Apple Buyer's Guide: From MacBook Air To XServe - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

Apple Buyer's Guide: From MacBook Air To XServe

We compared the Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, the iMac, the Mac Mini, and XServe, to help you choose the Apple computer that's right for you.

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro, available in 15-inch and 17-inch screens, gives you high-end capability in a portable size.
(click for image gallery)

For a laptop that provides high-end features and power, and is a true desktop replacement for power users, the MacBook Pro delivers the goods. Both the 15-inch and 17-inch models are fully fitted with expansion ports (USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and 800, DVI video, optical/analog audio in and out, and ExpressCard), and the latest version includes up to 4 Gbytes of 667-MHz RAM and an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU at up to 2.6-Ghz speeds.

802.11n wireless capability plus Gigabit Ethernet provides external connectivity and the Nvidia GeForce 8600M graphics card provides very solid, if not blazing, performance while still being relatively frugal on power. We've seen MacBook Pros used as portable multimedia production stations, and they can do just about anything a desktop can do, in a well-designed and portable package.

All that power doesn't come particularly cheap -- the 15-inch starts at $1,999 and the 17-inch begins at $2,799, so if budget is your top concern and you don't need the full capacity of the Pro, Apple has provided the MacBook to meet your needs.


The MacBook is positioned as Apple's "consumer" laptop, but it is also an economical business laptop for those who don't need the full capabilities, or price, of the MacBook Pro. Eschewing the brushed aluminum of Pro for a clean black or white chassis, and downsizing from a 15-inch or 17-inch screen to a crisp and well-lit 13.3-inch screen, the MacBook is smaller and ligher, and uses an integrated graphics processor instead of the more powerful, but also more expensive, Nvidia graphics card in the Pro.

You can still get up to 4 GB of RAM and the hard drive options go all the way up to 250 GB, but the starting price of the basic MacBook, at $1,099, is about half that of the lowest-priced MacBook Pro. Both laptops use an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU with the processor speed of the MacBook being a notch or two slower than the Pro, at 2.1 GHz or 2.4 GHz. Apple has positioned the MacBook as an affordable all-around laptop and it delivers on the promise, giving good performance at a budget price. As small and light as the MacBook is, Apple has another option for those for whom even 5 pounds is a couple of pounds too many.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is a study in compromises. If you want one of the lightest, smallest, most mobile full-featured laptops available, the Air is the one you want, and fair warning, when you hold one in your hands, it's very hard to resist the allure. Sure, it currently has the highest "wow, cool" factor and geek-envy quotient out there (and the Air plus an iPhone is the obvious digerati's choice), but the real reason you'd want one is maximum portability -- the combination of light weight, sleek design, and capability is genuinely amazing.

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