Mac Lust

October 16th, 2008 | Posted in News

Tuesday Apple introduced a refreshed line of notebook computers, with new versions of their 13 inch MacBook and 15 inch MacBook Pro. Alas, the 17 inch MacBook Pro only got a few tweaks and didn’t get the full overhaul it’s smaller counterparts did. Apparently the 17 inch version is coming but it had some final design problems and will not be available until early next year.

The new MacBooks incorporate some of the features of the MacBook Air and some of the look of the desktop iMacs. I like the new look and keyboard format, but it is some of the new features and technology that make these worthy of coveting:

  • New glass trackpad– The trackpad below the keyboard is now larger, has a smooth glass surface and no “button” as in previous designs. It incorporates iPhone-like technology that allows the user to “click” the screen with just a tap once they move the cursor to the intended spot. It also recognized the two fingered “pinch and rotate” movements, three fingered “slide” for scrolling (you use two on the current MacBook trackpads) and four fingered Expos?¬© and app switching response. Once you get used to using that I can see it being very efficient… I might even lose the bluetooth mouse I bring with me when I need to do any serious work on the road were I to get one.
  • New backlit LED display– The screen looks very much like the latest iMacs, with a black border and a glass surface. According to the specs it’s 30% more energy efficient than the previous MacBook display technlogies, and has an “instant on” feature and brighter, more intense colors.
  • Upgraded, more powerful graphics- Apple teamed up with NVIDIA to feature their new NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processors in the MacBook. The 9400M is an advanced new 3D integrated graphics processor that features 16 parallel processing cores and delivers up to five times the 3D graphics performance as previous MacBooks. The Macbook Pro goes one step further. It has a completely new design in chips with an NVIDIA CPU-supporting chipset and graphics processor on one die… the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M and the NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT. This groundbreaking new technology allows MacBook Pro users to switch between the 5 hour battery rated, 16 core 9400M integrated processor and the 4 hour rated, 32 core 9400M GT discrete processor for more graphics power and performance. Users can switch by logging out and then back in using the other processor. I’m not sure how much real world difference the different processors make but you can never be too rich, too thin or have too much computer processing power.

The new MacBooks are made with a new design incorporating a more rigid, unibody aluminum case that provides more stability and also has pleasing rounded corners and less screws holding it all together. There are other cool features like new mini-DVI ports, side mounted battery charge indicator, the new keyboard design, a magnetic latch instead of the hooks/button design, etc.

One bummer is no blu-ray drive. I guess that doesn’t surprise me, because no mainstream computers right now have blu-ray. I just thought since Apple is part of the group of companies on the Blu-Ray board, they might be the groundbreakers. Definitely not, according to Steve Jobs:

“Blu-ray is a bag of hurt. I don’t mean from the consumer point of view. It’s great to watch movies, but the licensing is so complex. We’re waiting until things settle down, and waiting until Blu-ray takes off before we burden our customers with the cost of licensing.”

Sigh. I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer until I can watch my blu-ray discs when I’m traveling on my laptop.

I’ll also have to wait a little longer before I trade up my 17″ MacBook Pro to one of these new ones. I like the big screen but honestly the size is a pain sometimes, especially when the &%$^& person in the seat in front of me leans all the way back after takeoff and stays that way the entire flight. Still, I’d rather keep with the larger screen, and the “refresh” of the 17″ model is little more than a mid-life revamp. Not enough new there to entice me to trade up until they come out with the fully redesigned 17″ model sometime next year.

The price tag gives me more than a little pause as well.

Overall a good direction and advancement for the MacBook line. I will be interested in seeing if I can test drive one and gauge it’s usability for PhotoShop work.


  1. SteveH says:

    It is a shame that the price could not come down by another $200 per unit. Here in the UK the units work out much more expensive, eg. a $1999 price here in the UK is actually $2399, we always seem to have to pay more for the same product and as I understand it, they all ship from China to the Apple Stores? Anyway, the improvements made to the new MacBooks are good but as someone has already mentioned, why stop at 4gig of RAM in a MacBook Pro? Greater memory options for users like us would be better? I still have some ‘lets be cautious here’ attitude after a poor year as a first time Mac user. So even though I am looking to eventually purchase a MacBook Pro to replace my Dell (which by the way has been great for the past 3 years), I am going to wait another 12 months before I even think about going to the Apple store to make such a purchase.

  2. Samsonite says:

    Hi Tom, I was very impressed with the upgrade of the Macbooks, and I am thinking of purchasing one. But a question I have is about the glass that covers the LCD. It’s no concern to me, but to a professional such as yourself is it a problem? I have been reading reviews about them and the iMacs, and people say that the glass makes the colours appear more saturated than they actually are. Just wanted to know your opinion on this, and if it’s an issue. Thanks, Mark.

  3. Tom says:

    Steve- I have read your blog about your Mac woes and am sorry you had that experience. I am not one of those Mac fanboys who nose is the color of Steve Job’s behind, and believe that Apple is just another computer manufacturer susceptible to the same faults all manufacturers are. That said I use Macs as I think they are a better product all around than PCs for my specific needs. I hope your Mac experience gets better.

    Mark- We have a few iMacs with the glass screens in them abd I have looked at some of my finished pieces on them for comparison. The colors are brighter and more saturated “out of the box”. However just like any monitor you need to calibrate it properly to get any resemblance of true print color representation. I see nothing that leads me to believe you cannot calibrate a glass covered display as well as a matte one for color correctness. That involves a controlled light environment, etc. That makes color calibrating a laptop an exercise in futility, as the mobility of the computer precludes a true calibration.

    I use a Cintiq for all that stuff anyway, so I don’t care about that. I am a little concerned that the glass screen will make using the MacBook Pro in an airport or some spontaneous place with little choice in ambient light a problem.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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