Apple has announced an update for its MacBook Pro line that makes it up to 39% faster than the previous MacBook and seven trillion times faster than our sorry PowerBook G4s.

Wait — scratch that last line. I think they said “seven.” But having tested the first MacBook Pro, suffice to say that the Pro was already a huge leap forward from the G4 machines. I have a 1.5G G4 PowerBook, and it routinely crumples under the load of serious music software. The MacBook Pro is more in the realm of my dual-AMD PC and dual-G5 Mac. (See previous benchmark coverage.) The MacBook Pro is a terrific machine for Logic Pro, of course, meaning you can now use CPU-hungry plug-ins like Sculpture and Space Designer on the road or onstage. And it’s looking better than ever for tools like Ableton Live, particularly with Live 6’s significant new dual-core optimizations.

Admittedly, over the last months the Mac Book Pro’s price edge has been waning as PC makers engage in laptop price wars. The inclusion of the Core 2 Duo should help that a lot; combine the excellent design of the MacBook Pro with its ability to run both Windows and Mac, and it’s pretty hard to justify buying someone else’s machine. I’ve been specing out PC laptops for the heck of it, and while they’re cheap, I often find the specs make no sense (like having to choose between absurdly heavy machines with giant screens, or underpowered lighter machines) and the designs are hideous. But another reason to go “Pro” instead of “MacBook” is FireWire 800. There are a number of great external RAID drive products that offer high performance and capacity, ideal for toting large files (especially if you’re a Create Digital Motion type). People were rightfully disappointed to see FW800 disappear from the first-gen MacBook Pro; I’m guessing that motherboard availability was to blame (PC makers aren’t as interested in the faster bus). Now that it’s back, you can connect some serious mobile storage into your Pro.

The main question to me is choosing between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. Here’s the announcement I wanted to see today: Apple lowering the price tag on its black MacBook, which seems to be the only model immune to the near-immediate plastic discloration on the white machines, or upgrading the video subsystem from integrated graphics to low-end ATI. Sadly, that’s not to be, so you have to choose: bigger screen, extra connectivity, and better graphics on the Pro, or more portability and lower price on the MacBook?

In any event, Apple’s laptop line is looking as aggressive as ever, and I think it means great things for people using laptops onstage for live music and/or visuals. With the last of the Intel-native upgrades rolling in through the end of this year or in January, the timing is good. Aren’t you glad you didn’t leap for that MBP in January 06?