The Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros are here, and even if you’re a Windows user, these machines deserve a look. See Create Digital Music for the full once-over, but here’s my short list for why the MacBook Pro has appeal for the VJ/visualist/live visuals person, particularly for the intensive requirements of running live visuals in performance:

  1. Backlit keys: This one is a huge lifesaver when you’re in the dark, and it isn’t available on most PCs, or on Apple’s cheaper MacBook. Sure, you could plug in one of those USB lights, but do you really want that thing in your face and taking up a free USB slot?
  2. It runs Windows: I love the Mac, but Windows has a performance edge when running Java (read: Processing) and for live video input (thanks to DirectX), for Flash (for reasons unknown, it runs faster on PC even with the Intel Macs, and you have better developer tools), as well as running fantastic Windows-only live visual software like vvvv and Resolume. Spend your daily life in Mac OS, then boot up a cleaned-out, stripped-down performance-only rig in Windows.
  3. It runs Mac: The Mac has some nice features of its own, especially if you’re using tools like Max/MSP/Jitter. Max runs really well on Windows, but on Mac it has a very nice bonus: you can build custom image filters using Core Image and Quartz Composer. Driver support for audio and MIDI is far better on the Mac, too. You know the rest of the reasons why you like Mac OS. Isn’t it nice to be able to run both everywhere you go? Thanks, Apple. (See also: Linux on Intel.)
  4. FireWire 800: This is great for audio, but it’s even more awesome for video. One MacBook Pro, one external RAID array with all your video clips. Need I say more? (Hint: do not try this trick even
    with FW400.)
  5. RAM and storage: When you’re comparison shopping Macs with PCs, note that Apple has finally put sensible 1GB / 2GB standard RAM and 120GB / 160GB standard storage specs on these models. ‘Bout time. Most PC makers aren’t. Most PCs also aren’t expandable to a full 3GB RAM, and the MacBook Pro is.
  6. ATI X1600: For visualists, this is the other key spec difference between MacBook and MacBook Pro. The ATI X1600 isn’t the most powerful video card on the market (see Alienware’s incredible dual-SLI NVidia 7900 systems, which are surprisingly price-competitive with the Apples), but for most custom live visuals, this is the difference between a truly usable GPU and one that’s bare-bones (like the integrated video on the MacBook and most cheaper PCs). Odds are your custom visuals aren’t putting out the massive polygon counts needed for games, so the X1600 should be just right. If you really want to do crazy simulated fluid models, I’d suggest getting a small form factor PC, anyway, rather than a laptop, so you can upgrade visuals. The truth is, most of the software we use still relies heavily on the CPU, so the Core 2 Duo ultimately becomes more important than having the absolute top-of-the-line video card — and don’t forget, the X1600 can blaze through Unreal Tournament 2004 at around 60 fps, so it’s no slouch. (Try that with your PowerBook G4, or even MacBook. Actually — don’t.)

If you only need to run Windows, I don’t think the MacBook Pro makes much sense. But for those wanting the perfect mobile Mac, or a machine that can run Mac and Windows (for whatever reason), the MBP looks better. And if you were waiting for a speed bump, this is it. I’m guessing Apple will keep the current high-end / low-end configurations of their laptops for the near future.

  • The upgrades aside from the expected Core 2 Duo processor are a surprise to me, and a very welcome one. I didn't think Apple would be so giving this holiday season. Just about every component but the video card has been upgraded, and leaving the prices intact is making the value of these easily on par with Windows-only laptops. I think the $1999 model with an extra gig of RAM from your favorite tech parts store is going a great choice for a Christmas present to give yourself this year.

  • I have always been PC person, though would love to own a Mac in a near future. With Windows availability as a dual boot, its definitely becoming more and more appealing.
    At the same time I can't resist the Alienware laptop and desktop products that are lighting fast
    and damn sexy too…

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  • These machines look great, but you still can't access the S-video out under Windows, correct? You might want to share this information with VJ's who want to consider this machine for Resolume and other PC based apps.

  • Yipes, Robotkid, I wasn't aware of that. That's a big deal — will look into it. I expect some of the Windows issues will be addressed by the finished Boot Camp in 10.5. But this is obviously a serious issue in the meantime.

  • Note that Apple will sell you a $20 DVI-to-S-video adapter, not that that's the best solution, but it should work.

  • The DVI-to-S-video adapter is indeed required to get s-video out but it does not work on windows. There is loads of discussion about it on vjforums .

    Fingers crossed for Leopard!