Monday, November 20, 2006

Apple Computer has had 30 good years and 2006 will go down as one of the company’s best, if not the best, so far.

Within the past two weeks, Apple has upgraded the Intel processors in two of its portables, the MacBook and MacBook Pro, offering greater speed at the same price as earlier models.

If the former computers were good values, the new models are superb values worth considering for an end-of-year purchase or for holiday gift giving.

The MacBook Pro, with its 15-inch screen and 2.33 gigahertz Intel Core 2 Duo processors, would be a very good choice for many traveling business people.

The screen is large without being overbearing (Apple offers a 17-inch version, but it’s unwieldy) and as delivered for review, with 2 gigabytesof RAM and a 160-GB hard drive, it certainly offers enough capacity for most road warriors. Configured as described, count on spending $2,599 for this model.



Along with size and a marginally more powerful CPU chip than the smaller MacBook sent for review, what’s nice about the MacBook Pro is its made-for-business styling, the ability to handle up to 3 GB of RAM, or 50 percent more than a maxed-out MacBook, and a better graphics card, ATI’s Mobility Radeon X1600, with 256 megabytes of dedicated RAM. In contrast, the MacBook uses an Intel graphics processor that shares 64 MB of RAM with the main system memory.

What this means is that for the on-the-road photographer or filmmaker, the MacBook Pro — and probably a 17-inch version for Mr. Spielberg — is your best bet. The same goes for other creative types who need a bit more power and performance.

Processor-to-processor, however, I don’t know if the .33 GHz advantage of the MacBook Pro over its smaller sibling is compelling; when the RAM and graphics are factored in, it becomes a different story for many of us.

For me, though, I’d probably want to spend about $800 less on a very nicely equipped MacBook and spend the balance on a digital camera or some such thing.

The MacBook, with which I fell in love last summer while toting one around southwestern Turkey, is back in a new and improved model with a 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo chip and up to 2 GB of RAM and a 160-GB hard disk drive, all this for $1,774 from Apple.

All that is more than enough for me, and perhaps for many other people. But you can go up to a 200-GB hard drive on both the MacBook and Pro models.

In performance, the MacBook earns my respect for several things. One is its sleek design, which isn’t James Bondlike, but is stylish enough. The Chiclets-style keyboard grows on you; at least it grew on me, and I prefer typing on it a bit more than the MacBook Pro’s keys.

Other features of the MacBook work very nicely, including the built-in Wi-Fi antenna and ISight camera. Sound quality is very good, and there are enough ports to connect a range of peripherals. My earlier endorsement of both MacBook models, basic and Pro, stands, and is enhanced with more bang for your computing buck. Oh, and do I need to remind you that with Parallels Workstation software, you can run Microsoft Windows (if needed) alongside the Mac OS? Details on the machines at www.apple.com.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs/.

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