more RAM and a bigger hard drive (4 GB / 320 GB. What was it before?). That’s about it.

The new MacBook doesn’t have a FireWire port anymore, and the MacBook Pro only has FireWire 800. Like all FireWire 800 ports, I’m sure it can be adapted to FireWire 400 with a simple cable that Apple will probably be happy to sell you for $30.

The MacBook Air will be much more attractive when SSD prices fall.

The hard drives in all models are now very easy to access for replacements or upgrades. The MacBook drives were always easy, but this is a major improvement for the MacBook Pro, which previously had to be taken almost completely apart in a perilous process that I wouldn’t recommend that anyone attempt. Now, it’s easy and fast with far lower risk. You may not care now, but geeks will care in 18 months when SSDs are cheaper, and non-geeks will care in 3 years when the hard drive dies and they need to replace it out of warranty.

UPDATE: A $99 adapter is required for 30” displays. That kinda sucks. We’re also being nickel-and-dimed on every accessory, including $30 for a regular DVI adapter and $20 for the Apple Remote. That’s annoying, and it really shows that Apple’s now a full player in the retail-store business, employing all of the tricks that other retailers always have.