New MacBook Pro: No regrets

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 5th, 2007 • 4:23 pm

As someone who purchased a new MacBook Pro just a few weeks ago, it is only natural that I should wonder whether I should have waited until after the release of the new MacBook Pro models announced today.

The short answer, as far as I am concerned, is clearly, “No.” I don’t really need to have any regrets. Here is why.

  • The new model that replaces the one I bought is now $50 more (educational price).
  • The processor upgrade is a minor one. I would have a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo instead of a 2.33 GHz. Presumably there are other improvements to the processor beyond the GHz rating. But it doesn’t sound like it should make a whole lot of difference in most real-world computing situations.
  • The graphics card is a GeForce 8600M GT, as opposed to the ATI Radeon X1600 that came with my MacBook Pro. Again, it’s presumably a better card, but it still has the same amount of video RAM (256 MB), so it can’t be orders of magnitude better, and my MacBook Pro is emphatically not a machine for gaming or high-end graphic work anyway.
  • The hard drive capacity is the same.
  • There is now an optional “high resolution” screen for the 17″ model which is 1920 by 1200 pixels, as opposed to my machine’s 1680 by 1050 resolution. It costs $120 extra (again, educational price). This is the one option that I might have been interested in. But the truth is that, at present, Mac OS X and its applications are not resolution-independent. This means that, if you use the new 1920×1200 display at its native resolution (which is the only viable option), lots of things are going to be pretty tiny and not adjustable. That’s great for people who have sharp eyes and really need to cram as much as possible in their screen space. But for my wife, and for what she does with the machine, the drawbacks of resolution-dependent graphics outweigh the potential benefits of the higher resolutions at this point in time. When Mac OS X is finally resolution-independent and most Mac OS X applications are as well (which will probably take years: do you really think developers like Adobe and Microsoft will rush to make their own application interfaces resolution-independent?), then yes, a higher resolution will become quite desirable. Until then, the high-resolution screen will probably remain a niche option.

As expected, the new LED backlighting is only for the 15″ model. The Tech Specs page doesn’t even mention this characteristic yet, but the front page for the MacBook Pro models says this:

The new MacBook Pro is available in 15-inch models with a new mercury-free, power-efficient LED-backlit display and a 17-inch model with an optional 1920-by-1200 pixel display.

It’s kind of sneaky on Apple’s part, but they do have clever ways of phrasing their descriptions, don’t they? There’s nothing negative in the above sentence, yet if you analyze it carefully, it clearly does not say that the 17″ model comes with the new LED backlight—which means that it does not.

I think I remember reading somewhere that bigger LED-backlit displays will only become available at affordable prices later on. So for now, the 17″ display keeps its fluorescent backlight.

If I had wanted a LED-backlit display, I would have had to buy a 15″ model, so I wouldn’t have had the option of the higher resolution.

So there you go. It’s one of those “incremental” model upgrades that do not really cause a sharp drop in the value of your current model, even if you bought it just a few weeks ago. At least that’s how I see it.

8 Responses to “New MacBook Pro: No regrets”

  1. odysseus says:

    Let’s see the advantages of the new models:

    1) New processors and a new chipset platform with a higher speed front-side bus (800MHz vs. 667 Mhz) and a maximum memory capacity that has increased from 3 GB to 4 GB. Not too shabby at all.

    2) For once, the graphics chip that is a high-end model that can do native H.264 HD processing.

  2. limmw says:

    I am excited about the new models…but should I hold on till leopard is out?

    Apple should indicated that those who buy any hardware now be entitled to a free upgrade to leopard OS later(especially since they have delayed it), then I would grab one right away.

    More ram..that’s great news to me too

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Given that 2 GB is really plenty of RAM for what the laptop is used for, a change from 3 to 4 as the max capacity doesn’t have much effect. Let us remember that my previous laptop had 384 MB of RAM and we lived with that for six years. I think we can live with 2 GB for a while :).

    As for the graphics card, yes, it’s probably good for some things, but I don’t see myself downloading movies over my 512 Kbps Internet connection any time soon, let alone HD ones. Give me a good old DVD any time. When Blu-Ray/HD DVD combo players come down in price and become mature products, I’ll get one and will probably still buy DVDs (HD or otherwise) for years to come, simply because of **bandwidth** issues. By the time I have enough bandwidth to make purchasing HD movies online practical and economical, we’ll all be using MacBook Super Pro laptops with 15 GHz Core Octo processors and 20 GB of RAM anyway!

    So, yes, like I said, the new models will be attractive to some users, but they objectively don’t change much for ordinary laptop users like us folks.

    I doubt very much that Apple will announce a “free Leopard upgrade” option as long as there is no firm release date for Leopard. October is still a bit far. I haven’t paid much attention to Apple’s policy in that respect with previous system upgrades.

  4. danridley says:

    The SuperDrive is faster too, but the most important spec change is the RAM limit increase. Either this matters to a given user or it doesn’t; if it does, going from 3 to 4 GB might not be “enough,” but it’s the best you can do on any notebook at the moment, so you take what you can get.

    I’m interested in the LED change; curious whether it’ll affect battery life,and whether there are first-generation issues with the tech.

  5. divineconspiracy says:

    My MBP is a scant 2 months old, and I’m with you: no regrets. There’s always something better waiting around the corner, so what can you do?

    The LED screen is a novelty, though, I’m interested to see how it holds up in terms of accurate and calibrated colour.

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, Dan, I am interested in LED too, but I am not really interested in being an early adopter anymore. Plus I really like the extra space of the 17″ (although my wife finds that the keyboard is a bit too far up and her bangles get stuck on the corners of the machine…).

  7. sjk says:

    higher speed front-side bus (800MHz vs. 667 Mhz)

    How much does that matter with current RAM speeds?

    For once, the graphics chip that is a high-end model that can do native H.264 HD processing.

    Only for decoding or is there some way encoding could take advantage of that?

    Apple should indicated that those who buy any hardware now be entitled to a free upgrade to leopard OS later(especially since they have delayed it), then I would grab one right away.

    If you buy a Mac now you’re definitely not “entitled” to a free Leopard upgrade in October, unless Apple has suddenly and quietly made a generous policy change. For non-educational Mac purchases I’d check pricing with the ADC Select hardware discount since sometimes that’ll save more than the cost of the membership with the benefit of a year’s-worth of Mac OS X updates (including Leopard pre- and final releases, if joining ADC now).

    The SuperDrive is faster too

    Rated faster, but burns speeds on the non-firmware-upgradable MatsuSHITa drives are more media-sensitive and slower compared to Pioneer drives I’ve used.

  8. sjk says:

    Hmm, Pierre’s replies were invisible until after I’d posted. That’s why I made a redundant remark about the “free Leopard upgrade” policy.

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