MacBook Pro Comparison Charts

Today, Apple announced their first Intel based laptop. This announcement provides us with some interesting data that can be used to compare the existing platform to its predecessor and to equivalent offerings from the PC world.

Comparing Apples to Apples

One of the interesting thing is that Apple did not demise its existing Powerbook G4 product line. Whether it’s a question of inventory management having gone awry or an attempt to milk more out of the G4 market, it provides an interesting way to compare Apple laptops from the G4 generation to those of the Intel one. For the purpose of this study, I took data directly on the Apple site, looking at their offerings for the Powerbook and its equivalent on the Intel side of the house, the MacBook Pro. Here’s how they stack up against each other:

15 inch MacBook Pro15 inch Powerbook G4
Processor1.67GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 2MB on chip sharedL2 cache running 1:1 with processor speed1.67GHz PowerPC G4
Display15.4-inch (diagonal), 1440 x 900 resolution, TFTwidescreen15.2-inch (diagonal), 1440 x 960 resolution, TFT widescreen
Memory512MB (single SODIMM) of PC2-5300 (667MHz);two SODIMM slots support up to 2GB512MB PC2-4200 DDR2 SDRAM (running at 333MHz)
GraphicsATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 128MB of GDDR3 SDRAMand dual-link DVIATI Mobility Radeon 9700 with 128MB of DDR SDRAM anddual-link DVI
Video outDVI, VGA (DVI to VGA adapter included)DVI, VGA, S-video and composite
AudioCombined optical digital input/audio line in,combined optical digital output/headphone out, stereo speakers, microphoneCombined analog and optical digital line-in,combined analog and optical digital line-out, stereo speakers, microphone
Hard Disk80GB Serial ATA/100; 5400 rpm80GB Ultra ATA/100; 5400 rpm
DriveSlot-loading optical SuperDriveSlot-loading optical SuperDrive
EthernetBuilt-in 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit)Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit)
ModemApple USB Modem (sold separately)Built-in 56K V.92 modem
InputApple Remote; full-size, illuminated keyboard withambient light sensor; Scrolling TrackpadFull size, illuminated with ambient light sensor
Video CameraiSight (1/4-inch color CCD image sensor, 640×480 VGAresolution)None
FirewireOne FireWire 400 port at up to 400 MbpsOne FireWire 400, one FireWire 800,
USBTwo 480-Mbps USB 2.0 portstwo USB 2.0 ports
Battery TimeUNKNOWN5.5 hours
Weight5.6 pounds5.6 pounds
Footprint14.1 x 9.6 inches13.7 x 9.5 inches
Thickness1.0 inches (2.59 cm)1.1 inches
Price$1999$1999

So, at first look, the processor is about the same, memory is twice as fast, and other specs are roughly the same. But, when you take a second look, you realize there are a few differences. For starter, the footprint of the new laptop is slightly larger (slimer, true, but still with a wider footprint) and there seems to be a few things missing. For example, S-video and composite video seem to be gone. And so is the built-in modem (now available as an extra, sold separately) and so is a firewire 800 port. On the other hand, you get a remote and a video camera with the new laptop.

Also a little scary is the fact that Apple is not touting the battery life on this laptop (it claimed 5.5 hours on the powerbook). Considering the might of Apple marketing, I suspect this is not an oversight but that the battery time is probably lower than 5.5 hours.

Last but not least, it is interesting to see that they are pricing them at exactly the same price-point ($1999). Is Apple hedging its bets?

Comparing Apple to… not Apple

While the Apple to Apple comparison provides some insight into their own product, the fact that they are now switching to Intel Core duo provides us with a unique opportunity to do actual hardware comparisons with other systems. A quick web search yielded the TravelMate 8200, a new laptop from Acer that seemed to match the MacBook in terms of price and offer a Core Duo processor. Let’s look at how they stack against each other since one could assume that both machine could run the same software, if Apple and Microsoft let them.

15 inch MacBook ProAcer Travelmate 8200
Processor1.67GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 2MB on chip sharedL2 cache running 1:1 with processor speed2.16GHz Intel Core Duo processor
Display15.4-inch (diagonal), 1440 x 900 resolution, TFT widescreen15.4-inch (diagonal), 1680×1050 resolution, TFT widescreen
Memory512MB (single SODIMM) of PC2-5300 (667MHz) DDR2memory on 1.67GHz configuration;two SODIMM slots support up to 2GB2GB (1GB installed in each of two memory slots)DDR2 667 SDRAM, user upgradeable up to 2GB (one 1GB memory card in each slot)
Hard Disk80GB Serial ATA/100; 5400 rpm120GB Serial ATA, 5400RPM, with AcerDASP+ (Disk Anti-Shock Protection+)
GraphicsATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 128MB of GDDR3 SDRAM and dual-link DVIATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics, 256MB DDR memory
Video outDVI, VGA (DVI to VGA adapter included)VGA, DVI and S-video TV-out ports
Video CameraiSight (1/4-inch color CCD image sensor, 640×480 VGA resolution)Acer OrbiCam integrated 1.3 megapixel CMOS camera
AudioCombined optical digital input/audio line in, combined optical digital output/headphone out, stereo speakers, microphoneHeadphones/speakers/line-out with SPDIF support, microphone and line-in ports, stereo speakers, microphone
DriveSlot-loading optical SuperDrive (DVD+RW/CD-RW)Modular variable-speed Super-Multi drive (DVD+R,DVD-R, DVD-RAM) swappable
EthernetBuilt-in 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit)Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit)
WirelessBuilt-in 54-Mbps AirPort Extreme (802.11g); built-inBluetooth 2.0+EDRIntel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection supporting 802.11a/b/g wireless LAN (equivalent to Airport Extreme), Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
ModemApple USB Modem (sold separately)V.92 56Kbps data/fax modem
InputApple Remote; full-size, illuminated keyboard withambient light sensor; Scrolling Trackpad88-key Acer FineTouch keyboard (+ 12 function, fourcursor, two Microsoft Windows keys, Web browser, e-mail, Empowering Key, oneuser-programmable easy-launch buttons; front-access WLAN, Bluetooth buttons);Touchpad with four-way integrated scroll button
FirewireOne FireWire 400 port at up to 400 MbpsOne FireWire 400 port at up to 400 Mbps
USBTwo 480-Mbps USB 2.0 portsFour 480-Mbps USB 2.0 ports
Battery TimeUNKNOWN3.5 hours
Weight5.6 pounds6.6 pounds
Footprint14.1 x 9.6 inches14.3 x 10.7 inches
Thickness1.0 inches (2.59 cm)1.0 inches (2.63 cm)
Price$1999$1999

This table does not seem to favor Apple. On a feature by feature basis, it seems the Acer beats. In the categories of CPU, screen resolution, memory, hard disk space, video memory, and resolution on the video camera, the Acer comes ahead. The same is true in terms of ports (S-video, TV-out, 4 USB2 (vs 2 on the MacBook), more audio ports, etc…). However, when it comes to weight and size, the Apple machine is much slicker. The MacBook offers a backlit keyboard but the Acer offers a modem. So if it’s style you’re after, the MacBook is your machine but if you’re aching for raw power, another option may beat it.

Update:

There’s a discussion going on in the comments as to the price on the Acer. Currently, different sources are quoting two different prices: $1999 and $2499. I don’t know which one is correct yet and could not find that information on the Acer site.

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