Today Apple announced updates to its MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. The notebooks aren't available until tomorrow, but I've started putting together some analysis on the specs. It turns out there's quite a bit of give and take in Apple's new announcements; you get more, but you do give some up.

The new notebooks are also very important as they put to rest rumors of NVIDIA's departure from the chipset business, at least at this point. All of the notebooks I'm talking about here use a brand new Intel chipset by NVIDIA, called the GeForce 9400M. Apple is actually the first OEM to announce support for the 9400M, the chipset itself doesn't actually launch until tomorrow.

While Apple is sticking to Intel CPUs, it has forgone G45 in favor of NVIDIA's offerings - sending a huge message to Intel: the quality of its integrated graphics must improve. While it's unlikely that Nehalem's eventual on-package GPUs will be enough, Larrabee could eventually win Apple's affection once more.

For consumers, this should mean snappier graphics performance (as well as more attractive iMac and Mac mini options assuming NVIDIA's chipsets make their way over there as well). However my quick discussion today will focus more on size and battery life.

Starting with the MacBook Pro: Smaller, Bigger, Lower Power and Lower Battery Life?

Ok now this is kind of sneaky, Apple made the MacBook Pro thinner than any other MacBook Pro, but it's wider, deeper and heavier. Granted, these are minor increases in dimensions, total volume actually decreased by about a percent. The 0.1 lbs increase in weight is most likely due to the use of glass on both the display and trackpad.

But for so much glass only a 0.1 lbs increase in weight isn't bad, oh but wait, the battery went from a 60WHr unit to a 50WHr unit. A lighter battery to offset weight gains elsewhere.

The give and take continues when you look at the hardware specs. Apple did a lot to reduce power consumption on the MacBook Pro: the GeForce 9400M chipset will use less power than Intel's G35M which was used on the previous notebook, DDR3 runs at a lower voltage than DDR2 (1.5V vs. 1.8V) and thus we see a drop in power there as well. However the reduction in total system power needs is offset by the fact that the new MacBook Pro has a smaller battery, so I'd expect battery life to stay roughly the same.

Granted the MacBook Pro was never a slouch when it came to battery life, I measured a worst case of 3.38 hours on the MacBook Pro and a best case of over 5.1 hours - just don't expect any better from the new one.

  New MacBook Pro 15" 2008 Penryn MacBook Pro 15" 2007 Merom MacBook Pro 15"
Dimensions H: 0.95"
W: 14.35"
D: 9.82"
H: 1.0"
W: 14.1"
D: 9.6"
H: 1.0"
W: 14.1"
D: 9.6"
Weight 5.5 lbs 5.4 lbs 5.4 lbs
Screen Size/Resolution 15.4" / 1440 x 900 (LED backlit) 15.4" / 1440 x 900
(LED backlit)
15.4" / 1440 x 900
(LED backlit)
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz, 2.53GHz or 2.80GHz (45nm Penryn, 1066MHz FSB) Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz - 2.6GHz (45nm Penryn, 800MHz FSB) Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz - 2.6GHz (65nm Merom, 800MHz FSB)
GPU NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (mGPU) + GeForce 9600M GT dGPU (256MB or 512MB GDDR3) NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT (256MB - 512MB) NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT (128MB - 256MB)
Memory 2GB - 4GB DDR3 1066 2GB - 4GB DDR2-667 2GB - 4GB DDR2-667

250GB - 320GB 2.5" 5400RPM SATA
320GB 7200RPM SATA

200 - 250GB 2.5" 5400RPM SATA
200GB 7200RPM SATA
120 - 250GB 2.5" 5400RPM SATA
200GB 7200RPM SATA
Optical Drive Integrated SuperDrive Integrated SuperDrive Integrated SuperDrive
Networking 802.11a/b/g/n
10/100/1000 Ethernet
10/100/1000 Ethernet
10/100/1000 Ethernet
Built in iSight Yes Yes Yes
Inputs 2 x USB 2.0
1 x FireWire 800
1 x ExpressCard/34
1 x Audio in
1 x Integrated mic
2 x USB 2.0
1 x FireWire 400
1 x FireWire 800
1 x ExpressCard/34
1 x Audio in
1 x Integrated mic
2 x USB 2.0
1 x FireWire 400
1 x FireWire 800
1 x ExpressCard/34
1 x Audio in
1 x Integrated mic
Outputs 1 x Audio
1 x Mini DisplayPort
1 x Audio
1 x dual-link DVI
1 x Audio
1 x dual-link DVI
Battery 50WHr 60WHr 60WHr
Price $1999 $1999 $1999
The New MacBook: I Think I Might Like It
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  • ioannis - Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - link

    Anand, if you are reading this, is it possible to test an anti-glare film with those screens? It might be the only solution for us that can't stand the glare

  • Piyono - Friday, October 17, 2008 - link

    I just saw the October 2008 MacBook and could barely contain my excitement. I felt compelled to write in to let you know how eager I am to upgrade to the Firewire-enabled model which I imagine will succeed this one. I'm warmed by the thought that countless thousands of people won't have to shell out for the Pro model just to continue feeling validated in their decision to invest in Firewire audio interfaces, video cameras, hard drives and so forth. Your commitment to maintaining thriving, modern standards is noted and appreciated.

    See you at refresh time!


  • radguy - Friday, October 17, 2008 - link

    Apple is trying to promote this with.

    Solid aluminum construction "precision aluminum unibody enclosure
    New display "LED-backlit display
    New gpu "next generation graphics"
    No click with trackpad "Multi-touch glass trackpad"
    "Mini Display port connector"
    "Environmentally responsible"
    "very fast memory"

    When was the problem with notebooks structual yeah its cool but how much is this costing me?
    New display: nice but not really that big on glass
    New gpu is good
    No click trackpad. Haven't used it cant tell.
    Mind Display terrible idea unless it comes with converter free and doesn't so TERRIBLE
    enviromentally responsible - nice but not going into the enviromental debate

    Very fast memory- last time i checked ddr3 1066 was totally alot faster than ddr2 800. especially when it came to notebooks.

    So were are we at. Apple this is a heart to heart. Its really cool but I wanted

    better gpu
    blu ray
    1440x900 option on the 13inch
    better battery
    less weight
    lower price

    all in my next notebook. You got the gpu and that was it. To bad you hiked up the price. Wont be going apple on the notebook anytime soon.

  • Griswold - Friday, October 17, 2008 - link

    "When was the problem with notebooks structual yeah its cool but how much is this costing me?"

    It may be the $200 (or most of it) people are complaining about. :)

    At any rate, milling the base from an aluminum block is definitely the more expensive way of doing it. I'm not quite sure why they did it either.. it must be the "coolness" factor they're betting on...
  • charliept - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - link

    It almost looks like a downgrade.

    No FW400?
    No HDMI?
    No E-SATA?
    No Blu-Ray?
    No matte display option?
    The same 2 USB ports?
    DisplayPort but no adapters included???

    In one word only: disappointment!
  • Azsen - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - link

    Can you install Vista on it and do everything as normal ie play games etc?
  • illdefined - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - link

    hasn't the Air's disc interface been upgraded?

    what kind of improvements would that bring, more importantly, is there a user-way to put an Intel SSD in there??
  • Zak - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - link

    Yeah, the decision to kill FW is unforgivable indeed. I like to be able to plug in any portable FW drive without having to worry about insufficient power. I often clone two external FW drives by daisy-chaining them. And then there is the FW Target Disk Mode. And not enough USB ports and poor battery life? I don't know WTF is wrong with Apple, but they seem to be going back to their old ways... Without FireWire and Target Disk Mode Apple laptops have a lot less appeal to me:(

  • Syzygies - Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - link

    With the loss of the FireWire port, MacBooks have lost the capacity to attach multiple external hard drives, period.

    One cannot connect multiple high-bandwidth devices to a USB port. Even Apple's own technical notes warn this leads to trouble. I'd be happy if Apple had introduced eSATA connections, but it simply dropped any option for multiple external hard drives. That makes the MacBook a toy. I'm waiting a generation. I'd step up to a MacBook Pro _if_ they ever make one small enough... Alas.
  • SirKronan - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - link

    Yeah. They've really screwed the pooch on this one. Taking the firewire away is unforgivable. Best Buy and other electronics stores have lined the shelves with new firewire 400 and even 800 external drives that have "MAC" stamped all over them. Now only the "elite" pro owners well be able to buy and utilize these new drives. Why will basic Macbook users spend extra to get firewire when they can't even benefit from it? They will buy cheaper (and inferior) USB drives. Or they will buy cheaper (and superior) Windows-based laptops that HAVE firewire or eSATA.

    And this is freaking 2008. What the elf is Crapple thinking not putting eSATA on there ...

    Apple = "teh suck"

    (and this is coming from an Apple fan with three iPods and a Macbook. I've also owned an iMac and I do a TON of photo and video editing ... Mac's really losing their competitive edge. "Pretty" isn't going to sell to people who still need functionality.)

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