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New MacBooks Revealed

macbooksTuesday, Apple revealed an evolved slate of thin, light, eco-friendly MacBook notebooks to waiting audiences.  Greener, leaner and more powerful than ever, the laptops remain high on style and function but despite prelaunch speculation to the contrary they’re still mostly premium priced, premium products.

Entry priced from $1299 to $1999 (with more expensive configurations also available)  the revised MacBook’s feature aluminum cases, more powerful NVIDIA graphics cards (a dual card structure on the 15 inch MacBook Pro), LED backlit displays and wear-resistant glass multi-touch track pads with near 40% larger usable area than some prior models.

unibodyThe cases, which are similar to the design revealed with the introduction of the ultra-thin MacBook Air, are machined from solid aluminum blocks in a process that Apple is dubbing “unibody” construction. With Steve Jobs calling it a new way of building notebooks, Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive explained “traditionally notebooks are made from multiple parts.  With the new MacBook, we’ve replaced all of those parts with just one – the unibody.”  The subtractive rather than additive process,  he said, “[makes] the new MacBook fundamentally thinner, stronger and more robust.”

Besides adding strength and reduced weight, the use of the unibody construction serves the added purpose of keeping the computers in sync with Apple’s environmentally friendly design objectives.  The use of an entirely aluminum case, along with glass parts, make the computers almost entirely recyclable. Additionally, the glass used is arsenic free, there’s no mercury in the display, no PVC in the internal connectors and the packaging, made from recycled material, is 41 percent smaller than prior generations. 

Apples engineers claim the LED screen technology technology uses 30 percent less power than conventional LCD displays. That performance, along with like features a display that will automatically dim in a darkened room to conserve power, have earned the computers the EPA’s Energy Star Certification. The computers have also earned the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool’s (EPEAT) gold certification for limited environmental impact. 

Model by model the lineup stacks up as follows:
MacBook -  The entry level aluminum model of the MacBook is priced at $1299.  It features a 13.3 inch display and a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor.    Out of the box, it comes configured with a 160GB hard drive, the new NVIDIA GeForce 9400m graphics chip (which is up to 5x faster) and a faster 1066MHz frontside bus, which standard on all aluminum models except the 17inch MacBook Pro, should increase speed.    A second, more powerful, configuration is available with a 2.4GHz processor and a 250GB drive for $1599.

15 inch MacBook Pro:  The 15inch display MacBook Pro is priced at $1,999 and includes a 1440×900 glossy display, a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo Intel processor, 2GB 1066 MHz DDR SDRAM,  dual graphics chips (integrated GeForce 9400M and GeForce 9600M GT for discreet graphics) and a 250GB hard drive.  A second, more powerful model is available out of the box for $2,499.  It upgrades the processor to 2.53GHz, adds 2GBs of additional SDRAM and features a 320GB ATA hard drive.

MacBook Air:  the ultralight “Air” models offer a 13.3 inch 1280×800 glossy display and NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics that perform as much as 4x faster.  The entry model, at $1799, comes equipped with a 1.67GHz Core 2 Duo processor, and a 120 GB hard drive that runs at 4200rpm.  For $2499, customers can get upgraded to a 1.86GHz chip and a 128GB solid state drive.

17 inch MacBook Pro:  Priced at $2799, the biggest of the MacBooks features a 1920×1200 glossy display and a 320GB drive.  Divergent from the rest of the “family” it has NVIDIA’s GeForce 8600M graphics and 4GB of 667MHz SDRAM.

Along with the aluminum models, Apple will continue to offer its existing plastic MacBook  at a $100 price cut. It will sell for $999.

The new MacBook and MacBook Pro’s are available immediately.  New models of the MacBook Air should ship in November.

To support the new MacBooks, also introduced Tuesday was a 24in cinema display.  Priced at $899 and shipping in November, it’s capable of powering all of the notebooks via a single connection cord. 

During the product introduction, Apple refused to answer questions about how the broader economy and reduced spending might effect their performance in the coming quarter. Those questions will likely be fielded during the next earnings analyst call.

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