In a not-so-surprising, yet somewhat surprising, move Apple has introduced updates to its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines of portable devices. Given that the last time the MacBook line was updated was last year, it make sense that the line gets a refresh. Let’s delve into each of the new models.

MacBook Air

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MacBook Air

There are some interesting new features with the MacBook Air. They now feature Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, running at 1.7GHz for the 11″ MacBook Air, or 1.8GHz for the 13″ MacBook Air. These are speed increases over last year’s model which contained 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz chips for the 11″ and 13″ respectively.

The base model of the 11″ MacBook Air only supports 64GB of Flash, while the top-end 11″ comes with 128GB and is configurable up to 512GB of storage. The 13″ model falls into the a similar pattern. The base 13″ model comes with 128GB of Flash, with no upgrade option. While the high-end 13″ MacBook Air offers you the option of increasing the storage.

All four MacBook Air models come with 4GB of memory standard and are configurable up to 8GB. This is an increase over the 2GB and 4GB that each respective model shipped with last year. The MacBook Air line also sports Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 chipset, which is an upgrade from the Intel HD Graphics 3000 line.

Battery life with the laptops has remained at the same 5 hours for the 11″ MacBook Airs and 7 hours with the 13″ models. The screen resolution has also remained unchanged at 1366×768 for the 11″ models and 1440×900 for the 13″ model.

An additional new feature with the MacBook Air line is the switch from the standard Magsafe power adapter to the Magsafe 2 power adapter. Apple is also selling an adapter to go from the original Magsafe power adapter to Magsafe 2.

The MacBook Airs also now support USB3. There are two USB3 ports that can go up to 5Gbps, versus the USB 2 ports that were up to 480Mbps. There is also still the thunderbolt port. The last new feature is that the 11″ base-model price remains the same. However, the rest of the line received a price reduction of $100. The prices are now $999, $1099, $1199, and $1499 for each model respectively.

Overall, this is a solid upgrade. If you were waiting to get a MacBook Air, now is the time to get one.

MacBook Pro

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MacBook Pro

Just like with the MacBook Air, Apple has also upgraded the 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro models with Intel’s Ivy Bridge processor line. The processor speed increases are modest, but it is a generational shift for the processors. The 13″ MacBook Pro goes from 2.3GHz for the base model, to 2.5GHz. The higher-end 13″ MacBook Pro goes from 2.7GHz to 2.9GHz. The base 15″ model goes from 2.0GHz to 2.3GHz. While the high-end model goes from 2.2GHz to 2.6GHz.

Storage with the MacBook Pros has change slightly. The base models for both the 13″ and 15″ now come with a 500GB Hard drive. While the higher-end models come with 750GB hard drives. With the 15″ models, there is now an option for configuring 1TB of storage. You still have the option of configuring any of the models with up to 512GB of solid-state storage if you so desire.

The actual look of the MacBook Pro line remains unchanged. The size of the devices remain the same. The new laptops are ever-so-slightly heavier. By mere hundredths of grams, so it will not be noticeable by a majority of users.

The base-models come with 4GB of memory, but are upgradeable to 8GB if one chooses. The higher-end models come with 8GB of memory standard.

All of the MacBook pro models now come with Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 chipset. This is an upgrade from the Intel 3000 series chipset. The 15″ models come with the NVidia GeForce GT 650M chips that support automatic switching if needed. This is an upgrade from the AMD Radeon HD 6750M that was present in last year’s models.

Two USB 3 ports are present on the MacBook Pro models as well. These are dual personality ports. This means that you can plug both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices into the same port, just not at the same time. Along with the USB ports is two Thunderbolt ports so you can plugin multiple Thunderbolt-enabled devices simultaneously.

Unlike the MacBook Air models, the pricing for the MacBook Pros has remained unchanged.

Just as with the MacBook Airs, if you are in the market for a new MacBook Pro, now is the time to purchase them.

There is one more thing to note with the MacBook Pros. The 17″ model is now no more. You may be able to find them on the refurbished store, but they are no longer being offered for sale as new machines.

MacBook Pro with Retina

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MacBook Pro Retina

It has been rumored that Apple would be making a new MacBook Pro model that is tapered like the MacBook Air line. This is not the case. What Apple has released though is the MacBook Pro with Retina graphics. Yes, you read that correctly, Retina Graphics.

The new MacBook Pro with Retina Graphics is a 15.4″ LED IPS panel that supports 2880 by 1800 graphics. This is 4x the resolution of the standard 15″ MacBook Pros.

The MacBook Pro with Retina also includes the dual-personality USB 3 ports, and two Thunderbolt ports. Along with the Thunderbolt ports, Apple included a stand-alone HDMI port.

What is missing off of this model is the Firewire and Ethernet ports. These have been removed. Do not fret, Apple is also selling Thunderbolt to Firewire adapters, as well as Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapters for $29.00 each. Just like the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro with Retina contains a Magsafe 2 power supply.

The storage on the MacBook Pro with Retina is entirely flash, there is no room for a spinning hard disk. There are two models. The base model comes with 256GB of Flash storage, while the higher-end model is equipped with 512GB standard, and configurable to 768GB of storage.

 

Software and Retina Graphics

With a shift to Retina Graphics, one could wonder if software will be changed to support the new resolution. The answer is yes. Apple is building applications that will now support Retina graphics for icons.

All of Apple’s software will be upgraded. This includes, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Final Cut Pro X, and even Aperture. It is not only Apple applications that are receiving updates. Apple has worked with Adobe to get Photoshop to be Retina graphics compatible. Along with Adobe, AutoCad is getting updated and so is Diablo 3.

The pricing for the MacBook Pro with retina is $2199 for the base model, and $2799 for the high-end model, as a starting point.

As Apple stated, this is a major shift in their platform. They have built this MacBook Pro with Retina from the ground up, and they had no problem removing legacy items. I’m sure the MacBook Pro with Retina will be a popular model amongst those who need a high-end machine that is portable.

You may be wondering about availability. All of the MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros are shipping today. This includes the MacBook Pro with Retina Graphics. All those who purchase a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro will receive a free upgrade to Mountain Lion when it is available.

Conclusion

Everybody expected iOS 6 to be announced, and it was. There was hesitation regarding whether Apple would announce new laptops. The upgrades that Apple has provided are solid updates. On top of using Intel’s latest chipset, Ivy Bridge, the MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros received USB 3, which is, currently, more popular than Thunderbolt.

The addition of the MacBook Pro with Retina, while not entirely unexpected, was a nice announcement and a sneak peak into the future hardware that one can expect from Apple’s laptop line. As I stated before, now is the time to get a new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.

About The Author

I'm into anything technology related. I do some HTML/CSS/PHP development. I like to follow things that most people would find annoying or not worthwhile. I follow Apple, Microsoft, Google, The Cloud, cell phones and even programming. By Day I'm a Systems Administrator for a Library, which has it's own set of issues. Follow me on Twitter.