A lot of Apple fans have been on the prowl waiting for WWDC to kick off so that we can see what Apple has planned for new and returning Macbook buyers. On the whole its a good update for the entire lineup and I’ll be addressing the new iOS6 in a later column tomorrow. Firstly, there’s the new Macbook family to consider.
I know a lot of readers here aren’t exactly Apple fans but you have to hand it to the Cupertino giant – they know how to sell their stuff. The whole Macbook lineup gets a Ivy Bridge refresh and new hardware all-round. For the Air family, the new 13″ and 11″ models get a boost and will retail for the same price as their previous-generation siblings. In addition, all Macbooks ship with Mac OSX Lion but will be upgraded to Mountain Lion when development on that platform is finished. Hit the jump for more info.
The new Airs start off with the 11″ model retailing for $999. It ships with a Intel Core i5 1.7Ghz dual-core Ivy Bridge processor (model not yet revealed), a 11.6″ 1366 x 786 TN LED-backlit glossy panel, 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM and a 64GB SSD. The Air 13″ dresses things up with a faster 1.8Ghz Intel Core i5 dual-core, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD as standard, with a 13.3″ 1440 x 900 TN LED-backlit glossy panel. Both Airs now also get USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth 4.0, WLAN, Thunderbolt, a 720p front-facing FaceTime camera and a SD card reader that can also provide extra storage should you feel that 64 or 128GB is too little. While the Air is now a player in the Ultrabook segment rather than the only choice available, Apple can breathe easily knowing that its at least arguably a better choice than the ASUS Zenbook and Acer Aspire models at the same price point. With the new hardware and OS X Mountain Lion, there’s also the possibility that all the initial teething problems with Thunderbolt have been sorted.
Moving on to the Macbook Pro, things are very different here. Its important to note, first, that Apple’s Air design language of thin-and-light now applies to the Pro family, dropping the DVD drive and weighing close to 2.07kg, which is near the limit for Intel’s Ultrabook specification for notebooks in that range to qualify for their marketing subsidies. The new Pros don’t drop prices, instead choosing to crank up features and the hardware while retailing at the same previous price points the old family was sold at. There’s also no 17-inch model anymore. So take a gander at it below.
The Pro family ships in two sizes – 13″ and 15″, with the unannounced 17″ version waiting in the wings somewhere, presumably. The 13-inch model ships with a 1280 x 800 TN LED-backlit display, your choice of a Core i5 or i7 dual-core with Turbo boost, up to 8GB of RAM, Intel’s HD4000 graphics core, up to a 512GB SSD and the same 7-hour runtime that the Pro family is famous for. The 15″ model moves up to a Core i7 processor with Turbo, up to 8GB of RAM, a 1440 x 900 TN LED-backlit glossy panel and up to 512GB of super-speedy SSD storage. Both models ship with two USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt, HDMI-out, a SD card reader and the same connectivity and FaceTime camera as the Airs. All in all, its a welcome boost, even if the RAM is soldered in. The Pro 13 and 15 will retail for up to $1499 and $2199 respectively. Its interesting to note that Intel’s HD4000 is even included in the highest SKU Pro 15″, suggesting that Apple found video performance with Intel’s IGP more than good enough for most users, even at the high-end.
But the biggest surprise is the other 15″ model – Apple’s Macbook Pro 15 with Retina Display Technology. Yes, you read that right. The Retina-packing Pro 15 starts retailing from $2199, already making it more expensive than most Alienware gaming laptops at the same size. The new modelostensibly replaces the Pro 17 with a Core i7 quad-core 2.3Ghz processor, 8GB of RAM, up to a 768GB SSD, Nvidia’s Kepler-based GT650M and the same seven-hour battery runtime. The Retina screen is a IPS glossy LED-backlit panel with a staggering resolution of 2800 x 1800 pixels. That’s larger than most Digitial Cinema-2K projectors.
Like the Nokia PureView 808, the Retina display actually takes the full image at 2800 x 1800 and downscales it to your preference. By default the resolution is actually a super-sampled 1440 x 900 desktop, but this can be changed to allow for a 1920 x 1200 resolution, helping Pro 17″ owners get a little more comfortable. The Retina model also is thinner than the regular Pro family and has the screen further embedded into the Unibody shell, allowing Apple to lose the glass cover and drop glare and reflections by up to a claimed 75%. The real challenge for Apple’s dev team was making sure that things scale properly and they employ the same display scaling software seen on the New iPad. All of the apps in the iLife suite have been updated to support the new display.
Previous Macbooks also had a challenge with dealing with the heat generated by the Sandy Bridge chips and AMD’s Radeon graphics cards in the more expensive models. They employed a single blower design but that did bring some compromises. The new refresh uses two blower fans and puts everything in the Pro in the middle of the chassis, keeping the weight distribution even and keeping the new Kepler graphics chilled as well. There’s a good use of extra space for the battery which is now moved to the front of the chassis and takes up all the extra space there. Note the RAM memory soldered into the middle of the board, 1GB per single module depending on the model and how deep your pocket is, with 16GB the maximum amount of RAM you can cram in there. The technical limitations of the Retina display mean that you’ll still get roughly the same desktop space as you previously had with the older Macbook Pros, but Apple’s customised GT650M to the right of the board has the ability to output video to two Cinema Displays thanks to the versatility that HDMI and Thunderbolt allow.
Lastly, the Airport Express gets a design revamp. The original multi-function adapter had to be plugged into a power socket directly, making the whole thing a little flimsy if you didn’t have it lying on the floor – the new one has a power cable. Apple’s Airport allows you to connect up a printer and a Ethernet connection for wireless printing and internet in the office or home. It also features a WAN port and a 3.5mm audio jack as well as the ability to be setup using a iOS device wirelessly. The Airport Express also supports Apple’s Airplay standard, allowing you to seamlessly play video on any compatible Airplay device. The Airport Express retails for $99.
Unlike other hardware manufacturers and their launches, Apple has always ensured that there’s enough stock on retailer shelves for customers to buy on launch day. The new units on show here, though, aren’t in any of the online stores yet so if you’re keen for one it’d be best to wait a month and see what new deals pop up.
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