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MacBook Brushes Up Performance, Brushes Off Santa Rosa

MacBook Brushes Up Performance, Brushes Off Santa Rosa

When Intel released its latest Santa Rosa chipset last week, laptop makers wasted little time in mentioning some of their new PCs would incorporate the platform. However, the chipset plays no part in the latest update to Apple's MacBook line. Is Apple waiting for the chance to make a bigger splash before it goes all the way with Santa Rosa?

People who were holding off on buying a new MacBook in hopes that the next update of the Apple laptops would include Intel's new Santa Rosa chips will have to keep waiting.

While Apple included faster processors, more memory and larger hard drives in the latest update of its notebooks, it didn't upgrade them to the new Santa Rosa chipset, the latest addition to Intel's Centrino platform.

This left some observers disgruntled as they referred to today's MacBook update announcement as a "speed bump" instead of a hurdle. It came six days after Intel formally unveiled its next-generation laptop platform. Around the same time, a handful of PC laptop vendors unveiled new offerings that incorporate Santa Rosa.

On Apple Time

Apple has a reputation for doing things at its own pace, and it could be holding off on joining the Santa Rosa parade on purpose as a strategic marketing move.

"I think it is a bit of a surprise that they didn't use the new chipset in this product refresh," NPD analyst Stephen Baker told MacNewsWorld. "They have done this in the past where they haven't necessarily jumped right into the next Intel upgrades. I don't know that anybody really knows the reasoning behind that."

Perhaps Apple is nurturing its iconoclastic image. Maybe it's waiting for the upcoming Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Or it could unveil Santa Rosa-based MacBooks when the new OS X Leopard operating system is released.

"They tend to want to make a bigger splash when new chipsets come out -- a bigger splash than just a quick refresh ... I think they don't feel like they need to keep up with the Jones," said Baker.

Just a Little Pumped Up

Apple is not willing to have its MacBooks "get lost in the endless list" of Windows-based notebooks based on Centrino Duo that was revealed when Intel announced the new platform, Baker suggested.

While Baker was one of the people who said the new MacBook upgrades are on the "speed bump" level of importance, he added they are worthwhile performance boosters.

The least expensive model, the US$1,099 MacBook with a 13-inch monitor, has a faster Intel Core 2 Duo processor at 2 GHz, a 667-MHz front-side bus and Intel Graphic Media Accelerator 950 graphics and 1 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM (double-data-rate two synchronous dynamic random access memory) that's expandable to 2 GB. Storage capacity is increased from 60 GB to 80 GB. For $200 more, the next-level MacBook has a 2.16 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, with 667-MHz support, a 120 GB hard drive and an 8x DVD burner. The $1,499 model also has the 2.16 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM but has a 160 GB hard drive.

Waiting for MacBook Pro?

The updates add performance without a price boost, noted American Technology Research Analyst Shaw Wu. "The MacBooks, from what I can tell, were already selling pretty well in the current configurations," Wu told MacNewsWorld. "Now, for the same price, you get faster processors, more storage as well as more memory."

Santa Rosa will likely join the MacBook lineup later, possibly with an update to the high-end MacBook Pro line, Wu said. "I think the Santa Rosa chipset is a more radical architecture change and I suspect that we are more likely to see that in the MacBook Pro in the months ahead. The chipset just came out and I think it's unfair to expect it would be implemented right away."

The new platform might be in MacBookPros "as early as next month," said Wu, and it would help differentiate the Pro models from the regular MacBooks.


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