Was it worth the buzz?

Apple today unveiled its new MacBook notebooks, most notable for their lowered price, high-performance graphics cards and, in some models, all-metal chassis: The new MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro are made from a single block of aluminum. Apple, which has been promising greener, more environmentally friendly electronics announced that the new MacBook family also meets Energy Star 4.0, Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) Gold and Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) environmental standards, and contains no brominated flame retardants. They use PVC-free internal cables and components, as well as displays that are free of mercury and arsenic. The LED (light emitting diode)-backlit display uses up to 30 percent less energy than previous MacBooks displays.

To better capture the attention of gamers, who tend to prefer PCs, Apple's new notebooks have NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processors that feature 16 parallel processing cores designed to perform up to five times faster than the MacBook's previous graphics processors. The MacBook Pro allows users to switch between the GeForce 9400M integrated graphics processor for better battery life and the powerful NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics processor for higher performance.

The glass Multi-Touch trackpad on the MacBook and 15-inch MacBook Pro is designed to give users almost 40 percent more tracking area than before, making it even easier to use Multi-Touch gestures like pinch, rotate and swipe. The entire trackpad surface is also a button, allowing users to both track and click virtually anywhere on the trackpad and delivering right-click functions missing in previous MacBooks (the button below the trackpad in earlier Macbooks is gone).

New models announced today range in price from the 2.0 GHz, 13-inch aluminum MacBook, starting at $1,299, to the 2.5GHz 17-inch MacBook Pro, starting at $2,799. The new MacBooks, 15-inch MacBook Pro and 17-inch MacBook Pro start shipping today, while the MacBook Air will be available early next month. The rumor mill was working overtime prior to today's announcement with word that one of the notebooks would come in at under $800. This turned out to be wishful thinking, although Apple is offering an updated 13-inch white MacBook featuring 2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors for $999.

The 2.0 GHz aluminum MacBook is notable in that it sports a CPU that is 16 percent slower than the old one, Apple observer John Gruber wrote today on his Daring Fireball blog, which is dedicated to analyzing the company and its products. "That is not to say the system itself is 'slower', Apple's argument will apparently be that the new Nvidia [sic] GPUs more than make up for the difference," he wrote. "What we're seeing may be the beginning of the end of CPU hertz as the rule-of-thumb metric for system performance."

Not to be outdone by its Cupertino, Calif., rival, Korean-based Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is re-entering the U.S. computer market with its own new lineup of ultralight notebooks, Reuters reported today. Like Apple's Air, Samsung's X-Series premium lightweight notebooks come with options for either a hard drive or solid-state memory. Samsung's X360 is priced at $2,499 and carries 128 gigabytes of flash memory, twice the 64 gigabytes that comes with the Apple Air selling for $2,598.

(Images of the MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air all courtesy of Apple, Inc.)