Is Apple behind the laptop curve?

Blu-ray drives aren't available in any Mac, despite the fact that they're becoming increasingly common in PCs. In what other ways is Apple slipping behind the PC?

Laptop Hunter Sheila finds fault with the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Microsoft

As we all know, Microsoft has been running its Laptop Hunters series of ads knocking Apple for the high price of its laptops and the features you get for the money. Our laptop editor, Dan Ackerman, regularly gives high marks to Apple's wares, and the company's 13-inch MacBook sits at the top of our Best 5 laptops list. In short, we're pretty happy with what Apple has to offer. But as good as its laptops are, Windows-based PCs do have a few leading-edge features not found in MacBooks.

Here's the list we came up with:

  • Blu-ray: Whether you think it's a worthwhile feature or not, no Macs currently offer a Blu-ray drive. Last year, Steve Jobs referred to Blu-ray and its licensing process as a "bag of hurt," but recent rumors suggest that Apple may make a Blu-ray announcement at its World Wide Developers Conference next month. We'll have to wait and see whether it applies to notebooks.
  • Memory card slots: In our book, being able to toss a memory card from your digital camera or camcorder into your notebook is a big convenience. We're seeing this on more Windows machines and it should be a standard feature across all laptops.
  • HDMI out: Apple has gone with a Mini DisplayPort, which doesn't carry sound, instead of standard HDMI. (A Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter is available for about $20, but that's just another thing you have to carry around). Premium notebooks should feature an HDMI port so you can easily connect to an HDTV sans adapter.
  • Biometric security: This is better known as fingerprint recognition. The ThinkPad I'm typing this on has built-in biometric security. No Macs offer this feature.
  • WWAN mobile broadband support: A handful but growing number of Windows machines offer built-in connectivity to cellular data networks (naturally, there's a fee involved for service). AT&T and Verizon are offering discounted Netbooks with built-in high-speed data connectivity as those companies try to apply the cell phone model to laptops.
  • More USB ports: This one is definitely at the bottom of the list, but it's worth mentioning that many Windows notebooks now come with three USB ports. The MacBook and MacBook Pro only have two, and the Macbook Air only has one. This can become an issue if you opt to use one of the USB ports for a cellular data accessory (no new Macs have a PC card slot, though MacBook Pros do offer the newer and arguably superior ExpressCard slot).
Are these omissions a big deal or just minor quibbles? Let me know. And feel free to add anything I missed.
 

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