When it comes to technology Apple has made a bold move, replacing the Intel chipsets it had been using with the new nVidia 9400M chipset. Unlike Intel’s effort and its still sub-par integrated graphics, the 9400M delivers enough graphical grunt to play the occasional game (e.g. Call of Duty 4) while also including all the essential chipset parts, like the memory controller, CPU controller, USB controllers, network interfaces and other bits and pieces onto the same die. It does this with an appreciably small 12W TDP (Thermal Design Power), too, so it won’t gobble up batteries like Pacman being chased by some particularly keen ghosts.
Perhaps of greater importance, though, is the added support for GPU acceleration for Photoshop CS4. This means you can open an image file as large as 3GBs and still be able to zoom in and out and make alterations without the whole system grinding to a halt. Given image editing is a habitual activity among many Apple users, this is clearly a massive benefit – especially given no other vendor has announced any machines utilising the new chipset yet.
Of course, despite the new chipset, Apple still relies on Intel to provide the processing power to direct all of this and on this model it comes in the shape of a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo P7350, a Centrino 2 spec unit boasting a 1,066MHz front side bus and 3MB L2 Cache. This is backed up by 2GBs of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM, so there’s no bottleneck there, while you get a 160GB 5,400rpm SATA hard drive for storage. For networking you get Gigabit Ethernet and Draft-N Wi-Fi, while Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR is along for the ride as well.
All of which, one could reasonably argue, is merely an “okay” specification given the price. Fundamentally there’s little there that you couldn’t get in a laptop costing half as much, especially in the hard drive department since 160GB is pretty poky by modern standards and upgrading is predictably expensive, unless you opt to do it yourself.
Likewise, even the more expensive £1,149 model only comes with 2GB of RAM, adding a faster 2.4GHz CPU and 250GB hard drive into the mix instead. At very least we reckon the base model should be coming with a 250GB drive, while the higher spec starts with 320GB and, as ever, you’ll pay a fair pennyworth for the variety of adapters and accessories you might need – not to mention £490 for the ever alluring option of an SSD.
So the specification doesn’t reflect the price, but before we damn Apple completely there are a few caveats involved. Though the MacBook is expensive given the components, a larger part of that price must be attributed to the design and construction, which is undoubtedly of a premium level. Moreover, as yet you can’t get the benefits of 9400M anywhere else and its performance benefits are tangible, so there’s a definite “horses for courses” situation to assess here. One can’t help but think non-Apple users won’t be swung by such arguments, but Apple fans should have no compunctions.