Pick an Apple: Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of the hat, Apple Inc. always conjures up a buzz out of its product announcements. In its latest trick, the technology maestro has unveiled a much-anticipated lineup of new MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air notebook computers that are already triggering excited debate. Along with some innovative technology, the new creations basically trumpet Apple computers’ traditional selling points — style and ease of use.

Apple has adopted a manufacturing technique that involves carving the chassis for notebooks out of a single aluminum plate, what it calls a “unibody.” The idea was first used for the existing MacBook Air and is claimed to make notebook computers lighter and more robust than those made with traditional plastic. The change is significant in the case of the MacBook, which sheds a few hundred grams by switching from a polycarbonate body to an aluminum one. The MacBook Pro had already used an aluminum chassis, but gets a lighter version, although other changes have actually made the Pro slightly heavier than its predecessor.

Apple has also adopted Nvidia’s 9400M chipset for graphics in all three models of the MacBook. It claims that this chipset has up to five times the processing capability of its previous graphics chipsets. Moreover, the new high-end MacBook Pro augments the 9400M with a second chipset, Nvidia’s 9600M GT, which offers beefed-up performance. Users can switch between the two, choosing between five hours of battery life with the 9400M or about four hours with the 9600M GT. This procedure unfortunately involves a restart.

Another talked-about change is the multipurpose touchpad for the basic MacBook and the Pro. This gives users the finger controls that are so beloved on the iPhone, such as switching between applications with a swipe of the finger. The new touchpads do away with a separate button for mouse clicks — now you tap the pad instead of “clicking.”

In regard to the Air, it also gets some improvements in processing power and hard-disk capacity, but it still lacks any kind of built-in optical drive.

The new MacBook sticks with a 13-inch screen and comes with 2 gigabytes of memory. You can choose between a 2.0-gigahertz processor and 160-GB hard disk for ¥148,800 or a 2.4-GHz processor and 250-GB hard disk for ¥184,800. The existing 13-inch MacBook will now sell for ¥108,800. The 15-inch Pro also has 2 Gb of memory (expandable to 4 Gb) and comes in choices of 2.4-GHz processor with 250 Gb of hard-disk capacity for ¥228,800, or 2.53-GHz of processing power and a 320-GB hard disk for ¥288,800. The new 17-inch Pro model has 4 Gb of memory, a 2.5-GHz processor and 320-GB hard disk for ¥318,800.

The upgraded MacBook Air has 2 GB of memory with options for a 1.6-GHz processor and 120-GB hard disk costing ¥214,800, or you can really lighten your wallet and pick a 1.86-GHz processor with a 128-GB solid-state drive for ¥298,800.

The new MacBook and MacBook Pro models are out now, with the updated Air to take off next month.

Despite the much-hyped new manufacturing method and boosted graphics, the fundamental appeal of the Apple notebooks remains the same. Other computers have already offered the twin-graphics-chipset trick. But the Apple products are lovely to behold, a pleasure to use, and the OS X Leopard operating system is ready to go right out of the box. store.apple.com/jp

Bigger picture: Creating smaller headlines is Apple’s new 24-inch Cinema Display. As part of its burnishing of its environmental credentials, Apple has made the new display an LED-backlit unit.

LED backlights improve upon the cold-cathode fluorescent-lamp technology common in older displays by using less power, lasting longer, and containing no mercury. Moreover, the glass used in the display is claimed to be arsenic-free and the monitor has no brominated flame retardants. All of the internal cables and components are also PVC-free, Apple claims.

The display is intended primarily to be a companion for the new MacBook laptops. As part of this, it includes the MagSafe electricity adapter, which provides power to a laptop connected to it.

The new display looks like a clone of the current iMacs, right down to the same aluminum trim and distinctive L-shaped stand. Apart from the eco and style credentials, the display also offers 1,920×1,200-pixel resolution, 330-cd/m2 brightness and a contrast ratio of 1,000:1. It includes a built-in iSight camera and microphone, stereo speakers and three-port USB 2.0 hub.

Hooking up your MacBook to one of these displays overcomes the biggest hurdle in dumping your desktop in favor of something smaller. The new display will cost ¥98,800 and will be available in November.

Blu-ray specialist: Copying high-definition TV shows is just not practical with DVDs; they don’t have the storage capacity.

So, as high-definition TV becomes more popular, dedicated TV-philes are being driven toward a choice: Lower your recording standards or switch over to Blu-ray. And the range of options for the latter gets wider every month.

Victor-JVC’s new DR-BX500 Blu-ray recorder features a prodigious 500-GB hard disk, which can can store between 43 and 90 hours of high-definition TV programming depending on the quality level, including the ability to record in the popular AVC/H.264 MPEG4 codec. For standard-definition TV, the storage capacity tops 800 hours.

The DR-BX500 includes a pair of digital-TV tuners and one analog TV tuner, allowing users to record from multiple channels at the same time. Apart from Blu-ray discs, the recorder can also handle DVDs. Priced at ¥178,000, it hits the market next month.

Before you decide if the DR-BX500 is a must-have accessory for your living room, the first decision is whether to go for Blu-ray or stick to DVD. If most of your viewing is standard-definition TV, the extra cost of Blu-ray is hard to justify. But if your TV diet feasts on high- definition, then you really need to look at Blu-ray. As an example of that beast, the DR-BX500 is a tad pricey, but it does offer a large capacity and is comparable in size and looks to a DVD recorder. www.jvc-victor.co.jp


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