New Apple MacBooks demystified

With select systems changing names, others changing prices, or sometimes both, it can be a little confusing to get a clear picture of the current MacBook family. To the end, we've rounded up the key spec, price, and feature changes in one handy spot.

Amid all the buzz about Apple's new iPhone 3G S, MacBook fans were also treated to an impressive set of component upgrades and price drops across Apple's laptop lines. With select systems changing names, others changing specs, or sometimes both, it can be a little confusing to get a clear picture of the current MacBook family. To that end, we've rounded up the key spec, price, and feature changes in one handy spot.

The 13-inch MacBook

MacBook, 13-inch
$999
Core 2 Duo 2.13GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M

This is Apple's basic white plastic MacBook, and the last one left to carry the standalone MacBook name. It's always been a good deal for under $1,000, although the new entry price on the 13-inch aluminum models makes this less clear-cut.

Until today, it was the only 13-inch model with FireWire, and it remains the only one with a removable battery and a non-LED display.


The 13-inch MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro, 13-inch
$1,199
Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M

$1,499
Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz, 4GB RAM, 250GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M

Previously known as the MacBook, the basic 13-inch aluminum unibody laptop has been promoted to the "Pro" series, and with good cause--the line between these and the 15-inch Pro models has been very thin since they moved to the all-metal construction and added GeForce 9400M graphics.

More importantly, the 13-inch unibody systems have regained their FireWire ports, and have added (drum roll, please...) an SD card slot. We've been bugging Apple for years to add this basic feature, and digital photographers everywhere are no doubt celebrating.

The battery on the 13-inch Pro is of the nonremovable type, which promises up to 7 hours of life, a purported 40-percent bump over previous 13-inch models.


The 15-inch MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro 15-inch
$1,699
Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz, 4GB RAM, 250GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M

$1,999
Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M + 256MB 9600M GT

$2,299
Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M + 512MB 9600M GT

The standard 15-inch MacBook Pro remains largely unchanged. The ExpressCard slot is being replaced with an SD card slot, also featured on the new 13-inch Pro. It also has the same non-removable battery, which promises up to 7 hours of use.

The least expensive Pro has the same GeForce 9400 integrated graphics as the 13-inch models, and the 2.66GHz and 2.8GHz versions add an additional GeForce 9600M GPU--but that's no different from the existing 15-inch Pro lineup.

What is new is an optional 3.06GHz CPU, available for an extra $300 on top of the $2,299 configuration. That makes this Apple's fastest laptop ever.


The 17-inch MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro 17-inch
$2,499
Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M+ 512MB 9600M GT

Not much new here, but the price cut to $2,499 is nice for video editors, designers, and photographers.

If you're looking for the new SD card slot, be warned, the 17-inch model is keeping the ExpressCard, and won't be adding an SD card support. The new 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, however, is available as a $300 add-on.


The 13-inch MacBook Air.

MacBook Air, 13-inch
$1,499
Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M

$1,799
Core 2 Duo 2.13GHz, 2GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Nvidia GeForce 9400M

Thanks perhaps to the new flood of thin 13-inch laptops, including the MSI X340 and Dell's Adamo, the thin, sexy MacBook Air is slimming down its starting price to a more reasonable $1,499. These have had the GeForce 9400M graphics and built-in battery for a while, and the system is still restricted to a single USB port.

Stay tuned for full reviews of several new MacBooks later this week. In the meantime, check out all of our WWDC coverage here.

Need more laptop news? Follow me at twitter.com/danackerman.

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