Apple quietly boosts MacBook speed, battery life

Despite upgrades, it keeps the price at $999

Apple today quietly refreshed its entry-level MacBook laptop, boosting the processor speed and inserting a longer-life battery.

The MacBook remains priced at $999.

Apple bumped the MacBook's Intel Core 2 Duo processor speed to 2.4GHz, up from 2.2GHz, and replaced the battery with a 10-hr. battery to match the estimate that it uses in the higher-priced MacBook Pro line. Like the batteries used in those more expensive cousins, the MacBook's is within the case, and cannot be swapped out by the user.

The MacBook now sports Nvidia's GeForce 320M integrated graphics, the specially-made-for-Apple successor to the GeForce 9400M, the MacBook's former chipset. The GeForce 320M also powers the two lowest-priced 13-in. MacBook Pro laptops, priced at $1,199 and $1,499.

Unchanged in the MacBook are the amount of memory (2GB), hard disk storage space (250GB) and the white polycarbonate case. The MacBook is the only Apple notebook that does not feature an aluminum "unibody" enclosure.

The revamp was not unexpected. On Saturday, a Vietnamese forum published a series of shots that showed an unboxing of the new MacBook. The forum also accurately reported that the new notebook would include a 2.4GHz processor and the GeForce 320M graphics.

It was the second time in a week that a Vietnamese technology forum had revealed details of an unreleased Apple product. Previously, a different forum had posted photographs of a second leaked next-generation iPhone, confirming analysts' expectations that the new smartphone would rely on the same Apple-designed processor as the iPad.

Apple last updated the MacBook in October, when it boosted the Intel processor from 2.13GHz to 2.2GHz. The MacBook also received a battery upgrade last year, to an estimated seven hours.

The tweaked MacBook is available immediately at Apple's retail stores and online.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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