Review: Apple's new 'unibody' MacBook Pro has both beauty and brains

Carved from a single block of aluminum, it's a solid update in more ways than one

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Prices for the two MacBook Pros remain unchanged: $1,999 for the 2.4-GHz "basic" model and $2,499 for the slightly faster 2.53-GHz model, which also doubles the standard amount of RAM to 4GB and offers more storage space. Both weigh about the same as the previous model -- 5.5 lbs. -- but they're slimmer, checking in at 0.95 in. thick with the lid closed.

Not all is perfect in Mac-land. If you're a fan of FireWire 400, you'll be annoyed to learn that Apple has dropped that connector port, leaving behind a single FireWire 800 port and two USB 2.0 ports. FireWire 400 has been largely supplanted in the marketplace by USB 2.0, but it still has lots of fans -- not surprising, given that Apple was an early backer and countless video cameras, hard drives and other peripherals have used it for years.

All of the MacBook Pro's ports are on the left side now. Note: There's no FireWire 400 port now.

All of the MacBook Pro's ports are on the left side now. Note: There's no FireWire 400 port now.

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The loss of FireWire 400 means that users who like to rely on the FireWire-only Target Disk Mode to move files between two connected Macs will need to change their habits -- or at the very least get a new cable. Longtime Mac users aren't happy about the lost port. Apple officials note that you can buy a cable with a FireWire 800 connector at one end and a FireWire 400 connector at the other and continue using using Target Disk Mode as before. Or you can transfer files over an Ethernet connection or a wireless network.

If you're doing as you should and regularly backing up your hard drive's contents with Apple's Time Machine backup app, you can use that to copy files, too. Using the Migration Assistant, located in the Utilities folder, I was able to move 70GB of files and data to the review system from my own Time Machine backup drive in about two hours.

What's not new

The new 15-in. MacBook Pro next to last year's 17-in. MacBook Pro.

The new 15-in. MacBook Pro next to last year's 17-in. MacBook Pro.

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While the 15-in. models get the new unibody look and feel, those of us who've come to love the 17-in. version will have to wait. The larger model soldiers on in the same old aluminum style Apple has used for years.

A week ago, it was the epitome of style, and -- as Apple officials are quick to note -- it's still the slimmest of the big-screen laptops. But compared to the new models, it now looks somehow... tired. At least Apple made the high-resolution screen standard -- it's a stunning screen -- and it's now LED-backlit. The price remains unchanged at $2,799.

I'm hoping the 17-in. model will get the same unibody treatment; maybe we'll see one at Apple's next MacWorld Expo in January, but Apple officials were mum on that prospect when asked. Ditto when I asked about the super-svelte MacBook Air, which received minor tweaks to boost its graphics hardware and hard drives but remains largely unchanged from its predecessor.

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