Apple finally released new Macbook Pros (and I had just resigned myself to upgrading my aging* MBP 2,2’s hard drive with an SSD and toughing it out for another year or two) and has been pointed out elsewhere they didn’t just swap in new CPUs and call it done. But, they also didn’t include quad-core CPUs for which many of us had been hoping.
The new features: audio over mini display port, enhanced battery life, flick scrolling, automatic switching between integrated and discrete GPUs, and the availability of higher-dpi displays on the 15″ model.
Dell (for example) appears to sell you a somewhat better specced laptop for about $500 less** (including 1GB of VRAM — vs. 512MB — and a really high dpi display) but in fact they’re offering a completely different CPU (1.7GHz 720QM vs 2.66GHz 620M and with correspondingly slower “turbo” mode) made with the previous generation fab process (45nm vs 32nm) and consequently offer nothing close to the battery life. Oh, and of course you get Windows 7 (I always choose the professional SKU when trying to price compare PCs and Macs; if you like crippleware, increase the price differential $100 in Dell’s favor). From what I can see the 620M offers better performance for typical tasks but slightly less for some highly threaded tasks, like 3d rendering — meanwhile, it has much better power consumption.
So, the typical “PCs are cheaper and better” view will be that Dell sells you a faster notebook for less money, while my take is that Apple doesn’t given you bigger numbers, but you get a better computer that runs longer between charges. Does anyone think Apple couldn’t have just stuck a quad core i7 CPU in if it had wanted to?
In a sense, Apple designs computers, Dell sells you boxes and lets you insert whatever parts you want (that will fit) — regardless of whether they make sense.
Interestingly, Dell’s site now lets you select among its insane range of models by picking components (e.g. Core i7) and then filtering out the offerings which don’t include that component. Which is like allowing customers to choose cars based on the kind of spark plug they use. Of course, that’s a step up from simply trying to guess which random product line might allow you to configure the computer you want.
Unfortunately, notebook prices aren’t dropping — at least for high end notebooks. If anything SSDs are pushing the prices back up again. My Macbook Pro 2,2 cost about $2000, its replacement will likely cost $3000 (with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM). My cheapest laptops thus far were the iBook G3 and G4 models (each around $1000) I bought when Apple’s pro offerings were scarcely superior in performance to their consumer models. (Note that both had discrete GPUs.)
On the positive side, my new Macbook Pro (and I haven’t decided whether it will be a 15″ or 17″) will be my only computer — no more desktops — so in a sense it’s saving me buying a Mac Pro, just as my last Mac Pro saved me buying a PC.
* Aging in the sense that it is dented all over and the power cord no longer rests flush in the socket. My only real issue with it is that 3GB is no longer enough for a development/3D box and it’s not beefy enough for some games.
** I won’t bother linking you my configuration or the model I picked since one of Dell’s cute tricks is essentially generating a different price model per customer based on how you get into the website, which is a brilliant way of dissuading me (for one) from ever buying anything from them since I always suspect I’m being screwed. It’s actually even dumber than coupon codes.