FORTUNE -- Another year brings another set of updated MacBook Pros.
Last year, Apple (AAPL) revamped its line-up when it introduced thinner, lighter versions of its premium notebook line with sharper Retina displays. The changes were welcome. Back then, I called the new 15-inch MacBook Pro "one of the best options around" for its extremely brisk performance and excellent screen — this, despite a wallet-busting $2,199 sticker price. As for the 13-incher? Its own lighter form factor, something I thought lent itself better for travel, was hobbled by Intel's (INTC) chips. The lack of a discrete graphics card, found in the 15-inch version, meant even everyday websites like Facebook stuttered when I scrolled. The initial steep $1,699 starting price also was a head-scratcher. Overall, it was too expensive for many mainstream consumers to justify and too lethargic for most pro users to take seriously.
But this year, the sharper MacBook Pros are more up to the task, even if they appear almost identical. (In the case of the 13-inch, it's actually ever-so-slightly lighter and thinner than last year's model.) Which is to say, they resemble the traditional MacBook Pros of yore if they were subjected to several months of a calorie-blasting boot camp. At .71 inches, they're actually just slightly thicker overall than the MacBook Air, but lack the lighter notebook's tapering for a more svelte effect. As a result, they feel more robust in hand.
The biggest changes to the MacBook Pros are sight unseen. For reviewing purposes, Apple loaned me the $1,499 configuration of the 13-inch with a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM 1600MHz memory and 256GB flash storage and a $1,999 configuration of the 15-inch with 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 8 gigabytes RAM, and 256GB flash storage. (Both models now sell for $200 less than last year, starting at $1,299 and $1,999, respectively.)
One of the biggest improvements, Apple says, is battery life: 9 hours of use in-between charges on the 13-inch and 8 hours with the more powerful 15-inch. My typical everyday usage sometimes has tens of windows going at any given time — a half-hour Netflix video stream, Safari, Mail, Word, Spotify, and iPhoto to name a few — so I tested both laptops accordingly. With screen brightness around 75%, the 13-inch MacBook Pro lasted between 6.5 and 7.5 hours on average; the 15-inch lasted between 6 and 7 hours. Obviously, neither figures match Apple's own, but I consider my tests more strenuous, though far from hardcore. (Apple's battery life figures are based on two factors: screen display at 75% and solely Safari browsing of the web's most-trafficked sites.) Users who say, merely browse the web and answer email should experience even better battery life.
Intel's latest chips are more than enough muscle to power through everyday tasks. Indeed, website stuttering is no longer an issue for the 13-inch. And the 15-inch unit, which includes Intel's new integrated Iris Pro graphics solution but no discrete graphics card, slogged through Bioshock Infinite with aplomb so long as I didn't crank up the graphics settings to maximum. (The game was playable on the 13-incher, too, albeit not as smooth.)
As I've said in past reviews, it's worth thinking about what you need a notebook for. This year's MacBook Air remain lighter and more well-rounded, with seriously stellar battery life. (I'm getting 10 hours of juice at a time on the 11-inch version now that I've upgraded to OS X Mavericks.) And starting at $999, they're also cheaper. Of course, they don't have the data-crunching brawn of the MacBook Pros, nor the sharper display, and for some Mac users, those features make all the difference. Thankfully, however, it's easier now to advocate buying the new MacBook Pros: a solid price drop, improved battery life and noticeably better performance, particularly on the 13-inch model, ensure it's a "win" no matter what users buy.
The technology giant unveiled its latest in California and had a few tricks up its sleeves.
FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) is expected to unveil new iPads today. As with all major product releases from Cupertino, rumors have been zipping around the Web in anticipation of today's announcement. A redesigned full-sized iPad with faster processor and iPad Mini with Retina Display both seem like a lock. But whatever else Apple trots MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 22, 2013 12:43 PM ET
There's no question that this is one of the best desktops the company has ever shipped.
WATCH: Reviewer JP Mangalindan answers reader questions about the new iMac.
FORTUNE -- Just how thin can a computer get? Arguably not much more than Apple's new iMac. It is incredibly slim.
When Apple (APPL) took the wraps off the new desktop, many thought the iMac a two-dimensional mock-up -- not a real product. But real it is. MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 4, 2012 9:58 AM ET
Also: first impressions of the new iMac and MacBook.
FORTUNE -- For the first time in years, Apple (AAPL) held a product unveiling at San Jose's California Theatre and, as many predicted, the company delivered. It unveiled a 7.9-inch version of the iPad, dubbed the iPad mini. Also on display: a 13-inch MacBook with a high-resolution Retina Display, redesigned iMac, faster 9.7-inch-sized iPad, and updated Mac minis.
I managed to spend some MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 23, 2012 4:07 PM ET
Also: Softbank to buy Sprint Nextel for about $20 billion; 13-inch MacBook Pro may be unveiled later this month.
Amazon looks to acquire TI mobile chip business, report says [CNET]
If Amazon buys out Texas Instruments' mobile chip business, it would mark a dramatic shift for the e-retail giant. Amazon uses Texas Instruments' processors in its mobile devices, including the latest Kindle Fire HD. Barnes & Noble, one of its chief competitors, does, as MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 15, 2012 1:48 PM ET
Apple's latest laptops feature an extremely crisp screen -- and PC makers are likely rushing to follow suit. Problem is, most people might not really be able to tell the difference.
FORTUNE -- We always want our gadgets to be better. At one time, that meant a push for the fastest processor, better RAM, more hard drive space. Then the MacBook Air arrived, and attention turned to thinner and lighter notebooks. MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jul 3, 2012 10:06 AM ET
Oracle reports a terrific quarter; why the new MacBook is worth every penny.
Microsoft unveils Surface tablet to rival iPad [CNNMONEY]
The tablet features many of the now-standard tablet specs, including a 10.6 inch high-definition touchscreen and front and rear facing cameras, which all fit into a 9.3 millimeter, 1.5-pound frame. But Surface also brings some new innovations to the tablet space. The device's cover, for instance, flips down to become a MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jun 19, 2012 6:00 AM ET
But Apple's slick new laptop may not be for everybody out there. Read this review to find out if it's the right Mac for you.
FORTUNE -- Apple's new 15-inch notebook may look thinner and lighter than older MacBook Pro models, but there's no mistaking this for a MacBook Air. For $2,199, users get a more powerful 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel i7 processor, 8-gigabytes of RAM, a 256 GB solid state MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jun 18, 2012 3:56 PM ET
The screen draws raves. The price, not so much
FORTUNE -- Apple's (AAPL) favorite reviewer -- the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg -- appears to be out of pocket, but dispatches from the rest of the tech press are coming in. For some reason, many begin by posing questions: Does the MacBook Pro with Retina display live up to expectations? Does it create a new product category? Is it worth the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 14, 2012 11:32 AM ET
We got our hands on Apple's much-coveted new laptop. Here's a first read.
FORTUNE -- Don't call it a MacBook Air. Apple's newest 15-inch uber-notebook may be thinner and lighter than older MacBook Pro models, but its redesigned aluminum body houses a potent array of features. For $2,199, users get a 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel i7 processor, 8-gigabytes of RAM, a 256 GB solid state drive, two USB 3.0 ports, and MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jun 13, 2012 12:55 PM ET
|Will millennials kill Costco?|
|Stocks: It's report card time on Wall Street|
|Pope Francis challenges the free market - The Buzz|
|Nonprofits that pay top fundraisers $1 million (or more) a year|
|Americans have fallen in love with real estate once again|