For me the new, unibody MacBook Pro 17-inch (PN MB604LL/A) is probably the most exciting thing announced here at Macworld Expo. Not only because I'm more of a hardware guy but also because I'm a MacBook freak.
For me the new, unibody MacBook Pro 17-inch (PN MB604LL/A) is probably the most exciting thing announced here at Macworld Expo. Not only because I'm more of a hardware guy but also because I'm a MacBook freak. So, where to start? The MBP has three compelling new features.
The new MBP17 has a matte screen option. Can I get a Hallelujah?!
I've been a staunch critic of glossy displays in MacBooks, and I'm not the only one. It appears that Cupertino is finally listening. The unibody MacBook Pro 17 is the first in the new form-factor MacBooks to offer a configuration with a matte screen Apple calls "antiglare." It's a $50 option though, which is a bit of a slap in the face. If I'm spending $2,800 on a notebook computer you'd think that Apple would throw in the matte screen option. But at least it's available, which is excellent. The question that remains is if the matte screen option will trickle down to the MBP15 and even the MB13. Representatives in the Apple booth didn't know the answer when I asked them today.
The new MBP17 can support up to 8GB of maximum RAM (and has 4GB standard) which is a huge step in the right direction. If you can get past the 8GB $1,200 sticker price, that is. I'm sure that the RAM price is so high because the new 17 ships with two, 2GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM modules and both have to be removed and replaced with two, 4GB modules to get to 8GB. Prices will eventually come down and 8GB is an attractive option for memory hungry applications and anything to do with virtualization.
Look ma, no latches!
The MBP17's fixed battery is a bit of a scandal. It's as if Apple didn't learn its lesson with the MacBook Air and iPhone batteries. After watching the video by the battery engineers during today's keynote, I'm partially convinced. Their justification is that fixed batteries save a lot of room previously occupied by connectors, latches and doors. A fixed battery can use more internal real estate in the enclosure to store power – goes the refrain. As a result the MBP17 fixed battery holds 40 percent more energy and will last up to 8 hours on a charge (7 hours when using the faster NVIDIA 9600M GT chip) according to Apple.
I'm curious about the real-world run times though. Most companies base their battery benchmarks on perfect world conditions and it will be interesting to see how long the new battery really lasts. The third USB port is a welcome addition but it comes at the expense of a dedicated FW400 port on the previous model. Solid State Drives (SSDs) are now available as 128MB (+$500) and 256MB (+$900) options. In case you're wondering, a maxed out MBP17 configuration (2.93GHz, 8GB, 256GB SSD and anti-glare) will set you back $5,250. Start saving your nickels and dimes, kids.
I'm going to wait and see if the anti-glare screen trickles down to the MBP 15-inch before diving in, although the 8GB of RAM is attractive.