Comparison: New MacBook Pros and two year old Revision A MacBook Pro

As expected, the new MacBook Pros were released yesterday. Apple upgraded the processors and hard drive configurations and added multi-touch features to the trackpad.

While nice to get some better specs at the same price points, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of new features because I am in the market for a new laptop. I currently own a Revision A 15" MacBook Pro that I bought when it was announced at Macworld in January 2006. It just turned two years old and has many dents and scrapes and the case isn't terribly solid. Case issues can be attributed to its insides being replaced - due to my early adopter status and a turbulance incident where it was thrown from the overhead compartment. The battery also isn't what it used to be, but overall, it still works great.

When I bought it, it was decked out - 2 Gb Ram, 2.16Ghz Core Duo, 120Gb hard drive. At home it runs a 30 inch monitor and happily runs all the apps I need, on the road it is a great machine to write on and do Illustrator and Photoshop, VMWare/Windows XP, some light video editing and of course, blogging.

So where is my reason to upgrade? Apple, over the past two years hasn't done anything but incremental upgrades to this machine. MacRumors has a breakdown of the major changes in Revs A (February 2006) through E (yesterday, February 26, 2008). While significant and covering the spectrum of laptop parts, it isn't as compelling as you'd think.

Yes, I can double the RAM to 4Gb with a new MacBook Pro purchase, which will certainly help me when running lots of apps with VMWare. However, for what most people do, 2Gb is plenty. I can wait on that.

I can also double the hard drive space with an laptop upgrade. I could also just buy a 300Gb 2.5 inch SATA drive and install it myself for about $200. I currently use a 100mbps Fiber Internet connected 1Tb Server for most of my media which leaves plenty of room on my MacBook Pro.

The processor: I can update from a 2.16 GHz Core Duo to a 2.4-2.6 Penryn which will give me some performance benefits and together with a new battery and the brighter LED display will give me much more battery time. I could also just buy a new battery - if battery life was a deal-maker. Like I said before, 2.16GHz is doing me just fine. Also the new Penryns run cooler? I like warming my house with my Rev A.

The video card? Like I said, I can run my 30 inch display at native resolution on my two-year-old machine. I don't do 3-D graphics nor do I play many games so I don't know what I would do with the upgraded video cards.

The multi-touch trackpad is nice but Apple hasn't really put the amount of functionality in the technology to where it is a deal-maker. Further OS upgrades might change this.

The newer machines also have better wireless, 802.11N vs. G. Since most wireless routers are still G and the Internet is usually the bottleneck, this also isn't a deal-maker.

Finally, the iSight camera on the newer MacBook Pros has the capability to capture higher resolution video. Apple hasn't enabled this functionality in its software yet so no loss.

The DVD recorder is twice as fast (8x vs. 4x) and does dual layer.  Meh. 

What's missing?

Everything else is essentially the same. I still would have to use an Express Card to get 3G Internet access. Still no Blu Ray for HD movies or storage. No eSATA port connector. No SSD options. Higher density screen? New case design? Nada.

In fact, if it wasn't for the dents, my two year old machine would be virtually indistinguishable from the just anounced MacBook Pro. Apple has carried the same basic design for over four years and extends back to 2003 when it switched from the G4 Titanium Powerbook.

So I won't be updating my MacBook Pro this time around - it will have to wait until the next revision or when this thing starts dying. Maybe I'd be better served to get a MacBook Air or similar - which I'd rather wait on as well.

Don't get me wrong, though. My decision not to upgrade isn't because the new MacBook Pro isn't an incredible machine - it does lack some things that might make me upgrade like integratd 3G or a new design. It is really because the Rev A MacBook Pro was way ahead of its time and has most of the technology that modern laptops require. In two more years, people who buy this weeks laptop will probably feel the same way.

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