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Thursday, October 22, 2009, 10:05 am PT (01:05 pm ET)

Mossberg: Apple's iMac, MacBook 'evolutionary, not revolutionary'

In his reviews of the latest MacBook and iMac upgrades from Apple, Walt Mossberg has recommended both hardware redesigns, calling them better and brighter.

But despite major hardware changes on both lines of hardware, The Wall Street Journal reviewer said the updates do not offer anything significantly different than their predecessors.

"Though both new Macs sport important improvements, they are evolutionary, not revolutionary, and neither follows the industry trend toward bargain-basement prices," Mossberg said. "The MacBook is still $999 and the iMac starts at $1,199, though the company is giving users more features at those same price points. You can pay much less for laptops and desktops from competitors like Dell and Hewlett-Packard."

Mossberg gave the new 27-inch iMac a test, and found the upgraded internals, including the addition of a SD flash memory card slot and a 1TB hard drive, to be welcome improvements. He also noted the system's ability to act as an external monitor.

"In my tests, using a 27-inch model, the machine was fast and the screen was brilliant and displaying hi-res photos and high-definition video," he said. "Its width allowed me to treat it like two monitors, with, say, a Microsoft Word document on the left and a Web page on the right."

As for the new 13-inch unibody polycarbonate MacBook, Mossberg noted the loss of a FireWire port and the continuing absence of an SD card slot, but felt the shortcomings were offset by the new hardware design and internal improvements. For example, the sealed battery offers superior uptime, as Mossberg said he could "easily top six hours" with the new hardware in a normal use setting.

The new MacBook carries the same 1.08-inch thickness, but is longer and wider than the older model. The weight, he said, has been reduced from 5 pounds to 4.7 pounds.

Mossberg said the new MacBook with a 250GB hard drive is "fast and reliable," and offers a better deal than the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which has a 160GB hard drive.

The review did note that one "revolutionary" new product came from Apple this week: the new Magic Mouse, the first-ever multi-touch hardware pointer. In a brief mention, he noted that the mouse "worked well."

The technology columnist began and concluded his review by comparing Apple's new hardware with Windows 7, which brought about the launch of numerous new machines from vendors on Thursday. When he reviewed Microsoft's new operating system weeks ago, Mossberg gave Windows 7 high praise, noting he believes it has narrowed the gap with Apple's Mac OS X.

"These new models now round out a full line of refreshed Macs," Mossberg said in his review of the new iMac and MacBook, "but they will face stiff new competition from a horde of PCs running the new and better version of Windows."