Apple unveils pumped-up MacBooks, MacBook Pros

They get faster Penryn processors, more storage and, on the Pro, multi-touch track pad.

After several weeks of speculation, Apple Tuesday refreshed its laptop lines by shifting to faster, more power-efficient 45-nanometer Penryn processors from Intel and bumping up the size of the systems' hard drives.

Prices for the new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops remained unchanged.

"This is what we had been expecting," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research.

The high-end MacBook Pro line, which features models with 15-in. and 17-in. LCDs, also received processor transplants and brawnier hard drives. But the higher-end notebooks now sport the new gesture-based multi-touch track pad first introduced last month in the ultralight MacBook Air. Unlike the Air, however, which offers a larger track pad, the MacBook Pro's version remains unchanged in size from previous models.

"Multi-touch is a nice differentiator for Apple," said Gottheil. "I just don't know how easy it is for others to do the same thing." Because it's a way for Apple to separate its wares from those of other vendors, the new track-pad feature will continue to expand its reach. "It's propagating through the line, and I'd expect it to end up in the MacBook the next time around," Gottheil added.

The MacBook Pros also sport double the video memory of their predecessors, and the 17-in. system now includes an LED-backlit screen option to match the standard mercury-free displays in the 15-in. models.

The video RAM boost is an attempt to answer demands from hard-core gamers, many of whom run Microsoft's Windows, either in a virtual machine or from Apple's own Boot Camp dual-boot application, said Gottheil. "It looks like they're trying to make it more viable as a flat-out game machine," he said.

Priced at AU$2699, AU$3,399 and AU$3,799, the MacBook Pro models are powered by 2.4-GHz and 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo chips, include 2GB of memory, and pack 200GB and 250GB drives.

The MacBook lineup, which features three models, all sporting a 13.3-in. displays, now boasts Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1-GHz and 2.4-GHz processors. The trio also packs hard drives that boost storage capacity over yesterday's models by 33% to 56%. Other specifications remain the same for the three MacBooks, which still list for AU$1,499, AU$1,799 and AU$2,099.

The entry-level Apple laptop includes 1GB of memory, a CD-RW/DVD optical drive, integrated graphics and a built-in iSight video camera. The more expensive MacBooks feature 2GB of RAM, optical drives that also allow DVD recording, and in the highest-priced model, a black (rather than white) plastic case.

Missing from Tuesday's product rollout, however, were Time Capsule, the wireless storage appliance CEO Steve Jobs unveiled last month at Macworld, and the iPhone SDK (software development kit), which Jobs has also promised will debut this month.

The new MacBook and MacBook Pro portables are available now from Apple's own online store and retail chain, as well as its authorized resellers, the company said. According to the Apple online outlet, MacBooks will ship within 24 hours, but the new MacBook Pro models ship one to four days after ordering.

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Gregg Keizer

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