The big news with Tuesday's MacBook announcement is obviously the new design. Replacing the white or black plastic chassis is an aluminum body built from a single piece of metal. Gone is the mouse button, consumed by a large glass trackpad with multitouch gesture support. The screen stays at 13.3 inches but gets LED backlighting and a piece of glass that runs from edge to edge of the laptop. And a mini DisplayPort makes an appearance, but it kicks the mini FireWire port to the curb in the process.
Less has changed on the inside. The biggest change is the move from the Intel GM965 chipset and integrated GMA X3100 graphics to an Nvidia chipset and integrated GeForce 9400M graphics, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs says is up to five times as fast as the old Intel graphics. The default memory allotment stays at 2GB, but you trade 667MHz DDR2 memory for faster 1066MHz DDR3 memory. You can also upgrade to 4GB of RAM for only $150; previously adding 2GB of RAM cost $200.
Moving in the opposite direction, however, is the CPU offering on the low-end model. The $1,299 MacBook features a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, down from the 2.4GHz chip in the previous model. The new $1,599 MacBook features a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo chip like the older $1,499 model. Both new models feature a faster 1066MHz frontside bus, up from 800MHz on the old MacBooks.
The hard drive offerings stay the same: 160GB on the lower-end model and 250GB on the higher-end model. But new upgrades will net you a 320GB drive for $100 or a 128GB solid-state drive for $600.
Meanwhile, the black MacBook has gone the way of the Newton, while the old entry-level white MacBook is still kicking around, with a $100 discount that brings its price under $1,000.
My take? I don't like losing the FireWire port, since I own a tape-based miniDV camcorder that won't do video transfers over USB--only FireWire. And the step back with the CPU on the $1,299 model strikes me as odd, even if the DDR3 memory and Nvidia graphics might make up for it. I really like the idea of the multitouch trackpad, however, since the MacBook I bought less than a year ago has a mouse button that catches and sticks, making an increasingly annoying clicking noise when pressed.
What are your thoughts on the new MacBooks? Also, if you have a fix for my misaligned mouse button that doesn't involve a trip to an Apple store, I'm all ears.
Note: I have corrected this post because I had erroneously reported the old MacBook models featured a CPU with 4MB of L2 cache. They featured 3MB, like the new models. And in my haste today, I confused Apple's 90 days of free phone support with the one-year parts-and-labor coverage. I have about six weeks to get down to an Apple Store and have my mouse button fixed free of charge.
For complete coverage of the Apple notebook news, see "Apple polishes up its MacBook line."