Tuesday's announcement of new and updated MacBook laptops from Apple could never have lived up to the hype of the past several weeks.
After endless predictions about tablets, touch screens, and cheaper (some would say recession-friendly) products, from an $800 MacBook to an Apple Netbook, the end result was instead a solid list of upgrades and improvements, with a few noteworthy innovations and a few interesting developments that may get lost in the "Where are the $800 MacBooks?" shuffle. Here's our take on what the new developments mean for you.
The most obvious of these is the so-called brick manufacturing process, whereby instead of building a frame and overlaying the chassis, Apple is taking the process used in the making the MacBook Air and expanding it to other MacBooks. The brick comes from a 2.5-pound piece of aluminum (in the case of the Air), which is literally whittled down to 0.5 pounds, meaning the internal frame is part of the same piece of metal as the chassis.
We were impressed with the build quality of the MacBook Air, and hearing that it's made of few individual pieces than other laptops makes sense. But the 13- and 15-inch systems always seemed plenty sturdy to us, so we're not sure if this will be a big selling point for casual consumers.
While switching to Intel CPUs a couple of years ago was a huge breakthrough in terms of mainstream appeal for Macs, Apple is moving away from Intel motherboard chipsets in favor of a new one from Nvidia.
The GeForce 9400 M combines a chipset and GPU, which will hopefully be a big improvement over the Intel integrated graphics found in most MacBooks today. It certainly won't match dedicated gaming laptops (and Mac gaming is still in a sorry state), but we've long decried the sad state of integrated graphics, and in fact, have long given up on finding a decent 3D gaming test to run on systems with integrated graphics. (Note that a dedicated 9600M GT graphics card--with either 256MB or 512MB of graphics memory--will be available in the MacBook Pro.)
Multitouch gestures aren't exactly new--we've seen them on the MacBook Air, and they were added to the last round of MacBook Pro upgrades. But one of the biggest physical changes to the new Apple laptops is the inclusion of what is being called a "multitouch glass trackpad."
We got quite used to using gestures on the Air (as well as the iPhone and iPod Touch), and the idea of a bigger (reportedly 39 percent) touchpad is always a good idea--too many PC makers include tiny touchpads that require several swipes to get your cursor across the screen. The big questions are: Will software makers take advantage of it? And will users get used to not having a physical button to click? … Read more