So far, then, this year’s 13in MacBook Pro sports new connectivity in the form of the FireWire port and SD card reader, a higher capacity battery and now gets a backlit keyboard as standard. What else is new? After these new titbits not a great deal, but the CPU has seen a minor upgrade from an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 clocked at 2.0GHz to an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 clocked at 2.26GHz. X-Bench shows it doesn’t have a massive impact overall, but multi-threaded applications should benefit the most and more processing headroom can never be a bad thing.
Elsewhere the hardware specifications remain unchanged. This means you get 2GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM, a 160GB 5,400rpm hard drive and nVidia 9400M integrated graphics with 256MB of dedicated memory. There’s Draft-N Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet for networking and Bluetooth 2.1 for connecting to mobile devices.
Other connectivity also remains largely unchanged. There are just two USB ports, though the addition of an SD card reader makes this less of an issue, while the only video output is that mini-DisplayPort output for which adapters must be bought. As noted above you still get an Ethernet port (wasn’t Ethernet declared dead with the MacBook Air was launched? – ed.), however there’s only one audio jack that serves as both line-out and line-in. This is due to the extra space used by the FireWire and SD card reader and though it’s an odd change, it’s one most people will be able to live with.
Perhaps the most enticing change of all, though, is the price. Apple’s own official price of £899.99 is already less than last year’s entry-level model, but we’ve managed to find this model (the MB990B/A) for as little as £830 online. Still no bargain, especially in these budget constrained times, but nonetheless a more palatable asking price than the last in the light of the upgrades on offer.
It even compares moderately well with Windows alternatives. Take the Dell Studio XPS M1340 as an example. It retails for £899 and while it does have a faster processor, a larger 320GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM, it doesn’t get an LED backlit display, it doesn’t have the outstanding multi-touch touchpad and as a piece of design it’s not in the same league. It’s also considerably heavier, weighing in at 2.3kg compared to the 2.0kg of the MacBook Pro. This price also includes Apple’s iLife 09 suite, which is an excellent addition and one few Apple users will want to be without.
Moreover, provided you have no professional or personal need to stick with Windows, Apple’s Mac OS X still provides a more fluent and enjoyable user experience than Windows Vista. Windows 7 might bring things closer together, but it’s not as if you couldn’t install Windows on your machine if that’s what you like. Buying an Apple machine doesn’t necessarily mean you must use its software.