Apple updates MacBooks with Core 2 Duo chips

New models claimed to be up to six times faster

Apple Computer Wednesday announced upgraded MacBooks featuring a new generation of Intel processors that promise faster performance in the company's popular line of consumer-oriented laptops.

"We have a whole new line of MacBooks," Dave Moody, Apple's vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing, said in an interview. "The new feature is the Core 2 Duo [processor]. We now have Core 2 Duo across our entire [portable] product line."

The move follows by two weeks Apple's upgrade of its professional line of MacBook Pro laptops to the same processor from Intel Corp. Those models, however, user faster versions of the Core 2 Duo than the chips used in the MacBooks announced Wednesday.

Although the clock speeds offered in the updated MacBooks have not changed, Moody said the newer chips are faster than their predecessors, offering a speed boost of up to 25% depending on which applications are being used. Apple's MacBooks offer two versions of the Core 2 Duo: a 1.83-GHz processor with 2MB of Level 2 cache in the entry-level MacBook and a 2-GHz version with 4MB of Level 2 cache in the two higher-priced models. Both are dual-core, 64-bit processors.

Moody also noted that Apple has doubled the standard RAM in its midrange and top-end MacBooks, which sell for US$1,299 and US$1,499, respectively. Both come with 1GB of RAM; the US$1,299 version has an 80GB hard drive and comes in white, while the most expensive MacBook offers a 120GB hard drive and comes in black. The entry-level model, also white, sells for $1,099, and comes with 512MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. It has a Combo drive that burns CDs and plays DVDs; the pricier models come with a SuperDrive that burns and plays both CDs and dual-layer DVDs.

All three models can be configured with up to 2GB of RAM and either a 160GB or 200GB hard drive. The 200GB hard drive spins at 4,200 rpm; the other hard drives spin at 5,400 rpm. All three also feature a 13.3-in. glossy widescreen LCD, shared integrated graphics; 802.11g wireless networking capabilities, Bluetooth 2.0 and a built-in iSIght Web cam.

Moody noted that the upgrade means the new laptops are available well ahead of the important holiday shopping season. He called the MacBooks the "perfect product" for laptop buyers.

The update also means that the gap between upgrades of Apple hardware may be shrinking now that the company is using Intel processors. Intel tends to release updated chips on a faster timetable than was the case with the PowerPC processors used in earlier PowerBooks and iBooks. The first generation of MacBooks was released in May, meaning the time between updates was six months. In the PowerPC era, that time frame was more often nine months and sometimes even longer.

Moody stressed the importance of the MacBook line to Apple. "The MacBook line was our first consumer notebook that used Intel processors. It's helped us drive Apple's notebook share to 10% in the retail market [in the U.S.]"

Compared to the MacBook's predecessor, the iBook, the new models are up to six times faster in certain tasks, Moody said.

More detailed information about the MacBook is available from Apple's Web site.

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Ken Mingis

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