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After slipping the usual January refresh, we wondered when Apple's new MacBooks would be upon us. Finally the refresh has come about, with Core i5 and i7 gracing the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros, while the 13-inch Pro stays with Core 2 Duo.
This is the new wave
The new MacBook is an effort of refinement rather than that of an overhaul, with new features turning up both on the exterior and the interior.
First up is the new MagSafe adapter, which now takes a right angle to sit flush with the side of the MacBook, allowing much greater flexibility when you're moving around and lowering the likeliness of getting tangled in cords.
Then there's inertial scrolling, a nice little addition to the touch pad. When the user flicks two fingers down to scroll, if the fingers leave the touch pad the page continues to scroll for a little after, similar to how the iPhone functions. You can still precisely scroll if you want, but this requires you to either keep your fingers on the pad, or to set the touch pad options to "Without momentum" under "System Preferences". Apple still has the best touch pad on the market, from its large size to its multi-touch capability, and it's only gotten better with this feature.
In response to criticism of its glossy screens, Apple has also offered matte upgrades on both its 15- and 17-inch models, but there's a catch: the upgrade also incorporates a higher resolution screen, bumping the default 1440x900 to 1680x1050. We're always fans of higher resolution screens, and just getting one of these will set you back AU$140. But for those who just want matte, they'll also have to wear the cost of the high resolution screen, adding AU$210 to their order cost.
Other options include 8GB RAM (up from the standard 4GB for AU$560), and if you start from the base model a flotilla of hard drive updates, with 500GB (AU$140), 500GB 7200rpm (AU$210), 128GB SSD (AU$420), 256GB SSD (AU$1060) and a 512GB SSD (AU$1960). While the SSD costs aren't too far from market price, you'd be better off adding after-market drives for the mechanicals.
Then we come to the usual bag of hurt known as AppleCare. Apple's standard warranty offers only one year (with phone service limited to 90 days), and to expand this to three years will cost you a whopping AU$579. We'd always recommend taking AppleCare on-board, but just remember that it makes the MacBook's final price that bit more expensive.
It's what's on the inside that counts
Internally, a few things have changed as well; our 15-inch review sample was running a Core i7 clocked at 2.66GHz, and a GeForce GT 330M. Gone is the integrated Nvidia graphics, as Nvidia simply didn't have a licence to pair its chipset with Intel's Core i processors. In its place is a switching solution similar to Nvidia's Optimus technology — when using apps that don't require 3D acceleration, the MacBook Pro uses its integrated Intel HD graphics, saving on battery. When 3D acceleration is required, the GT 330M seamlessly kicks in to give the extra power.