I was so focused on the iPhone 3GS and Snow Leopard announcements from this year’s WWDC that I almost missed the gravity of the MacBook Pro announcements.

Apple announced price drops on nearly all of its laptops. The new lineup looks like this:

  MacBook MacBook Pro 13-inch MacBook Pro 15-inch MacBook Pro 17-inch
CPU Core 2 Duo 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz
GPU NVIDIA GeForce 9400M NVIDIA GeForce 9400M NVIDIA GeForce 9400M NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M
Memory 2GB DDR2 2GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3
HDD 160GB 160GB 250GB 500GB
Battery Life Up to 5 hours Up to 7 hours Up to 7 hours Up to 8 hours
Price $999 $1199 $1699 $2499

 

If you want an all aluminum body, you have to buy a MacBook Pro. There’s only a single MacBook model and it’s the white chassis that’s been around for a while now.

Apple added a 13” MacBook Pro to the lineup to fill in the gap, although it’s not clear to me whether this 13” MacBook Pro uses the same LCD panel as the old 13” aluminum MacBook or a derivative of the 15” MacBook Pro’s panel, which is superior.

Of course there are different models within each one of these categories that you can purchase, but they are irrelevant to the discussion we’re about to have. Look at the battery life row in the table above; Apple is claiming up to 7 hours of battery on the new MacBook Pros. The old specs used to be up to 5 hours.

Apple did some clever work on its own here. Standard lithium ion batteries are made up of cylindrical cells, similar to AA batteries. The problem with these batteries is that they waste a lot of space within a notebook (try cramming a lot of cylinders into a box, you end up with wasted space). This wasted space translates into larger batteries than are necessary, which makes for larger notebooks.

In order to continue to drive laptop thinness down, Apple started experimenting with using custom lithium polymer batteries instead of the industry standard lithium ion parts. Lithium polymer cells aren’t made of cylindrical cells (they’re rectangular), so there’s no wasted space. Not only does this make the batteries more compact, but it also gives you greater capacity since you’re using all available chassis volume for the battery.


Makes sense. Courtesy, Apple.

Apple also found that it was wasting space in the removable enclosure for the batteries as well, so its lithium polymer offerings are no longer user removable. I suspect this part of the equation has more to do with cutting costs than saving space though.

Apple first used this lithium polymer battery technology in its MacBook Air. It gave Apple a very thin battery that allowed it to create the MacBook Air’s sweet form factor. Then came the new 17” MacBook Pro, without a removable battery. Apple claimed that this battery would last for five years before it needed replacing and resulted in up to an 8 hour battery life.

The extended life is supposedly due to an on-battery sensor that communicates with the system's management controller that can dynamically sense the needs of each lithium polymer cell and feed that info back to the charging circuitry. The result is slight variations in charging current designed to optimally charge each and every cell; apparently reducing wasted charge cycles significantly. Apple claims that most cells will hit 80% of their life after 200 - 300 charge cycles, but its special lithium polymer batteries will hit the 80% mark after as many as 1000 charge cycles. Apple claims its unique battery chemistry and microprocessor managed charging (Adaptive Charging) is responsible for these gains but it’s a difficult statement to prove; we’ll have to wait and see what happens after a few years of use.

Lithium Polymer: 46% More Capacity, 0% More Weight
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  • deslock - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    My university store sells Apple computers at the discounted price to anyone who walks in. Likewise, I've ordered discounted stuff at an Apple store simply by saying (truthfully in my case) that I work at a university; they never asked for credentials.

    BTW, you qualify if anyone in your family attends (or works at a) school at any level.
    Reply
  • bart6425 - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I've red about 5 reviews of the new macbook pros honestlly curoious if the 7 hours battery claim is true. Most other sites did a comparison with the older mbp's and seems the new one dont last more than 1 hour over those, so unless the old ones lasted 6 hours (which i really doubt it) then this is a big lie. On the other hand squeezing 6-7 hours out of the battery by browsing 1 page per hour with dimmed brigthness on a screen which is already amongst the glossyest is again highly unrealistic.
    On the other hand the new Lenova T400 is a 14.1 inch machine, with decentlly powerful configuration, which is lighter then the 15 inch mbp, and lasts 6 hours with the regular battery and 9+ with the enhanced one, this with a high brightness setting that makes the screen readable, and actual internet work beeing done on it. I know this because i have one, and i did a test (now that I also got by 9 cell battery).
    I'm not saying that the t400 is better than mbp, just that for all of Apple's claims of how inovative their battery is, it doesn't really look like it once you actually go beyond the bla and actually test it. On the other hand the battery is very much non removable which is really a big downer.
    Reply
  • jyavenard - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    Upgraded my macbook 13" 2.4GHz to the 2.53GHz version.

    After the first full charge, using the laptop quite intensively (re-installed the system, copying files across etc); I got 3 hours and 20 minutes.

    After the initial full cycle. The 2nd time, very ligh usage. Only using a text editor, an ssh connection opened in terminal and web browser sitting.
    I got 4 hours and 30 minutes when for the last hour the laptop just sat there doing nothing with the screen off (I turned off the screen saver).

    I would assume that the 15" MBP doesn't use that much more power than the 13" as the hardware is almost identical and being a LED backlight LCD, the screen isn't going to use that much more.

    The 15" has a significantly bigger battery, yet Apple advertises both the 15 and the 13" to be 7 hours...

    I wouldn't mind running the same test Anand did for the 15" and see how much I get..
    Because 4.5 hours is a long way away from 7 hours
    Reply
  • winterspan - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering I've been around the Apple scene for a while, but there is nothing "Pro" about the Macbook Pro laptops other than the FW800 which was brought back to the 13" which is a nice touch -- especially considering that there is no eSATA support so you were stuck with USB for external drives (ouch).

    Of course, I'm not denying the fact that Apple has incredible hardware engineering talent and beautiful, well-built machines. And the matter of OSX is self-evident.
    I've always had a love/hate with Apple. One half of me loves to geek out on hardware specs and wants only the best processor, GPU, highest quality display, and all the features like SSDs, eSATA ports, firewire, expresscard, memory card reader, etc --- And all for the best price.
    The other half is more aesthetically inclined, and greatly admires the beautiful hardware and software of Mac laptops, and doesn't worry so much about bang/buck and having the best specs --- It realizes the overall experience is far more important than benchmarks and always having the best.

    I think I could compromise on a 15" or 13" Macbook Pro if only Apple would put at the least the option of a high-quality, full-gamut, high-resolution display along with a decent Nvidia Quadro card. But I'm sure it will never happen...
    Reply
  • shdwsclan - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    An apple laptop is basically an expensive BIC pen for rich people...

    If you know anything about computers, you basically DONT buy a mac for that reason. Its made specifically for stupid people, and there are more of those in the world then the smart ones.

    My Thinkpad, for example has 10500 mAH AND the battery is REPLACEABLE.

    Where plastic macbooks have cracked and cheezy aluminum macbooks have dented, and the new ones have cracked glass screens, my T series has survived all 4 years of college.

    The Thinkpads were always environmentally friendly. In fact, IBM was pretty much always on top and Apple on the very bottom of that scale. Only recently did Apple start to become green.
    Reply
  • deslock - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I run an IT department which supports Macs and PCs and my experience doesn't line up with your assertions.

    Cracks developing in the front edge of the plastic shell is a well-known design flaw with early MacBooks; when this happened (in the instances that I'm familiar with), Apple replaced the case with newer ones that don't crack. We have several aluminum models in house and only one has a dent. It's minor, was due to something heavy being dropped on it, and doesn't affect functionality so I consider it a non-issue.

    Some of Apple's stuff is reasonably reasonably priced and some of it isn't (just like Dell, Lenovo, Sony, etc). The difference is that Apple doesn't sell low-end hardware.

    Pretty much everyone qualifies for the educational price ($1099 for the 13" MacBook Pro) and you get a free-after-rebate iPod touch and printer. The 8GB iPod touch is actually an effective and reasonably priced PDA/media player, but if you don't need it or the printer, you can sell them on craigslist/Ebay for $180 + $50 bringing the effective price of the 13" MacBook Pro to $870 (or do the same with the MacBook and it goes down to $720).

    A slim, lightweight, metal Windows laptop with a quality-LED screen, fast CPU, and long battery life is likely to cost that much or more (especially if you get it with XP Pro or Vista Business). Now add in FW800, the maglock power connector, multitouch pad, and backlit keyboard and the base 13" MacBook Pro is actually a decent deal.

    Obviously, it depends on what your computing needs are as you can certainly find a cheap Vista-home laptop without some of those features for significantly less money.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    You are stupid yourself if you call people like Anand stupid. Reply
  • SansSociety - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    I dunno where you guys get these outrageous 10+ hour battery life figures from. My Thinkpad T60 with the 9 cell (6 months old) gets no where close to 10 hours. I doubt you guys are getting the type of endurance you claim from T43s and the Sony TX's. 18 hours on the TX with extended battery? Come on... Time it. Reply
  • tjpark1111 - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    ever care to mention the macbook air which got a $700 price drop? ANANDTECH FAIL. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Sunday, June 14, 2009 - link

    You are correct, the MBA received a huge price drop which was very nice. It slipped out of the article since it didn't have any major hardware upgrades, although I still love the MBA for a writer's companion.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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