Thursday, October 16, 2008

Apple Notebook Event - Summary

Image from Apple

On the 14 October, as anticipated by rumour websites, Apple held a small event at Cupertino to unveil their next generation of notebook computers. These new notebooks are mind blowing... but boy I wasn't at all surprised, because the rumours were dead accurate and I knew so much prior to the event! These days the rumour mill is so unbelievably accurate that it destroys the excitement when the product actually launches... it was the same for the iPod event.

But as suspiciously accurate as the rumours were, not all rumours came true. Apple did not release a tablet notebook, and neither did they decide to venture into the hot netbook market. But hey it's not as if I really expected them to... for the longest time ever there were rumours of a tablet, but time and time again this rumour proves to be just baloney.

So Apple introduced a new MacBook and MacBook Pro and gave hardware upgrades to the MacBook air.

The event started off with Mr Tim Cook's presentation on 'State of the Mac', giving a general overview of the Mac's incredible uptake rate and crazy-good sales. He reported that with several quarters in a row, Apple grew above market rate by two to three times.

Accounting for this trend, he cites a few reasons (not all I agree with). Firstly, this is because Apple makes superior computers and software, like Leopard, iLife and iWork. That's fine, I believe that. Then he mentions running Windows on the Mac via Bootcamp as another compelling reason why people switch. This I fully agree... having the option of Windows and Mac running on a same machine and thus eliminating compatibility concerns is in my opinion THE MOST crucial reason why people are convinced to switch.

After that, Cook mentions something which I feel strongly for. He says that Vista's inferiority to OS X is yet another reason why people move away from PCs to Macs, and goes on insinuating that OS X is miles ahead of Vista, and Vista did not live up to Microsoft's expectations. If you ask me, I tell you this is nonsense. Cook's statement is the typical response of Mac fanboys, ridiculing Vista just because they worship Apple and hate Microsoft. Vista is not selling well, yes that's a fact, but NOT because it is inferior to OS X, but because Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads give consumers a false negative impression of Vista, thus users shun it. Like I've written, Vista is superb. It's not because Vista sucks, but because people perceive it sucks and hence want to switch to a Mac.

Ok enough of that. After 'State of the Mac' followed an interesting presentation on new ways of manufacturing notebooks. This new manufacturing process was first seen in the MacBook Air with its precision aluminium unibody enclousure, ensuring a robust, sturdy yet lightweight chassis. Basically, the body is carved out of a single block of high quality aluminium. Then, Jobs returned on stage to introduce the laptops proper. To cut it short, these are the new changes:

MacBook Pro 15-inch

Image from Apple

1) New precision aluminium unibody enclosure, which saves half the structural parts as compared to the previous model. Jobs passed around the unibody to the audience and allowed them to feel how sturdy it is for themselves.

Image from Apple

2) A wonderfully bright 15-inch LED backlit display, which is instant-on and saves more power than normal displays. Colours are also more punchy, and the screen is all-glass, extending to the edges, taking after the iMac's design.

3) A new multi-touch glass trackpad, which has 39% larger tracking area than the old model. The click button has been eliminated, and now the entire trackpad is the button and is clickable. Also, some new multi-touch gestures were introduced. For example, swiping four fingers down on the trackpad will activate expose.

4) Screaming fast but more expensive DDR3 RAM.

5) Now just 0.95 inches thin.

6) Solid State Drives (SSDs) now come as an option on the MacBook Pro, and capacity has been bumped up to 128GB. Clearly this trend of SSDs over spinning hard drives are spilling beyond netbooks and ultra-portables, to the high-end notebooks too.

7) 802.11n Wi-Fi technology with bluetooth 2.1 and EDR. Comes as no surprise to me.

8) New mini display port connector which will drive 30-inch displays.

9) New graphics chipset! It will feature dual graphics - the more powerful but battery draining Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics (512MB), or the less powerful but more battery friendly GeForce 9400M integrated graphics.

MacBook Air

Image from Apple

The MacBook Air is Apple's ultra-portable laptop, and this time, the changes made were purely under-the-hood. The new Air will have a larger hard drive at 120GB, or an optional 128GB SSD. It will also use the new DDR3 RAM, and the same mini display port found on the MacBook Pro. But the most significant upgrade is the graphics. It will use the GeForce 9400M to provide 4X faster graphics than the previous model.


Image from Apple

"The MacBook is the best selling Mac, ever." This was what Jobs said, and it comes as no surprise. The MacBook is an awesome machine, and now, Apple has reduced the price of the white plastic MacBook to only S$1588. (I feel it could have been much cheaper though.)

But the real news is that selling alongside this white MacBook is a totally new aluminium MacBook, featuring the same uni-body design with the MacBook Pro. It will feature a 13.3-inch LED backlit display for the first time, with the same button-less multi-touch trackpad, mini display port, DDR3 memory, and new GeForce 9400M graphics chipset.

Available in 2 models (2.0GHz and 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo), the high-end model will even have a backlit keyboard. One can also opt for the SSD option. Prices are steep though, starting at S$2088, but still reasonable considering the new features.

All in all, if you have been looking for a Mac notebook, now is the opportune moment to get one. Their laptops have reached such a high level of quality and perfection, it is really a class above the rest. Still, you might find them lacking in certain minor areas, such as having only 2 USB ports, and no card reader at all. Once you look past these small disappointments, you will realise that this is one incredible, durable machine that's above the competition.

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