When we reviewed the aluminum MacBook back in October 2008, those MacBooks posted performance scores that were very similar to the 15in MacBook Pro that was also released in October 2008. At that time, the differences between the MacBook and MacBook Pro boiled down to features. Now, with the new MacBook Pro line-up, the features on Apple's latest 13in aluminum laptops have been brought up to equal those found on the new 15in MacBook Pros.

Turning pro

Unveiled at Apple's annual Worldwide Developer's Conference, the new 13in MacBook Pro has three new features that were not found in the aluminum MacBooks that have been replaced. First, the new 13in laptops use a longer-lasting, non-removable battery, similar to the one first unveiled in the 17in MacBook Pro.

Second, Apple re-implemented the 13in MacBook Pro's FireWire connectivity in the form of a single backwards-compatible FireWire 800 port. Hallelujah!

And finally, the new 13in MacBook Pros now feature a Secure Digital (SD) memory card slot. Having an internal SD card reader is obviously handy for photographers and videographers whose cameras record to the popular SD format, but that's not its only function - it can be used as a startup disk. After using Mac OS X's Disk Utility to format and create a GUID partition on a 8GB card, we installed Leopard on the card and were able to use it as a startup disk.

Two models

The new 13in MacBook Pros is available in two standard configurations. The £899 model has a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM and a 160GB 5,400rpm hard drive. The £1,149 model features a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM, and a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive. Both models ship with the same nVidia GeForce 9400M graphic chip (which was used in the aluminum unibody MacBook) that share 256MB of main memory.

The new laptops look nearly identical to the aluminum MacBooks they replace. They have the same precision-crafted aluminum unibody design as the aluminum MacBook, an iSight camera and a glossy widescreen with a 1,280x800 resolution. Apple claims that improvements made to the display and backlight have increased the color gamut by 60 percent.

Looking at a batch of photos on the new 13in MacBook Pro models and the older 13in aluminum MacBook, bright colours such as reds and oranges really stand out on the new laptops, making the previous display look a little muted in comparison. Interestingly, the viewing angle seemed a little better on the older screen, though only at fairly extreme angles. In everyday use, its hard to imagine the new system's viewing angle being a problem. Unfortunately, there isn't an antiglare screen option for the 13in MacBook Pro.

On the lefthand side, the new 13in MacBook Pros have a MagSafe power connector, Gigabit ethernet port, Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0 ports and the previously mentioned FireWire 800 port and SD card slot. These two additions do come at the cost of separate audio-in and -out ports, which are replaced with a combined optical digital output/headphone out port that can be switched to be an analogue audio line-in (it works with the Apple Stereo Headset that comes with the iPhone). Also, the Kensington lock slot has moved to the right side, next to the slot loading eight-speed SuperDrive.

>> NEXT PAGE: Performance testing, battery life and upgrade options


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