Intel-Powered MacBook Is Fast On Its Feet - InformationWeek

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3/24/2006
09:55 AM
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Intel-Powered MacBook Is Fast On Its Feet

The switch to Intel's Core Duo from IBM's PowerPC chip lets the Apple MacBook Pro leap a generation beyond PowerBooks while using emulation to support most existing software applications as programmers update them.

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Pro
In a real-world comparison between my workhorse 2-1/2- year-old, 15-inch PowerBook G4 (1 GHz) and the MacBook Pro, the Intel system blows away the earlier device's performance. Part of the speed improvements, as well as the lighter weight and thinner form factor, are thanks to Intel's Core Duo processor, which packs two separate computing cores into a single chip without a dramatic increase in power or heat. Apple also redesigned the system around a 667-MHz system bus and PCI Express.

The MacBook Pro includes Rosetta, a PowerPC emulator that ships with all systems running the Intel version of Mac OS X. Some software won't run under Rosetta, such as Apple's professional video and audio programs, though these are due to be released in compatible versions this month. Apple also has abandoned Classic emulation, a method of running pre-Unix Mac OS 9 applications within Mac OS X 10.0 and later. Companies such as Adobe and Microsoft may charge full-version upgrade fees when they release universal versions of their suites.

This laptop is the first to come with Front Row, Apple's cut at turning the Mac into a home entertainment console. With an infrared remote control and using the notebook's 15.1-inch LCD or an external monitor, you can browse music, movies, and photographs, and play DVDs. Front Row works well enough, using large, easy-to-read menus and graphics, although navigation is slightly fussy.

Apple cut a few corners over its previous PowerBook model. It removed the dial-up modem, now a $50 USB-connected extra; there's no built-in S-Video port, although a $19 adapter is available; and FireWire 800 was dropped. There's no PC Card slot, either. And the SuperDrive (DVD/CD burner) writes a DVD-R at 4x instead of 8x. But Apple added a few extras, including a built-in iSight camera for videoconferencing via iChat AV and recording video, dual-link DVI support for 30-inch LCDs, and better range for its Wi-Fi connections. Reports indicate that the Wi-Fi adapter will connect to 802.11a (5 GHz) networks, as well as 802.11b/g (2.4 GHz).

The MacBook Pro clearly is poised for the next generation of laptop use, and it's a worthwhile upgrade for users with older PowerBooks. More recent PowerBook buyers or those considering one should evaluate their current software use to make sure universal binaries exist before committing to the next great thing. Prices start at $1,999 for 1.87-GHz Core Duo, 512 Mbytes of RAM, 128 Mbytes of video RAM, and an 80-Gbyte drive.

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