- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

The MacBook Pro from Apple Computer, base price $2,499 for the speedier 2.0 GHz Intel Pentium “Core Duo” model, succeeds in combining the elegance of the Mac operating system with the speedier power of the processors that have long powered Windows-based PCs.

The model I tested, however, costs $600 more for an extra gigabyte of RAM, a $300 premium, and the even-faster 2.16 GHz processor upgrade, another $300 addition.

Add $49 for an external modem, since this is the first portable Mac in my memory to not have a built-in modem. Wireless Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections are included, however, as is an Ethernet port for local networks.

I’m someone who uses a Mac notebook, albeit an older PowerBook, as my office computer. It’s a nice machine that travels well, even if it’s on a notebook stand, connected to a network and desktop-sized keyboard and mouse most of the time. Having that perspective lets me judge the MacBook Pro on some additional criteria.

This new notebook, for example, sports the same 15-inch display of its predecessor, but the layout is now in a “wide screen” format that should make watching videos more movielike.

As has happened over the past couple of years, Apple has made the cases from aluminum rather than titanium, and the keyboards are different, too. The firm says the keyboards are less likely to allow oily residues to transfer to the screen, but I’d use a protective cloth cover, nonetheless.

Also new are a built-in ISight video camera and microphone, and the “Front Row” software that allows users to watch videos, play music and look at photos easily — all via a handy remote control. New, and very nice, is the power adapter with what Apple calls a “MagSafe” connector.

Yank on the connector and it snaps away from the computer — magnets hold it in place. This is an improvement on the old-style power connectors, which, if you dragged or snagged one accidentally, would drag the computer along for the ride.

Having transferred my old files and settings from my existing PowerBook to the new model, I’ve used the MacBook Pro in a variety of settings. It generally performs as well as the old machine, except is faster in most instances, including during start-up, program loading and the execution of some tasks.

Saving a Microsoft Word file, for example, is incredibly fast now.

Other applications are just plain fun. I’m enjoying listening to AOL’s radio service as I write, and the sound from the built-in speakers is very, very good. There seems to be a hiccup on Apple’s ITunes when it comes to playing movie “trailers”; some work, while others seem to crash the software. But that’s about the only performance issue I’ve experienced.

The new machine heats up quite a bit, however. I recommend the purchase of a LapWorks Laptop Desk as an accessory.

If I were shopping for a Mac portable now, I’d seriously consider the MacBook Pro, even if this configuration’s $3,000-plus price tag may cause an information-technology director to gasp. It’s a quality machine that offers a good deal for the money. Now, I can hardly wait to see the next level of Intel-based Mac notebooks, which I hope will be more affordable while retaining some of the new processing platform’s advantages.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us.

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