Friday, January 13

iMac Core Duo and MacBook Pro: A Comparison

Everybody seems to be singing the prises of both the new iMac Core Duo and the MacBook Pro, but there have been very few comparisons between the two. After comparing specs, I have found that the specifications of Apple's new portable are nearly as good as, and in some aspects better than, the new desktop computer.

Among the four new Macs (two iMacs and two MacBooks), there are a number of features which are the same across the board. For instance, all of the new machines have a 667MHz frontside bus, 2MB of Level 2 processor cache, and 667MHz RAM chips (with a total available RAM capacity of 2GB).

All have an ATI X1600 graphics card, 54Mbps 802.11g AirPort Extreme cards built in, and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR wireless peripheral connection. (Other similarities include pre-installed iLife '06 and built-in microphone and speakers, but I'm concerned mainly with processing power in this comparison.)

There are several differences between the four machines as well. The processor speeds vary from 1.67GHz to 2.0GHz (both the faster MacBook model and the slower iMac model are rated at 1.83GHz; right in the middle), and the faster MacBook comes standard with twice as much RAM as any other model. The 1.83GHz MacBook Pro has 1GB of memory, while the other three models ship with only 512MB.

Both of the laptops have 15.4-inch monitors, while the desktops' displays are 17-inch and 20-inch. All of the new Macs have 128MB of GDDR3 video memory, again with the exception of the 1.83GHz MacBook (which has 256MB). The 20" iMac is expandable to 256MB of VRAM, but this is not the standard configuration.

Laptop/Desktop divisions
A number of the differences are sharply split between the laptop and desktop lines. For peripheral connections, both MacBooks have only one FireWire 400 port and two USB 2.0 ports. The iMacs have two FW400 ports and 5 USB 2.0 ports (they even have two USB1.1 ports, but these reside only on the USB-connected keyboard).

Both portables have 5400rpm hard drives (80GB in the slower and 100GB in the faster model), while the desktop machines' platters spin at 7200rpm (160GB and 250GB, respectively). And, while all four models have SuperDrives, only the iMacs can record dual-layer DVDs.

Did I mention the price?
And, of course, the iMacs are cheaper... $1299 and $1699, as opposed to the MacBooks at $1999 and $2499.

The MacBook Pro certainly can be seen as a true "desktop replacement" Macintosh. Though it has a slower hard drive and a smaller screen than the iMacs, it is my opinion that the abundance of RAM more than makes up for these deficiencies. I'm sure Apple will eventually come out with an Intel PowerMac that will blow us all away, but it's nice to know that Apple doesn't have a consumer-grade product (the late G5 iMac) that is so far ahead of a professional-grade product (the G4 PowerBook) anymore.

(All specs used in this comparison are taken from


Anonymous said... can get a 7200 rpm drive in the Macbook Pro as a build to order option

Brad said...

Sure you can... but do you really want your laptop to run that hot?

Besides, the point of the article was to compare the shipping configurations. You can definitely upgrade things, but I was looking at the computers as they exist at the readily-available price point.

And 7200rpm is way too fast for a notebook form factor. You might as well put a toaster coil in there.

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The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.