Apple MacBook Pro

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COURTESY OF APPLE

When I wrote about Apple's Intel-based iMac a few weeks ago, I said that the upcoming MacBook Pro was an "iMac on wheels." One reader wrote to say this was an unfair description, because the iMac was for consumers and the MacBook Pro was, well, for professionals. As true as that may be, the MacBook Pro is definitively a mobile version of the same basic system.

Both the iMac and the MacBook Pro come in 1.83 and 2 GHz dual-core processor configurations. Both have built-in iSight cameras. And both have remotes for Front Row, so that you can manage music, videos and photos from a distance. Certainly, the MacBook does have a few elements that the iMac doesn't share: The illuminated keyboard works with a twilight sensor, adjusting the backlighting so you can always see the keys; the screen is much brighter than previous models — fully viewable, even when you use it while sitting in a bay window on a sunny day; and the MagSafe magnetic breakaway power cord works as billed, so kids and cats can tug without risk to body or machine. Leave it to Apple designers to take a cue from the makers of deep fryers and fondue pots.

On the "pro" front, its chipset is upgradeable to 2.16 GHz for an extra bit of juice. In place of the old PC card slot, there's a 34mm ExpressCard/34 slot. I looked around the Internet, and it doesn't seem like there's much you can do with that slot now. However, Apple says that many such products will soon be available, including memory-card readers and networking devices. (Be aware: some devices, such as current Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess PC-card modems, won't work on the MacBook Pro.) One noticeably absent feature is the FireWire 800 port found on G4 PowerBooks — could it be the end of that particular interface?

It's easy to talk specs and features, but the MacBook's strengths come to light while in use. Apple was smart to skip over development of a G5 notebook, and go right to the Intel Core Duo. It's not easy to watch the highest-definition QuickTime movie trailers on a G4 PowerBook, and on many Centrino-based Windows notebooks, it can look pretty choppy, too. But on the MacBook Pro, 1080p movie trailers are smooth running.

My only concern about the transition to Intel-based systems — the iMac, the MacBook Pro and the newly announced Core Duo Mac Mini — has to do with hard disks. If you boot up using an external drive, as many Mac users often do, you have to reformat that external drive to have something called a "GUID partition," otherwise the computer will simply not recognize it as a boot disk. The other disk issue I have had in the last few weeks regards DiskWarrior. The hallowed saviour of Mac-formatted disks since time immemorial doesn't run on the new systems. As someone who as had his share of hard-disk failures, I'd really like to see that particular lifeline brought up to date.