Apple tweaks MacBook line

But there was no move to the new Intel 'Santa Rosa' chip set

Apple Inc. updated its MacBook consumer laptop line today by boosting hard disk capacity and bumping up processor speeds across the board. Prices, however, didn't change.

All three MacBook models now sport 1GB of memory -- the lowest-priced portable had only 512MB before today -- and boast either 2.0GHz or 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo 2 processors. Previously, MacBooks were equipped with 1.83GHz or 2.0GHz chips.

Todd Benjamin, Apple's director of portables product marketing, bragged about the speed increases. He said iLife '06, the design suite bundled with the computers, runs 24% to 37% faster on the new models compared with the original, Core Duo-equipped MacBooks that debuted last year.

Other variations to the MacBook configurations include larger hard drives -- now 80GB to 160GB -- and faster optical drives on the top two models, while former standards, such as 802.11n wireless, integrated iSight video camera and Mac OS X 10.4.x (Tiger), remain in place. All MacBooks feature a 13.3-in. display and can be optioned with a 200GB hard drive.

As for prices, the three-SKU lineup starts at $1,099 for a computer with a 2.0GHz processor, 1GB memory and 80GB drive. The top-of-the-line MacBook, a black unit fleshed out with a 2.16GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB drive, costs $1,499. The midrange MacBook runs $1,299.

Would-be buyers hoping that recent rumors might come true -- that the new systems would be backlit by power-saving LEDs, for instance -- were disappointed. Ditto for those expecting to see Apple jump on Intel's "Santa Rosa" variation of its Centrino mobile platform.

Although several PC manufacturers, including Dell and Lenovo, have rushed Santa Rosa -- officially it's Centrino Duo -- to market, Apple will take its time. "The MacBook already delivers key features of the new Santa Rosa platform," Benjamin argued. "So, with the new MacBooks, we decided to provide faster processors, 1GB of memory standard and larger hard drives in all models."

Comments by Apple users on enthusiast sites such as The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) ran cold and hot.

"Not even Santa Rosa on these baby[sic]? So dissapointing [sic]," said user Hon Win Woon today.

"Wow, what a lame update," added Thad.

"Let's review. Apple quietly upgrades the speed of the CPU, doubles the RAM on the base model, doubles the cache, adds a faster optical drive, and larger hard drives...All without raising the prices one red cent," retorted Tony.

The MacBooks are available now from Apple's online store -- which was offline for a while this morning while it was updated to reflect the new MacBook configurations -- its own retail outlets and Apple resellers.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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