THE CAPPUCCINO COMPANY Apple updated its line of laptops aimed at creative professionals. But what the launch of the latest Macbook Pro serves to illustrate is how underwhelming the Ipad really is.
Apple's portable PC lineup has always been strong and ever since its move to Intel processors back in January 2006, not only have they looked the part but they've also performed very well. The latest crop incorporates Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching technology to build on the previous generation's dual GPUs.
That Nvidia feature enables 'in line' switching between an integrated GPU, which in the case of the Macbook Pros is Intel's "HD" graphics, and a discrete chip, which is either Nvidia's 320M or 330M depending on whether you opt for the 13-inch model or either the 15-inch or 17-inch model. This system is a welcome upgrade from the earlier awkward setup on Macbook Pros that had required users to logout to make the change.
Baseline RAM of 4GB is the standard across the range. There's also the built to order option of solid state drives all the way up to a 512GB unit which will set you back around £1,100.
However the biggest change is the adoption, in the 15-inch and 17-inch models, of Intel's Core i5 and i7 chips. The inclusion of these chips meant that Apple, often critised for putting out sub-par hardware configurations in the past, is on the ball.
However, the 13-inch Macbook Pro has to make do with simply faster Core 2 Duo chips, suggesting that Apple was unable to beef up the cooling in the smaller chassis.
Nevertheless, regardless of the fact that the Macbook Pro is aimed at 'creative professionals', throughout the line you get a decent specifications at a reasonable price.
Comparing the price of a Macbook Pro, which starts at £1,000, against a £300 Acer notebook isn't the name of the game. Of course both will essentially do the majority of jobs equally well, but when compared against similar premium 'lifestyle' PC brands such as Sony you see that Apple isn't doing its usual bang-up job of ripping customers off.
Nevertheless, although comparing the Macbook Pros against Sony might not be fair comparison of service, performance or even posing ability, putting them side by side against the Ipad shows just how far off the cut down tablet really is.
The two devices do vary wildly in terms of specifications but considering how much extra you're getting with even the baseline Macbook Pro, it's shocking that anyone would opt to spend so much money on an Ipad. Although prices for British punters have yet to be announced, following an additional month's delay, and even going by the usually favourable US prices, it really doesn't look good for the Ipad.
Take a 64GB Ipad with only WiFi connectivity, that's $700 or about £450 using a generous $1.60 to £1 exchange rate. Depending on which US state you have that delivered to, and taking into account shipping costs and import duties you're easily looking at £600, if not more.
What this shows is that for 60 per cent of the cost of a fully loaded, premium Apple Macbook Pro laptop you can purchase a cut down Apple Ipad tablet device. The figures get even more staggering when you consider the consumer oriented Macbook. That laptop in its standard configuration costs about £815. If you want to get really creative, Apple often offers refurbished units with the same warranty as its new models for even less.
But for the sake of keeping this comparison competitive, lets stick with the Macbook Pro. For £1,000 you can purchase a well designed laptop that runs the full version of Mac OS X, has the capability to run Windows or Linux either in Boot Camp or through virtualisation, has the ability to expand its functionality by doing such revolutionary things as plug in USB devices and even choose where you get your software from. Of course that pretty much describes any laptop on the market, but lets do what Steve Jobs wants and stick within the Apple ecosystem.
Taking a gander at the hardware specifications, there's simply no contest. Without a doubt the Ipad has a superb screen and CPU, but one would have to possess yet unattained levels of incompetence to believe that a system on chip, even one that is as capable as the A4, can compete in general computing tasks with an Intel Core 2 Duo, much less a Core i5 or Core i7.
Similarly it's possible to argue until the cows come home whether Nvidia's 320M is the ultimate mobile GPU, and clearly it isn't as Apple has opted for the marginally up-rated 330M on its 15-inch and 17-inch models, but it certainly beats the living daylights out the graphics core in the A4 chip when it matters.
Finally we get to the question of battery life. According to Apple both the Ipad and the 13-inch Macbook Pro have the same battery life, around 10 hours.
Given the extra performance, functionality and fewer restrictions it does seem that Apple's own products show up the pretty obvious flaws of its latest toy. The Macbook Pro range of laptops are quality machines that are honestly priced. The latest updates, especially for the 15-inch and 17-inch models, keep their specifications not only competitive but surpass some of their competitors.
Apple clearly has the ability to put out decent products at respectable prices, the Macbook Pro is a testament to that. For the Ipad however, the latest round of Macbook Pro upgrades just goes to show that Apple's new toy really is being sold at an "unbelievable price". µ
Since this article first appeared, Nvidia has confirmed to The INQUIRER that the latest Macbook Pro does not use the Green Goblin's Optimus GPU switching technology but rather that similar feature was developed by Apple itself.
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