Apple updates MacBook Pro models; I’ll still pick an EliteBook any day despite the looks

Apple released new MacBook Pro models today in three sizes

Apple has just announced a fairly significant refresh to their three MacBook Pro models (13 inch, 15 inch and 17 inch). And though this ain’t an Apple Fansite (It’s an HP Fansite in case you haven’t noticed our big fat banner at the top =) , I’m sure it isn’t blasphemy for us to talk a little about the new products from the Windows PC world’s fruity competitor. The changes in a nutshell on the new MacBook Pro models include:

  • Intel 2011 “Sandy Bridge” second generation Core i-series processors
    13 inch MacBook Pro gives you a choice between the lowly dual core 2.3 GHz Core i5-2410M or higher end dual core 2.7 GHz Core i7-2620M
    15 and 17 inch MacBook Pros let you choose from two quad-core processors, the 2.2 GHz Core i7-2720QM and 2.3 GHz Core i7-2820QM, with the 15 inch MacBook Pro adding a third “lower tier” quad core option: the 2.0 GHz Core i7-2630QM
  • Change in graphics: Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics and AMD Radeon 6000M series discrete graphics (I can hear the ooh’s and ahh’s now)
    13 inch MacBook Pro does away with the switchable graphics option of its predecessor, giving you just Intel integrated graphics
    15 and 17 inch MacBook Pro models continue to have switchable graphics (Intel integrated + AMD discrete combo)
    15 inch MacBook Pro lets you choose between having a 256 MB GDDR5 AMD Radeon 6490M or 1 GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon 6750M card
    17 inch MacBook Pro only has the 1 GB GDDR5 AMD Radeon 6750M available, no choosing here!
  • FaceTime HD webcam (they do 720p standard HD video, like other HD webcams out there)
  • New “Thunderbolt” port (well, it isn’t a port by itself, it doubles as the Display Port too)

Well, hate to rain on the Apple party, but here’s why yesterday’s new EliteBook 8460p and EliteBook 8560p will be a better choice for those looking to do actual work on a Windows system and is not an Apple fanatic/not buying a notebook solely for its looks/isn’t already locked into the Apple ecosystem. Here’s why:

  • Lower starting price (though we won’t be able to do a head-to-head comparison until both HP and Apple get their configurable notebook pages online!) and 3 year standard warranty with the EliteBooks
  • Almost every Intel Sandy Bridge processor available as an option, from the super basic dual core Core i3-2310M to the quad core Core i7-2820QM, on both the 14 and 15 inch EliteBook models. This allows you to save if you don’t think you’ll need such a powerful processor; while on the 13 inch MacBook Pro, quad core isn’t even an option!
  • More ports and easy multi-monitor Eyefinity. The EliteBook models have 4 or 5 USB ports, depending if you look at the 8460p or 8560p, eSATA and out of the box support for AMD Eyefinity, AKA a multi-monitor setup, with its built-in VGA port and Display Port. You can add on another two monitors through the optional notebook dock for a total of four external displays. Meanwhile Apple hasn’t uttered a word about Eyefinity support on the new MacBook Pro models.
  • Higher resolution screen and matte displays are standard.
    The EliteBook 8460p is configurable with a 1600 x 900, 14 inch screen while the 13 inch MacBook Pro’s glossy screen has a resolution of 1280 x 800 with no matte option available. The 15 inch MacBook Pro gives you a matte screen option (which costs extra) but resolution still tops out at a whopping 1440 x 900, compared to the EliteBook 8560p’s maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080.
  • Optical drive bay flexibility. The EliteBooks let you choose what you want in your optical drive bay: a regular CD/DVD reading+writing optical drive, Blu-ray drive, secondary hard disk or blank weight saver. You can also swap these around at will.
  • Chassis accessibility, user-replaceable primary battery and optional secondary battery. The base of the new EliteBooks can now be popped out via a simple latch so you can easily access the primary drive, optical drive bay, RAM slots and heatsink/fan… to do that with the MacBook Pro, you’ll need to undo a bunch of screws, a WHOLE bunch of screws! Also, if you’re gonna be away from the power outlet for quite a while, good luck getting that MacBook Pro charged (yes even 6 to 10 hours of battery life isn’t enough for some people, and heavy applications will drain juice at an even quicker rate) while you can simply bring a bag full of batteries if you have an EliteBook.
  • Pointing stick and secondary set of mouse buttons: for pointing stick fans!

However, yes the new MacBook Pros do triumph over the two EliteBooks of yesterday, somewhat, in some aspects:

  • Design. Despite sporting the exact same design as the MacBook Pros of previous years, one has to acknowledge that an old design is better than the new but unattractive design of the EliteBook 8460p and 8560p. Of course, this is highly subjective and depends on your personal taste; you may have some sentiment towards laptop designs from 1855 or something.
  • Slightly better graphics card in the 15 inch MacBook Pro versus the 15 inch EliteBook 8560p. Despite having the same amount of memory (1 GB), the MacBook Pro 15’s GDDR5 AMD Radeon 6750M is probably clocked faster than the EliteBook 8560p’s DDR3 AMD Radeon 6470M. However, do remember the EliteBook 8560p’s lower price tag… that, and we’ll see what the upcoming EliteBook 8560w with AMD FirePro and Nvidia Quadro workstation-class graphics has to say.
  • No direct competitor to the 17 inch MacBook Pro… for now. But wait till the 17 inch monster EliteBook 8760w arrives this summer…

Is the new “Thunderbolt” port an advantage on the MacBook Pro? It’s too early to judge. But right now as it seems, USB 3.0 is the obvious winner since there are no Thunderbolt port supporting devices while there’s a ton of USB 3.0 peripherals out there. This production-level Thunderbolt is also nowhere as lightning fast as the Light Peak concept Intel and Apple showed off a while back. Also, the fact that it shares the same port as where you’ll connect an external monitor, using a Thunderbolt device and an external monitor might be difficult or impossible without… you’ve guessed it, an optional adapter accessory of sorts!

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4 Comments

  1. curious-character February 24, 2011 Reply

    But how did they manage to keep 16:10 displays? Can anyone answer that?

  2. om007 February 25, 2011 Reply

    Just a quick correction : you can add a 1680-by-1050 resolution on the 15 inch macbook (it is an option)

    Nice to see your website back !

    om007

  3. Brad February 25, 2011 Reply

    Curious character: Apple only runs one line of computers, so they probably can use whatever display they want as long as they’re in production, that and they probably have a contract signed with a supplier somewhere. Companies like HP however would likely use the display that’s cheapest to get overall, seeing they have more than one model of 14, 15, etc inch notebook. Even Lenovo’s moved to 16:9 displays recently with their new T420 and T520 Thinkpad business notebooks

    Om: Thanks for your update. Apple doesn’t list it on the specs page of their 15 inch MacBook Pro, so I thought they had discontinued it as an option. But turns out it is indeed still available as an option in the “configure notebook” page.

  4. Ed February 27, 2011 Reply

    Yeah, I was seriously going to buy the new macbook pro refresh, until I saw the HP elitebook announcement… I think I’ll wait the 2 weeks and see what the initial reviews of the new elitebook are.

    I would want the 8460p with the 1600×900 screen, but I have serious concerns because HP seemed totally incapable of acquiring the 1600×900 screens for the Envy 14. Have you heard if it’s the same hi-contrast radiance display?

    And, what’s with the 2 sets of trackpad buttons? Are they four independent buttons, or two left clicks and two right clicks?

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