The choice was simpler when I was shopping around for a new Mac laptop a year ago: I could have spent $500 more for a nicer screen and less weight, or I could have put some of that toward a faster processor, more storage and more internal memory _ and still have $200 left over. I chose power over style.
With new models and price cuts, Apple is making it tougher for customers to choose _ in a good way.
A MacBook Pro laptop with a high-resolution screen measuring 13.3 inches (33.5 centimeters) diagonally now starts at $1,299, or just $100 more than the heavier version with the regular screen, the one I ultimately bought. That’s the result of a $200 price cut in February and another $200 cut last week.
Last week, Apple also slashed the starting price of its 15.4-inch (39-centimeter) high-resolution model by $200, to $1,999.
Apple also made the new laptops faster and extended their battery life, thanks to new, power-saving chips from Intel Corp. and a new operating system, Mavericks, designed to fully take advantage of those chips. These new Pros are the first Macs with Mavericks built in.
Without getting too technical, Mavericks is better at grouping little tasks into larger bursts, so that the processor can stay in a low-power mode for longer.
I got more than 12.5 hours of word processing and spreadsheet use on the new 15-inch model and nearly nine hours of iTunes video. Officially, Apple promises eight hours on the 15-inch model and nine hours on the 13-inch (33-centimeter) one, compared with seven hours before on both. (Streaming video doesn’t fare as well, as is typical with laptops; I got about six hours of Hulu on the 15-inch (38-centimeter) unit I tested.)
Apple didn’t change the screens on the high-resolution models, which the company terms “Retina.” It didn’t need to.
Video looks great, as the screen resolution is more than enough for high-definition video. But text is where I noticed the most difference: Letters are clearer and sharper, appearing the way they would in a paperback book. On my non-Retina MacBook Pro, I notice the individual dots, or pixels, that are put together to form characters. The Retina models have four times as many pixels as the standard models, enabling smoother characters.
Inside, there’s faster graphics technology from Intel. And Apple offers a $2,599 15-inch (38-centimeter) model that also has an Nvidia graphics processor for even better performance. All of the new Retina models have an emerging Wi-Fi technology called 802.11ac. It promises up to three times the speed and wider range than before, though you need newer Wi-Fi routers that support that standard to get the full benefits.
Before you run off to buy a new MacBook, though, consider these trade-offs:
Your head is probably already spinning from all these options.
It boils down to this for Mac laptops:
The new MacBook Pros, with their price cuts, complement the rest of the Mac lineup nicely. The new prices make trading off power for style much more tempting.
Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, can be reached at njesdanun(at)ap.org.