Apple announced a 17″ MacBook Pro today, as expected. Aside from a bigger screen and a standard 2.16GHz Core Duo processor, the 17″ MacBook Pro offers a dual-layer DVD burner (missing on the 15″ model), three USB 2.0 ports instead of two, a bigger hard drive, and an additional FireWire 800 port as well as the FireWire 400 port available on the 15″. (Check the specs from Apple.)

Minor details aside, the main reason to choose the 17″ MacBook Pro is because you like a bigger screen. Despite the griping of Apple fans, I don’t think FireWire 800 is much to miss out on, as it never delivered on the performance gains over FW400 some had hoped. (Of course, having two FireWire ports is nice, because you can plug FW400 devices into the FW800 jack with an adapter.) I’ve been testing a 15″ MacBook Pro, and I’ve come to like that screen size.

The big difference here is that the 17″ no longer carries a big price premium, spec for spec. As thesimplicity notes on the CDM forums, if you were planning on loading up the 15″ model with all the options, the 17″ is actually cheaper, not more expensive.

Apple is repeating their “5 times as fast” as a PowerBook G4 claim, based on integer and floating-point calculation benchmarks. Those don’t sound like real-world numbers, but real performance is compelling, too. We’ll be looking more at Intel Mac performance later this week, which I think is the big story for Mac users, at long last. And if I were buying a PC laptop now, it’d sure be Core Duo-based, too.