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Apple in June: new MacBooks

Apple's big announcement in June: this article covers the natural metamorphoses of the MacBook Pro, the AirPort Express without a plug (unfortunately), and the MacBook Pro with Retina.

This June, Apple's announcement turned out to be really big. Whatever critics might say, the company's representatives managed to surprise even those who have really seen a lot. As usually, everybody already knew everything two weeks before the event, and some apologies for a journalist felt quite free to express their opinions on what has not happened yet. Apple still manages to keep secrets about their new products, and so did they with the information about the MacBook Pro with a special kind of screen, without even mentioning the peculiar features of the Mountain Lion or iOS 6. So all those early fantasies should hardly be trusted before the actual announcement. It was a logical assumption that the event would be mainly about laptops, rather than other kinds of portable gadgets, but that was the end of the guesswork: no one can be sure of anything when we speak of those guys in Cupertino and the surprises they can prepare. I mentioned in my iPad review in spring that they could start using Retina displays for their laptops, but it was only a daring supposition then. Now it has turned out to be real: the devices are hitting the shelves tomorrow and their prices have been revealed. The new iOS version will probably be released later, together with iPhone 5, which is expected to happen this fall. There is another "probably" here: probably, in September. But for now, let's stick to this June's announcement.

About the "old" MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

Apple will keep on using the existing types of cases for their laptops as long as they can install new and new types of components in them. I understand the psychology of the customers who may feel a little deceived: they pay for the latest top device, so why does it look exactly the same as the old one did? The answer is simple: it is Sony that can afford producing a new design and spend their resources for every new Z line (feel free to put any letter there), and only after that they will explain to the customers how great it is. The cases of the present day MacBooks Pro were designed back in 2009, and no more than nothing has ever been changed since then. Why? Because they are making business there, i. e. they are doing exactly what they should be doing in such a company. All their designing games and their views of the future are expressed in the niche MacBook Pro with Retina, while classics always remain classics.

What is new for MacBook Air? The two models, 11" and 13", both got new Intel Core i5 and i7 CPU's (Ivy Bridge), Intel HD Graphics 4000, up to 512 GB SSD, and up to 8 GB of RAM. There are no big changes in pricing: "11-inch MacBook Air equipped with a 1.7-GHz CPU, 4 GB of RAM and a flash drive of 64 GB will be available in the USA at the recommended retail price of $999; the version featuring a 128-GB flash drive is offered at $1,099. The 13-inch MacBook Air equipped with a 1.8-GHz CPU and 4 GB of RAM is also offered with a 128-GB flash drive at $1,199, while the same model with a 256-GB flash drive will be available in the United States at $1,499. Custom versions may feature a 2.0-GHz Core i7 CPU, up to 8 GB of 1,600-MHz DDR3 RAM, and a 512-GB flash drive".

As for the MacBook Pro, changes have been made to the models with 13- and 15-inch screens: "The 13-inch MacBook Pro is equipped with the latest dual-core Intel Core i5 and Core i7 CPU's featuring clock frequencies of up to 2.9 GHz and the Turbo Boost technology increasing the frequency to 3.6 GHz. The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers the latest quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU's with clock frequencies of up to 2.7 GHz and the Turbo Boost technology increasing the frequency to 3.7 GHz, as well as NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M discrete graphics. Custom versions, both for 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, may feature HDD's of up to 1 TB or an SSD of up to 512 GB that offers double speeds if compared to the previous generation components."

What is really strange is that the MBP model with the 17-inch screen has disappeared from the manufacturer's website, and now there are only two models and the MBP with Retina there.

About the new AirPort Express

One of my favorite Apple accessories is the compact AirPort Express hotspot. I use it in my rented apartment. It is very comfortable: all you have to do is plug it into the power socket, connect the cable, spend five minutes for the settings – and it is ready. It works without any failures and has a 3.5-mm jack for speakers, so we can easily transmit music files from iTunes and other applications. I reviewed the old AirPort Express and I keep on recommending it to everyone as an alternative to all those zyxels and asuses, and there have been no complaints so far.

AirPort Express: dot the i's

Now the AirPort Express sports a new case design, 802.11n support, 3.5-mm input jack, and a USB port for printer connection. The price is about a hundred dollars, but it is too bad they have removed the plug from the package, so we have to use a cable. It looks very much similar to the Apple TV device of the latest generation. I believe they should not have rejected the wonderful feature of a one-piece case that did not require any cables.

About the modern MacBook Pro

I had been really wondering what Apple was going to present as "the future for all the laptops in the world", and it turned out to be very interesting, indeed. But the big question is why they decided not to put this new MBP into a new product line. My immediate answer to this question reads as follows: there is no need to spawn the matters. Today, even the official website produces some confusion: they are trying to draw the main attention to the MacBook Pro with Retina, but you can hardly find what is to be clicked when you want to reach the regular laptops. This situation will remain as it is until they complete the renovation of the entire MacBook Pro line: the cases will become more lightweight, in every kind of meaning, there will be new generation screens, as well as some other peculiar stuff. If someone decided to create something like a MacBook Ultra, they would have to explain to the customers why the Ultra is better than the Pro and what are the differences between them in general. But now, there will be a gradual rotation: the generations will change and everyone will remain happy.

And for now, once in a blue moon, we have got a niche offer from Apple. And it is becoming obvious why I cannot find my favorite 17-inch model on their website. A lot of people decided to choose the MBP 17 because of the screen resolution that allowed them not to pay too much attention to its weight or dimensions. But now… Now, I guess, seeing really means believing. The screen resolution is 2,880 х 1,800 pixels, the diagonal is 15.4 inches, the pixel density is 220 ppi. The compatibility of applications was the special issue under discussion at the presentation. It will be really interesting to see with your own eyes how third-party applications will look like. So now we will refrain from expressing any opinions.

But if you have the new iPad, you can imagine the same screen but with a 15-inch diagonal. I am really, really looking forward to seeing it. It will certainly be a real treasure for those working with photos and videos, as well as for those who beavers away at texts as much as I do. That is far from all though. Here is some official wording: "The new MacBook Pro Retina display is the world’s highest resolution notebook display with over 5 million pixels, 3 million more than an HD television. At 220 pixels-per-inch, the Retina display's pixel density is so high the human eye cannot distinguish individual pixels from a normal viewing distance, so text and graphics look incredibly sharp. The Retina display uses IPS technology for a 178-degree wide viewing angle, and has 75 percent less reflection and 29 percent higher contrast than the previous generation."

Apart from the incredible screen, the case has also been changed if compared to the other MacBook Pro models. Now it is thinner and lighter at 1.8 х 24.71 х 35.89 cm and 2.02 kg.

The impressive stuff inside: 2.3 or 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, 8 GB of RAM (1,600 MHz DDR3L), 256 or 512GB SSD. I wonder how many SSD's Apple has purchased and what other companies think of it. As you see the 512-GB drive is intended not only for the top version of the MBP, but also for the mainline models. Moreover, Apple uses the traditional separated graphics system: Intel HD Graphics 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M that is enabled when necessary.

Too bad we are left with only two USB ports, but we get a memory card slot and HDMI, finally. This can also be considered a revolutionary change for Apple, without any kind of special reservation. Of course, there are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, two microphones, high quality (as their representatives say) speakers, and an illuminated keyboard. The manufacturer claims 7 hours of operation time, with Wi-Fi turned on, and about 30 days of standby. The plug of the MagSafe 2 socket has become thinner, and this is certainly expected to appear in the next MacBooks Pro – the 13" screen model, for instance (of course, it will be a Retina display).

And here is the pricing info: "The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina is available at the Apple Online Store (www.apple.com), at Apple's retail shops and authorized resellers. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7 and the Turbo Boost technology increasing the clock frequency to 3.3 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and a 256-GB flash drive is available in the USA starting from $2,199. The version equipped with 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7 and Turbo Boost to 3.6 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of flash storage is offered in the States starting from $2,799. Custom versions may feature faster quad-core CPU's of up to 2.7 GHz, up to 16 GB of RAM and flash storage of up to 768 GB".

This is a very expensive laptop, not only for Apple, but the for the market in general. But are there any competitors? None! This is a niche offer, not for everyone, but for the most advanced and solvent purchasers. It is rather for those who has been using MacBook Pro for years and know what kind of machines they are and how reliable and helpful they can be, than for those who have just decided to try the Apple products. Of course, we should also mention the beauty and attractiveness of the solution: the 15-inch laptop is thin and relatively lightweight, with this kind of screen and power, and the battery life is long, too. So what may we expect from MacBook Pro with Retina? The market success! I remind you: it was back three years ago when Apple told the world about the non-removable batteries in laptops, long battery life even for the models with big-diagonal screens, unique touchpads, unibody cases, and lots of other things. It was all revolutionary then, but few people really noticed that, and still there are those who say that Apple only produces some beautiful things for blondes, and nothing else. Yes, it's true, but later every "asus" and "acer" makes good copies of all those Apple things. Now we cannot observe any real revolution, and probably, even Apple has its limit. But maybe, we have become so much choosy that even Retina in a laptop is not something serious or new to us? As well as seven hours of the battery life with Intel Core i7? Or two kilograms with this sort of specs, with metal and glass, and that special scent?

Well, I cannot say for you, but I am really looking forward to getting this laptop. It is an ideal machine for work. One of the best computers ever produced by Apple. And it is truly revolutionary, no doubts.

P.S.: Do I still have to mention what other laptop manufacturers will now be paying their attention to and what trends they will be trying to catch?

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion to be known to the author and everybody else.

Sergei Kuzmin (skuzmin@mobile-review.com)
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Translated by Serge Gomelsky (s_gomelsky@mail.ru)

Published — 14 June 2012

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