Apple's new MacBook Pros: The letdown effect

Rather than follow in the trailblazing footsteps of the MacBook Air, the new MacBooks are brawnier versions of the past

I've been eagerly awaiting the new MacBook Pros for some months now, inspired by the oh-so-slim MacBook Airs released this past fall. Today, Apple revised its MacBook Pro product, and I'm left thinking "is that it?"

Don't get me wrong: The solid MacBook Pro lineup is now more capable than before, with much greater processing power in the form of dual-core Intel i7's in the 13-inch group and quad-core i7s in the 15- and 17-inch groups. That's a lot of power.

And the new Thunderbolt port is intriguing: The Intel technology formerly code-named Light Peak lets you connect both video and data devices to its high-speed bus (top speeds of 10Gbps are promised, and as many as six devices can be connected on the same bus). The Thunderbolt port works with the MacBooks' previous DisplayPort peripherals, so you don't need to buy new cables or adapters if you had the previous generation of MacBook Pro.

Also, there are options for SSD drives as capacious as 500GB (for $1,200 extra!), a storage medium that increases performance and battery life due to its greater data access speed and lower power consumption. An HD-quality FaceTime camera and larger touchpad round out the upgrades.

So why am I feeling a bit unfulfilled? I was hoping for something more radical. A slimmer case like the MacBook Air's, for example. Of course, what I really want is a MacBook Air that has a FireWire port and the processing capacity of a MacBook Pro; the MacBook Air has neither. And I was hoping Apple might have found a way to provide 500GB SSDs in the new MacBook Pro line at a much more reasonable cost -- I'd be happy to drop mechanical hard drives completely for the performance, weight, and battery life improvements.

I also am annoyed that it costs $150 extra to get a matte finish on the LCD screen, and that the option is not available for the 13-inch line. I guess I should be grateful that the option exists at all -- pretty much every laptop maker now offers just the high-reflective screens that are so hard to read in daylight and even in many artificially lit offices. Users, with a few exceptions like me, don't seem to care about the LCD acting like a mirror. I don't get it, as the matte finish barely dampens the color intensity of the display. Oh well.

The good news is that you get a lot more bang for the same buck as the old models. I guess I'm used to Apple wowing me, and by comparison to the MacBook Airs, iPhone 4, and iPad, the MacBook Pros feel pedestrian. They're not, but they're also no major breakthroughs, which probably explains why Apple didn't even bother hosting an event to publicize them; they just showed up on the Apple Store this morning. Maybe next year!

This story, "Apple's new MacBook Pros: The letdown effect," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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