October 19, 2005 @ 4:09 pm (EST) — posted by Alexandros Roussos (Software, Hardware, Strategy, Events)
Detailed report and thoughts on October 19th media event

During a media event scheduled by Apple today in New York, Apple has updated its PowerMac and Powerbook line-ups. It has also released Aperture, a new photo production application, and dropped pricing on its Cinema Displays.

Here is a detailed report of today’s announcements:

Powebooks:

The main new feature of the new Powerbooks is their high resolution displays and standard inclusion of SuperDrives across the line. The 12 inch model has seen no update though .

The maximum resolution of the 15.2 inch Powerbook is now 1440x960 pixels while the 17″ one can display up to 1680x1050 pixels. All the line-up now has a SuperDrive with dual-layer burning capability.

While memory remains at 512MB across the line, the 17″ inch Powerbook gets increased storage to 120GB (from 100GB). Note that the new Powerbooks still include an internal modem.

The Powerbooks are priced $1499 for the 12 inch, $1999 for the 15 inch and $2499 for the 17 inch.

PowerMacs:

Apple’s entry and mid-range PowerMacs sport a dual-core PowerPC 970MP processor running respectively at 2Ghz and 2.3Ghz, high-end PowerMac has two dual-core processors running at 2.5Ghz.

All of the PowerMacs come with 512MB of RAM (PC2-4200 - expandable to 16GB), a 16x SuperDrive, three PCI-Express expansion slots, Dual Gigabit Ethernet and a Mighty Mouse. Storage is 160GB for the entry level and 250GB for the other models. It can be upgraded to up to 1TB (with two 500Gb hard disks).

As for the graphic chip, Apple opted for the Nvidia GeForce 6600 for all the models. The entry level PowerMac has the LE edition which has only 128MB of VRAM while the two other models have the standard edition which has 256MB of VRAM.

Apple also provides a new very high-end offer in terms of graphic performance. While the entry level model can get a standard GeForce 6600 with 256MB of VRAM for only $50, Apple offers the possibility for all models to put an NVidia Quadro FX with 512MB of RAM. Of course, pricing is another story. It will cost you as much as $1700 for the entry-level and $1650 for the two other models if you want to put this graphics horse on your PowerMac.

Like it did with the iMac, Apple removed the internal modem of the new PowerMacs and added the option to order an external USB modem for $49 instead.

PowerMacs’s pricing is $1999 for the dual 2Ghz, $2499 for the dual 2.3Ghz and $3299 for the quad 2.5Ghz which ships in November.

Aperture:

As this, now confirmed, report was claiming, Apple has released a new professionnal photo retouching application. Its name is Aperture and it targets profesionnal photographers working with RAW files. The aim of this application is to make RAW photo retouching as easy and powerful as with JPEG.

This new piece of software costs $499 and will be available by late November or early December.

Cinema Displays:

As expected on one of our earlier reports, Apple has also dropped Cinema Display’s pricing. In contrary to our speculations, the 20 inch display didn’t see any change to its price ($799), while the 23 inch and 30 inch displays saw a $200 and $500 drop. They are are now priced respectively $1299 (from $1499) and $2499 (from $2999).

There is no update to this product line although the new iMac’s screen has better technical specs than the Cinema Display’s.

Our take:

Although the Powerbooks didn’t get a processor speed-bump, we believe they remain competitive with their new features. We, of course, appreciate the much anticipated higher resolution screens and the longer battery life.

The PowerMacs are better than we expected, as Apple has put dual core processors across the line. It’s unsure if the entry-level PowerMac is really faster than the last generation’s dual 2Ghz though, considering that this Mac had one dedicated front-side bus per processor. The standard graphic chips are quite good, let’s say mid-range performance.

It looks like Aperture is a very well done application. Once again Apple has made a professional application that is almost as easy to use as a consumer application, just like it did with Final Cut. We don’t believe that Apple threatens Adobe with its new piece of software and we don’t think it’s the aim. However it shows how much margin of improvement in terms of user interface an application like Photoshop has.

Apple has eventually dropped the price of its line of Cinema Displays. However we’re quite disappointed, not only because the line-up wasn’t updated, but also because the price drop is not as significant as we had expected in the entry and mid-range models. We believe these displays still lack some competitiveness except for the 30 inch one.



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