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Apple's 2012 MacBook family portrait: a guide for new buyers and upgraders

Apple's 2012 MacBook family portrait: a guide for new buyers and upgraders

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We line up Apple's new MacBook family side-by-side.

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apple macbook family portrait 2012
apple macbook family portrait 2012

As expected, Apple unveiled some massive refreshes to it's full lineup of MacBook laptops earlier today at the Moscone Center as part of its WWDC 2012 keynote — but you may still be wondering whether an upgrade or a first time MacBook purchase is worth the hit to your bank account. While you may want to wait until we've had some time to test-drive Apple's new equipment, we've got a pretty good idea of what the lineup looks like from specs alone — so let's dig in.

Click on the images below to compare all of Apple's new products side by side in our database:

Screen_shot_2012-06-11_at_4

For New Buyers

If Apple's latest batch of MacBooks finally convinced you to buy into OS X, which laptop should you choose? If you don't want to wait for reviews, the spec sheets show that each has a fairly distinct combination of pricepoint and features.

For $999, the 11-inch MacBook Air is the entry-level Mac, and also the smallest money can buy, so it's the one if you're on a budget or care about size.

At $1,199, the 13-inch Macbook Air and 13-inch Macbook Pro are very different machines indeed: buy the Air for a higher resolution display, a responsive SSD and a thinner frame, or the Pro for a FireWire 800 port, more bang for your processor buck, and a DVD drive.

Neither the Air nor the 13-inch Pro have quad-core processors or game-friendly graphics, but you can get both in the 15-inch Macbook Pro starting at $1,799, which comes with an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M chip, a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, and a lowly 5400RPM HDD.

Finally, for the pricy $2,199, it seems the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display could be the best of all worlds: a quad-core processor, gaming graphics, flash storage, 7 hour battery, and a 15.4-inch 2880 x 1800 display in a 0.71-inch chassis.

Regardless of what you choose, Apple's newest MacBooks are shaping up to be attractive options for nearly any type of laptop user — and be sure to stay tuned for our full reviews of the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models for full answers to your burning questions.

For Upgraders

The MacBook Air

While this year's MacBook Air refresh brings some nice additions like Intel's Ivy Bridge chipset and a huge 512GB SSD option, owners of the existing 2011 MacBook Air may have the most difficult upgrade decision to make. Apple has added USB 3.0 on both sides, a slightly faster processor, slightly faster internal graphics, and up to 8GB of RAM -- all nice spec bumps, but perhaps not enough to justify an upgrade for the majority of users. Unfortunately, despite the rumors, no Retina displays were added to the MBA lineup, and both the 11-inch and 13-inch models still rely on integrated graphics. Still, both new buyers and upgraders will benefit from a cheaper entry price on the 13-inch MacBook Air.

Screen_shot_2012-06-11_at_5

The MacBook Pro

If you're already hefting last year's MacBook Pro, it's pretty much the same thing: if you're not looking to go thin and light, the 13-inch Pro still won't give you a higher res screen or discrete graphics, merely the Ivy Bridge processor and integrated graphics bump, and USB 3.0. On the 15-inch Pro, though, you will find Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M, a game-capable GPU that should have a sizable edge over the last-generation's AMD chips. If it's been two or more years since you've upgraded your 13- or 15-incher, though, there could be enough to tempt you now. Trust us when we say performance and battery life have come a good way since the Core 2 Duo / Core i5 and GeForce GT 330M we saw in 2010's models. Of course, if you had a 17-inch Pro, though, you won't find a successor at all. There's no 17-inch laptop in Apple's current lineup.

Screen_shot_2012-06-11_at_5

Beyond: The Macbook Pro with Retina Display

If they've got the cash to spend, both MacBook Air and MacBook Pro owners may also now be considering the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, since its thinner profile makes it a more attractive option than ever for those who are concerned with size and weight. It houses quad-core processors and Nvidia Kepler graphics, too. The only sticking point here may be its significantly higher cost of admission, but the lines are certainly starting to blur between the Air and the Pro when it comes to portability.

T.C. Sottek and Sean Hollister contributed to this report.

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