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New MacBook Pro lineup vs. old lineup

CNET compares the new MacBook Pro laptops against the models they replace.

Editors' note: As of June 2009, the product highlighted here has been replaced by these updated models.

Of Apple's MacBook Pro lineup, only the two 15-inch models received the complete workup today. By now, you're probably aware of the design changes, which include a new "unibody" chassis, new buttonless multitouch trackpad, the addition of a mini DisplayPort, and the subtraction of the FireWire 400 port. Let's take a closer look at the changes under the hood.

Pricing remains the same, with $1,999 and $2,499 default configurations. Aside from slightly larger hard drives, the biggest change is the move away from Intel and to the Nvidia GeForce 9400M chipset and a slight bump to the graphics, moving from the GeForce 8600M GT to the GeForce 9600M GT. The higher-end model now ships with 4GB of RAM by default, and doubling the RAM on the lower-end model is $50 cheaper at $150. The CPUs remain largely unchanged, but now operate on a faster 1066MHz bus. The $2,499 MacBook Pro lets you upgrade to a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo for $300; previously, the fastest chip offered was a 2.6GHz processor. Larger 320GB hard drives are now offered, including a 7200rpm unit, as is a 128GB solid-state drive.

The 17-inch model from the old MacBook Pro line survived, but it now offers 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive for the same price.

The 17-inch model is still available at the same $2,799 price in the old all-silver chassis, and with the same 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 512MB GeForce 8600M GT graphics card. The RAM has been doubled to 4GB and the hard drive goes from 250GB to 320GB. Strange that the new design is available in the 13-inch MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro, but not the 17-inch MacBook Pro. The 17-inch model gives you the choice of a glossy or matte finish on the display; the new 15-inch MacBook Pros are glossy only, which might be problematic for those whose first priority isn't watching movies on a $2,000 laptop.

Given there's less of a design difference between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro now, what will get people to make the $400 (or more) leap in price? Better graphics? Two more inches of screen space? FireWire 800? I see the new MacBooks taking up a larger piece of the Mac pie at the expense of MacBook Pro sales. Thoughts? Do you like the new design? Feature sets?

For complete coverage of the Apple notebook news, see "Apple polishes up its MacBook line."