Cook serves up new MacBook range

Steve Dinneen
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It is testament to how much Apple has evolved over the last decade that the launch of its new range of Mac laptops is seen as a warm up event for the arrival of the iPhone 5 later this year. But the new range is worthy of more than a footnote. Here is the lowdown on the Apple announcement.

The Pro is the daddy of the Apple range, providing far more power than its average owner really needs. The new range is a complete overhaul on the previous generation, shaving it down to just 0.71 of an inch and weighing noticeably less. The biggest change, though, is the retina display. First seen on the iPhone, Apple has now worked out how to stretch the ultra-sharp screen to fit its laptops. The firm says the 5m pixel screen is the world’s highest resolution notebook display, with 3m more pixels than you’ll find in an HD TV. Other display tweaks have improved the contrast, reduced the glare and widened the viewing angle, meaning you can sit more people around it to watch a movie.

Under the hood, the Pro packs Intel’s Core i7 chip and an improved processor, making it what Apple boss Tim Cook called “the most advanced Mac we have ever built”. And at £1,799 for the lower spec 15 inch model, rising to £2,299 as you squeeze in a few extras, it should be: you don’t buy a MacBook Pro if you’re looking for a bargain. If you only use your laptop for browsing the internet and calling your mum on Skype, you’ll probably never push the processor hard enough to justify the cost. If you’re a heavy user, though, there still isn’t anything that beats the MacBook Pro’s combination of design and power.

The MacBook Air didn’t get the complete overhaul of the Pro (it will be interesting to see if Apple can find any extra space to trim from the chassis when the time comes) but it did get some tweaks, including an upgrade to Intel’s Core i5 and i7 chips. At £849 for the lower-spec model, it’s not exactly a cheap way to browse the internet – but then, it’s the best ultra-portable laptop on the market, and that comes at a cost.

The real headline-grabber from this week’s launch was the introduction of a new Apple-owned maps app as part of the firm’s new iOS 6 portable operating system. The move has been seen as yet more proof of Apple’s souring relations with former buddy Google. It will mean deeper integration of the maps app with your iPhone, including turn-by-turn directions and crowd-sourced traffic information.

Siri also got an update, which could finally see the voice recognition software recommending local UK businesses (“Siri, where can I get a kebab?”). You will also be able to interact on Facebook without having to go through the app – a sign that, while investors may have cooled to the social network, it is still at the forefront of thinking in the technology world. The update will be available as a free download in the autumn.

In rather self-congratulatory fashion, Apple lauded the pace of its innovation in launching its new operating system, Mountain Lion, just a year after its predecessor. This may have something to do with the fact that Lion received a somewhat lukewarm reception, with many users reporting teething problems.

The update will bring improvements to the notification centre – the messages you receive across your devices – and more seamless integration of Apple’s iCloud storage solution. Free messaging between Apple products will now also include Macs. The new system will be available in July through the Mac App Store for $19 (£12.22).