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Sons of Macintosh - shaking the Apple family tree

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Whites and Blacks

MacBook: Since Apple introduced its entry-level laptop in May of 2006, it's been selling faster than Palin 2012 buttons at a snowmobilers convention - so much so that in 2007 Apple sold 60 per cent more laptops than desktops (2008 figures aren't yet available). You can assume that the MacBook contributed a high percentage of that high percentage.

Today, you can buy two distinctly different MacBooks. The $999 version is merely a lower-priced, higher-powered version of the white-polycarbonate MacBook first introduced in 2006. It appears that Apple wanted the ability to claim it had a sub-$1,000 laptop, and keeping the white guy around for awhile was the best way to do so.

No problem - Apple's cheapest laptop is both perfectly serviceable, thoroughly unexciting, and fine for productivity apps and interwebbing. It has a crisp 13-inch display (glossy - sorry, shooters...), a tolerable keyboard, and one feature that the new aluminum MacBook, introduced in October of this year, doesn't have: a FireWire port. The newer MacBook is the first Mac to bow to FireWire's inevitable demise. Expect more to follow.

October's aluminum MacBook also has a backlit keyboard for your late-night flights (both of fancy and cross-country), a 1066MHz FSB (up from whitey's 800MHz), a thin, bright, and glossy LED-backlit display, a wide multi-touch trackpad that double as a clickable button, and - perhaps most important - an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics subsystem and northbridge. Sure, it's not a discrete-graphics setup, but it's a clear improvement over the Intel GMA X3100 integrated-graphics subsystem in the MacBook Caucasian.

And - for an Apple laptop, at least - the new MacBook's $1,299 entry-level price ain't bad.

MacBook White: C

MacBook: A-

MacBook Pro: We've always been a bit puzzled by the 15-inch MacBook Pro, seeing as how the lower-cost MacBook has plenty of power for traveling business folks.

If, however, you're a traveling content creator, a photographer shooting on location, or a peripatetic videographer, you'll appreciate not only the MacBook Pro's extra gigahertz, but also the fact that you can switch between its integrated NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics subsystem and its discrete NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT - although switching between the two is a logout/login pain, with no ability to set one as default for battery operation and other for plug- in use.

MacBooks

Macbook family portrait

However, we suspect the real draw of the MacBook Pro is not entirely logical. This laptop is simply one smash-down, full-bore, dampness-inducing sex machine, beautifully built and impeccably fit-and-finished. Nobody really needs a Porsche when a Jetta can get you home just as quickly and safely. But a Porsche is a fine ride. So's a MacBook Pro.

Oh, and if you're the aforementioned photographer shooting on location, you may want to buy one of the last remaining big-as-a-cafeteria-tray 17-inch MacBook Pros before they get the same makeover as the 15-inchers - you can still order one of the big boys with a anti-glare display. The 15-inchers are glossy or nothing.

15-inch MacBook Pro: A

17-inch MacBook Pro: B+

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