The 17″ MacBook Pro was announced today at NAB for $2800.
It has the following differences from the high-end 15.4″ MacBook Pro ($2500 retail):
- 17″ 1680×1050 display vs. 15.4″ 1440×900 display (my current 1.5Ghz Powerbook G4 is a 17″ 1440×900 display).
- Firewire 800
- an extra USB port
- 8x dual layer SuperDrive instead of a 4x single layer SuperDrive
- 2.16 Ghz Intel Core Duo instead of 2.0Ghz
- 120GB 5400rpm HD instead of 100GB 5400rpm HD
Here is a strange quirk. If you build-to-order the latter with the last two additions (2.16Ghz processor for $300 and 120GB HD for $100), it ends up costing $100 more than the 17″ computer. So you can get a larger screen, firewire 800, dual layer higher speed burner, and an extra USB port for $100 less!
(I figure the Firewire 800 addition is because the better heat dissipation qualities of the larger notebook. If that is the case, I wonder if they stopped underclocking the video chip in this model. Iâ€™d have thought the dual layer burner in a 17″ would only be because it was thicker than the 15.4″, except that it isnâ€™tâ€”theyâ€™re both 1 inch thick. This specification may have a lot to do with the target market (video) and their penchant to be willing to pay for the top of the line.)
This means that the 17″ MacBook Pro is a good deal (or the 15.4″ MacBook Pro is a bad one).
I feel itâ€™s probably a bit of both. The 15.4″ â€œmaxed outâ€ is a bit overpriced, IMO, when you compare it to PC notebooks. Oh, if you max them out, then the price gap doesnâ€™t seem so bad. Still you can get Core Duo PC notebooks for about half the price of the entry Mac Book Pro ($2000). You give up stuff like a widescreen display, and video performance. The construction is crap also (plastic, prone to failure, no backlit keyboard, no battery readout, shitty latch, poorly designed power supply, no slot loading, no magsafe connector) but that all falls into the â€œyou get what you pay forâ€ thing.
Having used my 17″ powerbook for a couple years now, I can safely say I donâ€™t know how people manage to live with their 17″ PC notebooks. Iâ€™d say the 17″ Powerbook (1 inch thick, 6.9lbs) is barely practical (a little past the edge of what is comfortable). It barely fits into my Kata photo bag, and the laptop bag selection for it wasnâ€™t as wideâ€”the bag I chose wonâ€™t fit in my panniers on my bicycle commute. These high-end 17″ PC notebooks make mine appear svelte and light by comparison.
In other words, I wouldnâ€™t consider a 17″ notebook any bigger and heavier than I have, at any price. So Iâ€™d say compared to its 17″ competition, the 17″ Mac Book Pro (1 inch thick, 6.8lbs) is a very good deal indeed.
(For instance, you can spec a Dell Inspiron with the same lcd, memory card, graphics, burner, and hard drive and pay $2851 for it (there is no Lattitude that big). It weighs 8 lbs and is over 50% thicker. Savings? Umm, no, itâ€™s –$52. And thatâ€™s not including comparing the software bundle. Of course, as an earlier article, you can just buy the entry model for $2000 and wait for some other discounts. But then you have an overpriced plastic PINOâ€”portable in name only)
Up until last week when rumors started flying about this announcement, I was betting any takers that the 17″ MacBook Pro wouldnâ€™t come out until early August. Guess I was wrong. Good thing nobody took me up on it.
Why August? I figured the the Merom will be out by then and the date coincides with WWDC 2006. I still might be right about this, but the big splash for WWDC will have to be the new Intel-designed Intel-based Mac Pros (Intel â€œPowerMacâ€). (If you are wondering why the Pro Mac desktop will be the last model line migrating to Intel, read this article.)
No matter what, one of the consequences of migrating to Intel is that Apple will have to rev their top-of-the-line as soon as Intel releases their chips, if only to compete with the other PC manufacturers out there. If Merom is ahead of schedule (end of Q2 2006), then this means that theyâ€™ll have to rev the MacBook Pro line again in July. Releasing at NAB and shipping now will give this computer 3-4 month life cycle.
Looking ahead to Merom
The next chip will be slightly faster (up to 2.33Ghz instead of 2.12Ghz), support hardware virtualization (something that might be taken advantage of in the next Mac OS X â€œLeopardâ€ which will be demoâ€™d at WWDC), and be 64-bit. The new design means a slightly longer battery life, a slightly higher clock speed (as noted above), or (more importantly at this point) it wonâ€™t run as hot.
Since it is pin compatible with the current Core Duoâ€™s it means that two new Mac Book Pros can be released without any redesign. Thatâ€™s pretty good because the next interesting thing to put into a notebook will be a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD burnerâ€”that wonâ€™t be for a year.
The sequel to the Merom will be the Penryn. Since it is a 45nm process (as opposed to 65nm), I guess we can expect to see a big jump in clock speed (or conversely) battery life.