Apple gets lauded constantly for creating great products. But are its products really that phenomenal, or are rivals simply not competing?
Let's look at the MacBook Pros, the archetype of Apple industrial design (I'll focus on other product categories in future posts). As I've written before, they're the essence of chic: gorgeous, well-made, and well-equipped.
But are they really that good, or are PC makers like Hewlett-Packard--as an example of the most potent rival--simply dropping the ball?
HP sells a lot of business laptops. Its EliteBook line (and more recently its ProBook line) populate the desks of many large companies in the U.S. and abroad. That's undisputed. However, I'm not talking about conventional workhorse laptops. I'm talking about designs that create a buzz and, ultimately, define a company as truly different--like Apple's MacBook Pros.
So, what did HP come up with as a "different" design in response to the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air? The Envy (a kind of follow-on to the ultrathin Voodoo Envy). When I first saw the Envy 13 and 15 last fall (just after the line was announced) on display at a conference, I could see HP was on the right track and, in fact, the Envy 13 beat the Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro in some respects, as I spelled out.
But, now, about six months later, and just after a MacBook Pro refresh, it's apparent the Envy isn't winning the race. Yes, the 13-inch Envy is thin and light. But not remarkably so. Yes, it's attractive, but not different enough to send throngs of consumers scurrying away from the MacBook Pro. And the Envy 13 seems doomed to fail at $1,499. Most consumers compare it to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is priced at $1,199, a whopping $300 less. That's not competition, that's capitulation.… Read more
Docking stations tend to be expensive as the devices have to replicate common ports while being hooked up to the host computer via ExpressCard or USB slots. The Henge Dock however, is not only an elegant solution, but surprisingly affordable.
Designed to dock with a MacBook's left edge where all the connectors are, this peripheral has a pass-through system where the individual ports can be accessed via the dock. Don't need all the connectors? The Henge Dock's retractable ports allow you to select the ones to use.
The Henge Dock is currently available only for the 13.… Read more
Editors' note: In an effort to answer as many reader queries as possible, we turn to CNET Labs' Julie Rivera, who will tackle some of your more pressing laptop and portable computing questions in this public forum.
Dear Julie, I am trying to decide between getting one of the new [Intel Core i7] 15-inch MacBook Pro vs. a 27-inch iMac with a Core i7 processor. I find that my mid-2007 vintage MacBook Pro is really chugging when I try to make home movies using iMovie. Is there a significant difference in performance between these two computers? I would normally wait … Read more
We may publicly scoff at the Star Wars and Star Trek fanboys in our tech/games social circle, but still maintain our secret loyalty to a certain BBC-based time-traveling hero. Sadly, following the 47-year (on and off) run of "Doctor Who" has never paid off in the form of a decent mainstream video game. That may be about to change with the just-announced release date for the first episode of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, a four-part DLC series that will be offered for free on the BBC Web site. The series kicks off with the June 5 … Read more
We have our hands on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro here at CNET, and have been putting it through its benchmark paces. In the meantime, we've been eager to see what differentiates this 2010 update from the 2009 version. While we had a wish list of features we wanted to see included and were disappointed that a handful were omitted, there are some key improvements that we're glad to see.
The 2009 13-inch MacBook Pro was one of our favorite laptops, and we were greatly hoping that the 2010 update would feature Intel's new Core processor series. It turned out that Core i5 and i7 CPUs are only in the 15-inch and 17-inch 2010 MacBook Pros, while the new 13-incher still has a Core 2 Duo processor that's been bumped to slightly faster versions.
It's a bit disappointing, as it puts the aluminum 13-incher a step behind its older brothers for the time being, and makes the 2010 MacBook Pro 15-inch the leader of the new MacBook pack.
On the other hand, there are other modest but notable improvements. The integrated Nvidia graphics have been updated to Nvidia's new GeForce 320M processor. It's an improvement over the already serviceable GeForce 9400M integrated graphics the 13-inch MacBook Pro has had since fall 2008, and should help this MacBook keep pace with current games. It's not a high-level processor, but it's far more than any thin portable laptop in this range usually has.
Most importantly, the battery life on this new MacBook Pro has been boosted again. This year's boosts, according to Apple, come from a combination of CPU efficiency and new battery chemistry, despite having a similar-size integrated battery in the same slim chassis. Our early benchmarks show six hours of run time on our video playback battery drain test, approaching an hour longer than last year's model. … Read more
I've had the 32GB iPad for almost two weeks now and I'm really happy with my purchase. There are not as many apps available at this early stage as I had hoped, but I suspect that there are many developers working furiously to make their app ready for the new device.
So far, most of the apps I've tried for iPad are fine-tuned, HD versions of their iPhone counterparts. While it can be a little hit or miss as far as whether they are worth the extra cash (especially if you already paid for them on iPhone), … Read more
Apple has made version 3.2.2 of their Xcode developer tools available, which is primarily a bug fix for the debugger and interface builder, as well as the llvm-gcc compiler and some of Apple's optimization tools including Clang and Shark. The update also addresses bugs with Interface Builder. If you have earlier versions of Xcode, keep in mind that this update will need to be installed over OS 10.6.2 or later.… Read more
Nvidia is once again playing a central role in Apple's new MacBooks, curbing to some extent the immense influence of industry giant Intel.
In order to understand what Apple is--and has been--doing with its MacBook Pro design, jettison the conventional notion of an Intel-centric PC universe. Graphics oomph defines the MacBook experience. "They have affirmed the message Nvidia has been sending," said Ben Bajarin with Creative Strategies.
That message is more reliance on the GPU, or graphics processing unit and, hence, equal standing with Intel's CPU, or central processing unit. An idea that dovetails nicely with Apple's focus on providing a premium multimedia experience centered on "photos, movies, music"--as Apple describes it.
"Incremental [processing] workloads are being driven more by video and graphics and that's where Nvidia comes into play," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw. Says Bajarin: "Apple is strategically writing software that is able to harness the GPU."
Indeed, the most talked-about new feature in the MacBook Pro systems announced last week is the ability to switch on the fly from the energy-efficient, less-capable Intel graphics to more powerful Nvidia graphics, a process that Apple calls automatic graphics switching. "They absolutely don't want to make any compromise relative to high-end graphics," said Van Baker, an analyst at the Gartner Group.
Another indication of Apple's emphasis on graphics processing over the CPU is the recently updated 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple chose to not upgrade from the older Intel Core 2 processor design, but rather to upgrade the Nvidia graphics chip. "The combination of a GPU and a lower-performance Intel CPU actually yields better benchmarks and performance and is priced more favorably," Bajarin said. Baker, meanwhile, points out that Apple also had "space constraints within that design while they wanted high-end graphics performance."
This emphasis on Nvidia graphics in laptops is not a recent trend.… Read more