In a cut-and-dried press release, Apple announced that it has made a variety of minor CPU, RAM, and pricing adjustments to the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines.
13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display — Apple’s smallest Retina-enabled MacBook Pro previously cost $1,699 and $1,999 for flash storage amounts of 128 GB and 256 GB and a 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor. Now, the 128 GB configuration retains the 2.5 GHz CPU, but drops $200 in price to $1,499, whereas the 256 GB configuration gets a 2.6 GHz CPU and drops $300 to $1,699. The 256 GB model also gains a built-to-order option of a 3.0 GHz processor, whereas the 128 GB model retains its 2.9 GHz option.
15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display — On the larger end of the MacBook Pro model line, pricing remains the same, with the base model with 256 GB of flash storage listing for $2,199 but gaining a 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor in favor of the previous 2.3 GHz CPU. The higher-end 256 GB model also jumps from a 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 to a 2.7 GHz version for the same price, but it doubles the RAM to 16 GB as well.
There is now just one standard configuration of the non-Retina 15-inch MacBook Pro, a 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive for $1,799. You can change those specs during checkout to match the previously offered higher-end configuration, so offering just one pre-configured option is just a matter of marketing. However, the non-Retina 15-inch model lets you substitute a high-resolution (1680-by-1050 pixel) anti-glare screen for the normal 1440-by-900 pixel glossy screen for an additional $100 — it’s the last Apple laptop model that still offers what many people believe is an essential option.
13-inch MacBook Air — Lastly, the larger MacBook Air model with 256 GB of flash storage retains the same specs but drops $100 in price from $1,499 to $1,399.
Why Lower Prices? — It’s a little unusual for Apple to drop prices midstream like this; the company generally prefers to improve a model’s specs while keeping the price the same (and presumably improving the margin a little in the process). We could speculate about Apple wanting to goose sales a little to bolster Wall Street perceptions, but honestly, it’s hard for that to be anything more than a wild guess.
It’s equally likely that the cost of 13-inch Retina displays has dropped significantly since the price was initially determined, and Apple felt it would be helpful to pass on the savings in the form of lower prices. That, along with lower flash storage and RAM costs, might account for some of the other changes as well. It is a little interesting that the non-Retina models of the MacBook Pro saw no changes, and the MacBook Air line remained untouched at a technical level as well.
Regardless, there’s no question the improved specs and lower prices are welcome, and they make Apple’s already attractive laptop line all the more compelling.