Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Apple Intros a 17-Inch MacBook Pro


Last week's rumors were true: Apple chose the week of the big National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas to unveil a 17-inch version of its MacBook Pro Intel-based upscale notebook. The big guy replaces the 17-inch PowerBook and is similar to the 15-inch MacBook Pro that was introduced back in January.

Basic specs: 2.16-GHz Core Duo CPU, 17-inch display (36% brighter than before, says Apple), ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 PCI Express graphics with 256MB of dedicated GDDR3 graphics RAM, built-in iSight Webcam, FrontRow media software and remote, and Apple's MagSafe power brick with a cable that comes apart to prevent anyone from bumping into your power cord and knocking the notebook to the ground. Design is similar to the PowerBook it replaces, with a snazzy, 1"-thick aluminum case. Prices start at $2799.

As with the earlier MacBook Pro, Apple is touting the 17-incher as "5X Faster" than its PowerBook predecessor. I'm startled that the company continues to prominently state that figure without a qualifier, since the real figure will be more like "Up to 5X faster for specific tasks on certain benchmarks." Which is the gist of what Apple says when it has more space.

Even for punchy ad copy, though, "Up to 5X Faster" would be almost as brief and a lot more accurate than a categorical "5X Faster"--and you'd think it would be less likely to leave MacBook pro buyers disappointed by its speed bump over the model it replaces. Which should be significant even if the overall X-factor is something less than 5.

The new MacBook Pro will be shipping next week, according to Apple. It looks like it'll be a tempting machine if you want a portable desktop and your budget can swing it. (And with Boot Camp, this system, like all Intel Macs, can become a Windows PC.)

But its introduction leaves a dangling question: When will Apple release an Intel-based notebook for those of us who like our portable computers small? The last remaining PowerBook is the 12-inch model--which is the notebook I carry most often, by the way.

If the rumor mill is to be believed, the first small Intel Mac notebook might be simply a MacBook rather than a MacBook Pro, and could arrive soon as part of a rollout of a new line of consumer-oriented laptops to replace the current iBook models. We'll see...