Apples Aluminium Unibody Macbooks 

Ok Apple updated its laptops on the 14th (yes I’m posting a week later, LAZY). Anyway there is some good bad and sad in all these announcements. Lets describe everything in laymans terms then I will move over to nerd speak. (Images link to apple page, just click).

Macbook 13″

New enclosure with better graphics faster ram and higher specs, available with keyboard backlight, better battery life (claimed) , lighter (only 2kg now). White macbook still available at a lower price point (with older chipset and graphics etc…). Displayport & multi touch glass buttonless trackpad. No more firewire. Bottom line, great computer, deal breaker is no firewire OR expresscard (I need one of them) on offer anymore. Max Ram 4gb DDR3 up 2 to 2.4ghz CPU. SKU (stock keeping units) @ 999$ 1299$ and 1599$.

Macbook pro 15″

New enclosure with better graphics faster ram and higher specs, 2 graphics processors one for performance and one for battery (like some vaios) , keyboard backlight standard, only glossy screens available (deal breaker), better battery life (depending on use) , 17″ Macbook pro uses old enclosure and chipset. Displayport & multi touch glass buttonless trackpad. Bottom line, great (expensive-ish) computer, deal breaker is glossy screen (not worth the money paying for reflections and poor colour accuracy), only 1 firewire port 😦 .Max Ram 4gb DDR3, 2.4 to 2.8ghz CPU Graphics up to 512mb 9600M GT. SKU @ 1999$ and 2499$.

Macbook Air

Better graphics faster ram and higher specs (notabely 120 gb hard disk). Displayport & multi touch trackpad. Ram fixed at 2gb DDR3 CPU 1.6 to 1.86ghz. SKU @ 1799$ and 2499$.

I won’t bother with the 24″ display (with integrated hub and laptop charger) because it’s worthless (GLOSSY AAAHHH). Or the good environmental stuff (YAY go environment). Why is the mac mini not getting any love? Why are the iMacs still glossy and lacking any expresscard slot or SOMETHING? Why display port and not mini hdmi?. Just for people who are uninformed there is something called a GPU which matters more than how much graphics memory you have (sick of people pretending to know what they are talking about by showing off the size of the graphics memory).

Ok time for nerd speak. First why firewire is a big deal; it is much faster than USB2 (raw benchmarks show 25% between FW400 and USB2) so USB for example tops up at 30 Megabytes/s read and 25 Megabytes/s write (performancew WILL be worse on laptops), FW 400 40 Megabytes/s read 30 Megabytes/s write, FW 800 +65 Megabytes/s read +55 Megabytes/s write (if the drives can go that fast 😛 these are high end 1TB commercial drives), these are averages, peak values are not very usefull (most sites report peak values or don’t specify). In real world use the differences are usually greater (in my experience) which may come down to various things (USB hogging CPU resources, poor controllers, software?, number and size of files, etc…). Macworld mentioned that Gigabit ethernet is faster than FW and that sounds like a good point, until you realize that the only storage you can get with Gigabit ethernet is a NAS and 2 drive NAS’s give you speeds of about 15 to 20 Megabytes/s (large file sizes). The Macbooks don’t have Firewire (or IEEE1394a/b for those so inclined) and don’t have any alternative, adding an Expresscard slot would mean you could add a Firewire card (at cost) or even eSata (which can easily surpass +100 Megabytes/s in a RAID). SAD. So losing Firewire practically breaks the macbook for me.

Next why glossy screens are bad. Lots of reflections, poor colour accuracy (if the contrast is overboosted, yes I spell colour the British way), they look good to most people (high contrast colours “pop”). I’m not keen on spending 1999$ just so I get a firewire port, the big screen is nice but its SHINY and might practically useless for photo retouching and video work (video is me hobby and sometimes I need to do things on the road). There is a way around it, use a stick on matte filter (like this one for the macbook), the new macs (now including the macbook) also sport LED displays which is cool (I guess) , I’m sure they will be available soon enough for the new macbooks, not sure how well they work. I want a smaller laptop though, lugging this thing around is a bit TIRING.

There are some interesting things to note about these laptops. Offcoarse most abviously to most people is the outside (called a “unibody” enclosure) of the computer which is thinner and slightly lighter (in the macbooks case unquestionabely at least). Apple has moved to a new chipset provided by nVidia, which gives the macbooks there new (integrated but very playable and much improved) graphics, pcworld published some benchmarks which are not comprehensive but show an improvement, note these benchmarks are under vista (can expect better results for battery life for example in OS X). But what they clearely show is the graphics have markedly improved and should provide a very playable expereince at medium/low settings at a lowish resolution (800×500 is good on my old macbook) waiting on some more benchmarks though. The new chipset also brings in DDR3 which hardly matters yet (once speeds are up it might) except for the fact my ddr2 memory can’t be used on the new machine (bummer) but theoretically reduces power usage (yay).

Another point of interest is the new macbooks battery life. The macbook claims better battery life (from 4.5 to 5 hours) which may be true or not, but the “efficiency” should have gone up because the battery is actually a bit smaller (going from 55 w/hr to 45 w/hr), apple seems to be quite fair with its battery life estimates (according to the usage scenario it gives, especially recently) and they seem to get fairer with time, I was surprised to find my mothers McAir practically hits four hours of usage (3.5 easily) the way she uses it, which is practically Apples “wireless productivity”, half to one hour off the mark is quite good (my original thoughts were between 2.5 to 3 hours, maybe the software updates gave a boost?) also note that at times apple actually reduce estimated with product revisions, fancy that? it is good since the devices don’t actually run for less time but apples estimates become more relevant (McAir originally rated at 5 hours, now at 4.5, originally macbooks had claimed 6 hours, now its 4.5/5 depending on model, don’t remember about the pros), DDR3 and LED displays may help with the battery life. The Macbook pro advertises the same battery life (5 hours) with a smaller battery (going from 60 to 50 w/hr), in some scenarios an improvement in real world battery life should be seen because of the integrated graphics taking over under light load. Ars technica has put up some battery life benchmarks, I like them better than macworlds since they specify what they did. Note on the figures that they should be better under “general use” for most people since peopls shouldn’t be doing hourly backups (silly) or hourly online syncing (sillier) while on a battery especially. So I guess 3.5 to 4 hours use is a fair estimate (which is good) depending on use (and model).

In summary I like the new macs besides the removal of firewire from the macbook (dealbreaker I think at least for now) and glossy only screens (interestingly the new psp features a matte screen, just thought I would throw that in), the graphics performance is awesome (links at end of article) and battery life is OK. Good laptops overall. I just want FIREWIRE PLEASE. And I hope the displayport transmits audio and video (like HDMI)

LINKS My favourite is Ars Technica (since they are the most detailed). In summary everyone agrees laptops good, battery good, no FIREWIRE bad and glossy screen MEH (Ars has a detailed paragraph about that if your interested).

Ars Technica Unibody Macbook Pro Review Part 1 : General Part 2 : Performance.

Barefeats Unibody Macbooks Overview and Macbook pro Benchmarks

Macworld Unibody Macbook Review and graphics benchmarks.

TTFN. I am so confused, ALL I WANT IS A (new unibody) MACBOOK WITH FIREWIRE.


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