Review: Apple's 15-in. MacBook Pro now faster -- and cheaper
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Last week at its big Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple unveiled the iPhone 3G S, talked up its new iPhone 3.0 operating system as well as its Snow Leopard desktop OS, and unleashed a slew of updated laptops. It even made two of its MacBooks into MacBook Pro models (the only MacBook left is the $999 white polycarbonate model that was updated a couple of weeks back). It was a blizzard of announcements that had Mac fans in Apple heaven.
Then there was the big news: In a very un-Apple like manner, the company dropped its prices on those laptops, the surest sign yet that, yep, it's a recession.
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In the past, Apple's M.O. has been to add features, bump up processor speeds, and boost RAM and hard drives in its new hardware -- usually while holding the line on prices. This time it did all those and cut the bottom line. The top-end 17-in. MacBook Pro dropped from $2,799 to $2,499, for instance, and the entry-level 15-in. model went from $1,999 to $1,699. The price drops ranged from 6.3% to as much as 28%.
Now, that's a deflationary spiral I can appreciate -- almost as much as I appreciate the new 15-in. MacBook Pro that Apple passed along for review purposes.
The lineup: Lots of 'Pro' options
There was none of the old wait-a-few-weeks-for-delivery delay this time; the updated 15-in. and 17-in. MacBook Pro models, and the newly rechristened 13-in. MacBook Pros, were available for sale right away -- at least from Apple's stores. Third-party resellers were still waiting for them at week's end.
The 15-in. model now comes in three varieties, all of them with 4GB of RAM -- which you can double to 8GB for a hefty $1,000 -- and hard drives with between 250GB and 500GB of space, or solid-state disk drives of 128GB or 256GB. For $300 more, the 2.8GHz model can be ordered with a 3.06GHz chip -- the first time Apple has offered a processor beyond 3GHz in a laptop. It's also an option on the 17-in. MacBook Pro.
For those who plan to take their laptop on the road, the 15-in. MacBook Pro weighs in at 5.5 pounds, one pound less than its big brother and a pound more than the newly renamed 13-in. MacBook Pro.
The most obvious change to the MacBook Pro line is the loss of the ExpressCard/34 slot. It's been replaced by an SD card slot to make transferring pictures from digital cameras easier, according to Apple officials. (You can even install Mac OS X on an SD card and use it to boot the computer, according to an Apple Knowledge Base document explaining the SD slot's use. Talk about an OS in your pocket!)
The only Pro model that retains the ExpressCard slot is the 17-incher, and I wouldn't be surprised if the next generation of this model drops the slot as well. Why the change? Apple says its research shows customers are interested in more easily transferring digital pictures from their cameras. The SD slot means no fumbling for cables.