Apple MacBook Update

Apple recently updated their MacBook Pro range, leaving the entry level MacBook and the niche MacBook Air looking rather left out. Now it is the white plastic MacBook's turn to be brought back to terms with its aluminum siblings. Like the 13” MacBook Pro, Apple has not incorporated an Intel Arrandale Core i3/5/7 processor in the new MacBook. This is disappointing considering the state of the competition. Instead, the updated MacBook has to make do with a speed bump of the existing Core 2 Duo from 2.26GHz to 2.4GHz.

A slightly bigger upgrade comes in the form of NVIDIA's new GeForce 320M chipset—not to be confused with the GT 320M. This may very well be NVIDIA's final chipset for Intel platforms, but at least on paper it's a sizeable upgrade from the previous generation 9400M. Instead of 16 CUDA Cores, the 320M sports 48 cores, potentially giving a large boost to performance. However, the IGP still shares memory with the rest of the system, so memory bandwidth will be far less than discrete GPU solutions.

These upgrades bring the basic specification up to the same level as the new 13” MacBook Pro. The bump in performance will come in handy now that Steam has come to Mac and Valve has made Portal free for the next few days.

The MacBook comes with 2GB DDR3 RAM, which is upgradable to 4GB for $100. Storage comes in the form of a 250GB 5400RPM HDD with 320GB and 500GB options available at an additional cost of $50 and $150 respectively. Should you need to upgrade either, it would be strongly recommended to do it yourself to save on the small fortune Apple charges, especially as you can sell the components you remove.

Perhaps the most important part of the upgrade is a larger capacity integrated battery that boosts battery life to a very impressive 10 hours, up from a still impressive seven hours of the previous MacBook. This makes it a tough match for just about anything else out there with similar performance.

Otherwise the MacBook is unchanged with two USB 2.0 ports, Mini DisplayPort, combined audio in/out port, and Gigabit Ethernet comprising the usual limited wired connectivity of Apple’s products. The wireless side is well catered for with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n. An integrated slot loading DVD writer is standard.

The plastic ‘unibody’ chassis retains the familiar multi-touch trackpad, iSight webcam, stereo speakers, and chiclet keyboard. The screen, which has often been a criticism when compared to the MacBook Pros, appears to be unchanged with a 13” LED-backlit LCD panel with a resolution of 1280x800. We’ll have to see if there have been any improvements on this side when we get our hands on one.

The Apple MacBook is available direct from Apple for $999—or $899 for those who qualify for student pricing. This compares to $1199 (or $1099 for students) for the basic 13” MacBook Pro. With no fundamental specification difference between the two machines aside from an extra 2GB of RAM (something you can easily upgrade, though the MacBook ships with 2x1GB SO-DIMMs so you'll have to remove your current RAM), it comes down to how much you value an aluminum chassis, SD card reader, Firewire port, and a backlit keyboard? If the answer is less than $200, then the updated MacBook looks very tempting.

As usual, if you are willing to go without the Mac OS X operating system, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives available in the PC market that are worth considering.

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  • jleach1 - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Is it common for apple to do such a thing? The macbook "pro" really isn't so pro anymore. With that being said, and the difference between the pro's base 13" and macbook 13" being mostly asthetic, can we cound on a small boost to the 13" macbook pros? Maybe an upgrade to 2.6ghz? I understand the difference between 2.4 and 2.6 isn't perceivable to 99% of users, but really...unless you're a girl...or apple head, the macbook pro has lost most of it's lead. The extra 3 hours of battery life, stock 4gb of ram, and the 320m is what made the MBP significantly more attractive than the macbook.

    I say apple drops the baseline, and sticks with the MBP. I've never heard of anyone buying the more expensive 13 inch pro because of it's cost.
  • heffeque - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Interestingly enough most people I know that are buying Apple laptops are actually buying the 13" MacBook Pro. Not because of the aesthetics but because they want a portable yet durable Mac. I'm pretty sure that the aluminum unibody can withstand better the day by day beating than the plastic one.
  • Stokestack - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Apple consistently cripples the one laptop in the "Pro" line that's most likely to leave the house. The dumb glossy screen (with no option for matte), the lack of ExpressCard, the less-than-top-notch processors... they show, once again, that Apple is out of touch with how people actually use various kinds of computers.

    It's total hypocrisy: Apple loves to cite "creative, artistic" people as their core users, and yet discriminate against those people with these dumb decisions. Gee, I'm making a documentary film and already have to lug a bunch of equipment into the field. Do I want to bring a giant, 17-inch barge of a computer, or a small durable computer?

    Other users aren't served either. I travel. Gee, which computer do you think I'm going to pick, Apple? Everyone knows that a 17-inch (and, realistically these days, a 15-inch) computer is utterly worthless on a plane. But your 13-inch computer has no ExpressCard slot for my 3G data card. It also has a non-removable battery. That's brilliant for the traveler! Good move. Oh, and I can't see what the hell I'm doing because of the idiotic glossy screen.

    What we see here is that Apple doesn't care about real computers anymore. Or applications. The future is clear, and when you can simply skim 30% off everyone else's work, why do your own?
  • jleach1 - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    Thats a good point heff. I missed that one. =D
  • jleach1 - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    Actually....i meant to correct the article about the price...the student discount has been reduced to 50 dollars. I omitted the words "student pricing".

    Total amound including student discount=$949 not $899
  • KaarlisK - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Is there any chance of getting a thorough review of Geforce 320M? Haven't managed to find one anywhere...
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    At present (and very likely for the future), no one is using the 320M chipset other than Apple. A PC maker would have to choose to follow Apple's "no Core i3/i5" route in order to use it, and I just don't see that happening. Still, I'd be very interested in seeing someone do a CULV platform with 320M, or even a SP9300. If one of us gets a MacBook for review, I'll see about having them run our Win7 gaming benchmarks on it as well. :-)
  • KaarlisK - Saturday, May 22, 2010 - link

    Thank you!!! :)
    This is just the answer I was hoping for. Now need to start hoping for somebody here to review the 13'' Macbook (Pro) :)
  • BlendMe - Sunday, May 23, 2010 - link

    I have one of the 13" MBP's with the 320M. Played Portal on it at native resolution and recommended settings (high/medium) and it had no problems. Also tried Nexuiz at native resolution and ultra high settings and it was not always smooth but definitely playable.

    Both where run on OSX, didn't get around to install Windows yet.
  • jleach1 - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Also, the macbook is now $949. Cheap their profit margin wasn't high enough. Us college students need moar love! 50 dollars? Piddley

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