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Article: MacBook or MacBook Pro?

by on June 22, 2008

With many people going back to school in a couple of months, Apple has numerous promotions for those who buy a new computer. Even those of us who have aged machines are finding it time to check out something new. However, I’ve had a few people (myself included) wonder if a loaded MacBook is a better value than a MacBook Pro.

MacBook vs. MacBook Pro

The MacBook obviously has a lower starting price—it’s budget-oriented. However, unlike the iBooks it replaced, many specs are similar to its larger sibling. Processors are comparable in speed, both can be upgraded to the same amount of memory, and both can have the same amount of hard drive space.

So, what seems to be the difference? The MacBook Pro comes with a few extra things, including:

  • Dedicated graphics chip
  • 2″ larger screen (with your choice of matte or glossy surface)
  • ExpressCard slot (for additional accessories)
  • Battery rated at 1/2 hour longer
  • LED backlighting for the screen (uses less energy, longer lasting, and is more environmentally friendly than the old way)
  • MultiTouch trackpad (so you can do photo editing and have more control over things)
  • FireWire 800
  • Backlit keyboard

Those who do a lot of graphics work, video editing, and gaming will find the graphics chip to be the deciding factor, since that is more powerful than the MacBook’s “borrowing” of the system memory for graphics processing.

Both computers have their pros and cons for the materials that make up the cases. The MacBook features durable polycarbonate plastic that will take a lot of abuse (bending and flexing rather than breaking in most cases), but seems to be scratch-prone since it’s glossy. The black MacBook casing has a matte finish, making it less scratch-prone, but the $100 premium is a bit ridiculous. The MacBook Pro is made of anodized aluminum. It’s tough, keeps things cool, but has a tendency to dent if you’re one to abuse your computer.

The graphics chip is really the only operating difference, unless you need a particular feature. So, the question comes down to, what do you think is the better choice for someone who wants a general purpose computer? Many argue that although the regular MacBook has a smaller screen, its lighter weight and smaller size help its case, as well as the ability to connect a large screen while at “home”. The larger MacBook Pro has more bells and whistles, but is the $500-$900 (depending on what models you’re comparing) expense worth it?

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