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First take: New MacBook Pro 'one cool customer'

The Core 2 Duo-based laptops offer more speed, less heat

November 2, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple Computer Inc.'s newest MacBook pro is one cool customer.

Literally.

The new MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo processor.
The new MacBook Pro with a Core 2 Duo processor.

Sure it's got the new Core 2 Duo processor, which offers a speed bump from 2.16 GHz to 2.33 GHz. (The first-generation MacBook Pros topped out at 2.16 GHz and used Intel's Core Duo chip.) But what a difference that "2" in the processor name makes.

For speed demons, this is the fastest laptop Apple has yet offered. Aside from the fact that it's about 8% faster in terms of clock speed, underlying changes to the processor design -- especially a doubling of the Level 2 cache memory from 2MB to 4MB -- mean the uptick in speed is noticeable.

The 15-in. versions of the new MacBook Pro -- unveiled just last week -- are already getting into buyers' waiting hands, and the 17-in. versions are set to ship next week. (I certainly hope so. I have one on order myself, so if you're repeatedly clicking on the "order status" button at the Apple Store site, hoping to find your 17-in. MacBook Pro has finally shipped -- well, let's just say I feel your pain.)

Until then, the only hardware on hand to compare with the earlier models is the 15-in. version. Apple loaned one out for review purposes and it arrived on Wednesday. Although I haven't had time to put it through all its paces, I wanted to offer a quick first look at how this iteration stacks up to its older laptop brethren for those eyeing them in stores.

Unlike most incremental upgrades between models, I'd say the shift from the Core Duo to the Core 2 Duo -- in tandem with some strategic moves by Apple to make the new laptops even more of a value -- is a bigger deal than usual. In the not-so-distant past, a laptop "update" usually meant a slightly faster processor, a slightly larger hard drive, maybe some more video RAM and -- well, that was sometimes about all there was.

This time, would-be buyers get a better and faster processor with a number of under-the-hood changes that keep heat and power use under control; a substantial upgrade in hard drive options that includes a 200GB drive for mobile users who really need storage space, a standard 120GB drive as well as a 160GB drive that uses new perpendicular technology; and an across-the-board doubling of RAM to either 1GB or 2GB depending on which MacBook Pro you're talking about. Prices remain the same.

The built-in site web cam now has a hidden on-light.
The built-in iSight web cam now has a hidden on-light.
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