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New (and old) MacBook Pros

marc weber

Joined: Aug 31, 2004
Posts: 11343

So the new MacBook Pros were unveiled today. Yeah, the one-piece aluminum casing is cool, and the glass display, and the magnetic catch, and all that. But with the black display panel and keys, they've given up some of that unique Mac aesthetic. If those new black parts were aluminum or white, I would be at an Apple store tomorrow, handing them my check card. And I'm still not sure I like the feel of those new keyboards.

Anyway, $1,999 buys a new MacBook Pro with:
  • 15.4-inch display
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 250 GB hard drive

  • So now the prior-generation MacBook Pros (with the all-aluminum look and the cool keyboards) are on clearance. And what was $1,999 last night is $1,599 today -- or just $1,349 refurbished:
  • 15.4-inch display
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 200 GB hard drive

  • Not much seems different under the hood. It looks like I would be paying $650 for an additional 50 GB of hard drive space I'll probably never need. Okay, the new versions also tout a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M in place of the old NVIDIA GeForce 8600M, which is apparently a big deal if you're into graphics. But if you're not...

    That $1,349 prior-generation MacBook Pro looks pretty good. What am I missing? Is there something I should know about Apple refurbished (which they say is "like new" with a 1-year warranty)?

    Or as another reference, consider how much less $1,299 buys in a new (non-Pro) MacBook:
  • 13-inch display
  • 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 160 GB hard drive
  • (No firewire)

  • [ October 14, 2008: Message edited by: marc weber ]

    "We're kind of on the level of crossword puzzle writers... And no one ever goes to them and gives them an award." ~Joe Strummer
    Bear Bibeault
    Author and ninkuma

    Joined: Jan 10, 2002
    Posts: 63866

    I've never been a fan of black keyboards. I have a hard time seeing the keys under low-light conditions. But I assume it's backlit like the current MPB?

    I've heard nothing but good things about buying refurbs, but have no personal experience.

    And why is it that my job always buys me a new MPB just before a refresh?
    [ October 14, 2008: Message edited by: Bear Bibeault ]

    [Asking smart questions] [About Bear] [Books by Bear]
    Ernest Friedman-Hill
    author and iconoclast

    Joined: Jul 08, 2003
    Posts: 24199

    Glossy screens only, I hear, from here on in? Those of us who want a matte screen are going to want to stick with the older hardware for now...

    [Jess in Action][AskingGoodQuestions]
    marc weber

    Joined: Aug 31, 2004
    Posts: 11343

    My consumer indecision is in high gear.

    "Refurbished" brings to mind images of laptops falling into swimming pools, or being returned for some serious intermittant problem that the refurbishing process failed to catch. So $250 (the difference between refurbished and clearance) seems a small price to ease my paranoia.

    But then it becomes a difference of $400 for a new model.

    I do see what they're doing with the new look -- bringing MacBooks in line with the iPhone, Air, and aluminum iMacs. I didn't like the black panel on the aluminum iMacs when they came out, but it's grown on me.

    So here's me trying to talk myself into a new model: "The battery indicators are on the side instead of the bottom. That's cool." (Putting aside the fact that I've never used this anyway.)

    And yeah, this looks like the end of matte screens.
    marc weber

    Joined: Aug 31, 2004
    Posts: 11343

    This is interesting, from Macworld - First Look: MacBook and MacBook Pro...
    The new MacBook Pro has two separate graphics subsystems inside of it. One, the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, is the same one found in the new MacBook and MacBook Air models. It�s less powerful�and uses less power. The other, the NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT, is a much faster, higher-performance graphics processor...

    Within the Energy Saver preference pane, you can choose between �Better battery life� (the 9400M) and �Higher performance� (the 9600M GT) for graphics. However, this isn�t a switch you can do on the fly�nor can you set the system to use one when you�re on battery power and the other when you�re attached to an outlet. In fact, to switch between the two cards requires you to log out of your user account and log back in.

    Uh, okay.

    But if I'm not a gamer, am I going to notice any difference between these and the old 8600M used in the prior-generation Pros?

    (If it's any consolation on the glossy display front, the article says, "The LED backlighting is remarkably bright, meaning these laptops are going to be quite usable, even in very bright conditions.")
    Bert Bates

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8898
    my two cents...

    - We've had good luck with refurbished Macs - in fact we're kind of hoping that a basic refurbished Macbook might be a little cheaper today.

    - I don't like the glossy screen, although Kathy got used to the glossy screen on her black Macbook.

    - You're forgetting the new button-free touch pad thingy... it could be that that will be a big deal improvement once you get used to it ?!

    - Did anyone see that there is a low end version of this new Mac for $999?

    Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
    (If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
    marc weber

    Joined: Aug 31, 2004
    Posts: 11343

    Bert, I'm glad to hear about the refurbished Macs. The prices are sure attractive!

    I prefer a matte screen now, but I think I could get used to a glossy. In fact, if it's sharper I might come to prefer it. (I just got glasses last week, and I'm kind of liking this "sharp focus" thing. )

    The new touch pad does look cool -- especially since you can configure the lower corners to be secondary buttons. I use a wireless Mighty Mouse now, but the new touch pad might be something I could get into. (I never thought I would like that eraserhead thing on my old IBM Thinkpad, but it turned out to be cool. Sometimes change is good!)

    The $999 MacBook is the white plastic model. The Apple store says it's "new," but it still uses Intel graphics, so I'm not sure what exactly is new about it (other than a price drop).

    Anyway, a refurbished Pro seems like the logical, economical choice, but as a well-conditioned consumer, the lure of shiny and new... Shiny and new... Shiny and new...
    [ October 15, 2008: Message edited by: marc weber ]
    steve souza
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jun 26, 2002
    Posts: 862
    Aesthetically these computers are a step backwards. However, to Apples credit such a concept wouldn't ever occur to me when critiquing other brands. - a fast, free open source performance tuning api.
    JavaRanch Performance FAQ
    marc weber

    Joined: Aug 31, 2004
    Posts: 11343


    I found a store that had the old and new versions side by side. I have to say, the new version looks far more impressive in person than I imagined. That thin aluminum unibody is gorgeous! As Bert mentioned above, the new trackpad is enticing (smoother than the one on the Air, by the way), and that glossy display is sharp! I was also surprised by the new keyboard feeling better than expected.

    So I think it's become a question of when I want to part with the money (in today's economy). The thing that's really driving this is I want an Intel Mac for developing iPhone apps. But the truth is, I don't have much time to work on Objective-C, and I would like to get a better foundation in the language before digging into the iPhone SDK. So I can put off the purchase while I get more proficient.
    Sunny Malik
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Dec 30, 2007
    Posts: 86
    One of my friend just got new macbook, Silver color looks better than white and black.
    I am also waiting for my previous generation macbook (because of my budget problem )

    Research is what I'm doing when I dont know what I'm doing
    I agree. Here's the link:
    subject: New (and old) MacBook Pros
    It's not a secret anymore!