Contains Spoilers

Engadget just posted the first real picture and accurate description I’ve seen in public of the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, set to be announced later today. It’s the real deal. Major visible changes from the previous MacBook Pros:

  • A new iMac-style black border around the display.
  • A single-piece aluminum frame. No more chintzy plastic trim along the edges and seams.
  • No more physical latch.
  • MacBook Air-style black keyboard.

And good news for those of you who’ve been bitching about Apple’s laptops having a single button: the single-button trackpad is gone. Which is to say there is no button at all. The new trackpad is similar to the Air’s, in that it is bigger and supports additional multi-touch gestures. But unlike the Air’s, the MacBook Pro’s new trackpad is made of glass, and is a button itself. You just press and it clicks. This is not like the current software option where you can enable “Tap to Click” in the trackpad preferences, but instead a glass trackpad that acts as a physical button, with a click you can feel. Sounds odd, but I hear it’s very cool in practice.

The new MacBook Pro is not available with a matte-finish display. If you don’t like glossy, you can suck it. (I bought a matte-finish display for my MacBook Pro back in March, so don’t shoot the messenger.)

Engadget is also correct that there is no new 17-inch MacBook Pro. I don’t know if the 17-inch revision is simply forthcoming, or whether it’s being phased out. My hunch is that it’s being phased out. The current 17-inch model will remain for sale for the time being — albeit with a larger 320 GB hard drive and 4 GB of RAM instead of 2 — but there is no 17-inch model with the features or appearance of the new 15-inch Pro.

I have some educated guesses as to what else will be announced.

The new regular MacBooks look like 13-inch versions of the new MacBook Pro. Another single-piece all-aluminum chassis, the same black border around the display, and the same new no-button multi-touch trackpads. The displays are backlit LEDs, like the 15-inch Pros. (Engadget, which is reporting that the regular MacBooks aren’t being revised, is wrong. They’re not just being announced but should be shipping by the end of the week.)

The updated Airs look the same as the current Airs, but now offer larger hard drives: a 120 GB disk in the low-end model, and a twice-as-large 128 GB solid-state drive in the high-end model.

CPU performance remains more or less unchanged across the board: 2.4 / 2.53 GHz for the MacBook Pro; 2.0 / 2.4 GHz for the MacBook; and 1.6 / 1.83 GHz for the MacBook Air. What is new with regard to performance are the video cards: all these new MacBooks — regular, Pro, and Air — ship with the new Nvidia 9400M GPU. It’s apparently a screamer performance-wise, especially compared to the Intel integrated graphic chipsets that shipped with previous MacBooks and MacBook Airs, and it is capable of driving the 30-inch Cinema Display as an external monitor.1

In addition to the 9400M, the MacBook Pro sports a second GPU, the Nvidia 9600M GT. I have never heard of a notebook with two graphics processors, but that’s the deal for the new MacBook Pros, and presumably there are huge performance advantages to this configuration. Update: Via Twitter, Stuart Maxwell writes, “The Lenovo Thinkpad T500 has two graphics cards. One is used on battery to conserve power.” Apparently some Sony Vaios use dual graphic cards like this, too — a low-power one for battery, a high-power one when plugged-in.

(Recall, too, that taking advantage of GPUs for system-wide performance gains is one of the main focal points for Snow Leopard. Snow Leopard’s OpenCL allows applications to offload general computing tasks to the GPU. Or, I guess, the GPUs, plural.)

Keep your eyes peeled for jackassery in post-event news coverage, much of which, I predict, will focus on the fact that none of these new machines sell for under $1299. The reality is that these new machines are all steps up, but the rumors that caught the most attention in the past week were the ones regarding $799 and $899 laptops. None of these “$800 new MacBook!” rumors came from anyone with any credibility, but that won’t stop some people from holding it against Apple that they didn’t pan out.

MacBook Pro prices will remain the same, at $1999 and $2499. Same for MacBook Airs: $1799 and $2499. Regular MacBook pricing is interesting, though. In the old (plastic) MacBook lineup, there were three standard configurations:

  • $1099: 2.1 GHz, white, 1 GB memory, 120 GB disk
  • $1299: 2.4 GHz, white, 2 GB memory, 160 GB disk
  • $1499: 2.4 GHz, black, 2 GB memory, 250 GB disk

In the new (aluminum) MacBook lineup, there are only two standard configurations:

  • $1299: 2.0 GHz, 2 GB memory, 160 GB disk
  • $1499: 2.4 GHz, 2 GB memory, 250 GB disk

Which is notable in that the new $1299 model sports a CPU that is 16 percent slower than the old one. That is not to say the system itself is “slower”, Apple’s argument will apparently be that the new Nvidia GPUs more than make up for the difference. What we’re seeing may be the beginning of the end of CPU hertz as the rule-of-thumb metric for system performance.

Also notable is that the 2.1 GHz white MacBook remains in the new lineup, at a new price of $999 — technically breaking the $1000 barrier, but nowhere near the $800 price point some financial analysts have been whacking off to.

  1. It can also drive the new $899 24-inch Apple LED Display that no one knows about, which is being introduced at the same event. ↩︎