Do the new MacBook Pros forgo raw computing power in favor of battery life? Yup.

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Today’s MacBook Pro refresh left a lot of us feeling, well, bored. The new notebooks aren’t particularly powerful with dual-core Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs along with low-memory GPUs. They really aren’t anything special compared to similarly-priced PCs. Numerous manufacturers offer a PC for around $2000 that comes with quad-core i7’s, 1GB graphics card along with tons of RAM and a higher-res screen than what’s in the new MBPs. It really seems that Apple didn’t go with the most powerful hardware available to boost the projected battery life to previously unheard of levels.

Battery life is really the only compelling feature — besides OS X of course — in the refreshed MacBook Pros. Apple is claiming that the 15- and 17-inch can see between 8-9 hours while the smaller, Core 2 Duo-equipped 13-inch can rock for 10 hours straight. That’s impressive even if Apple exaggerated those claims a bit.

Take the HP Envy 15 for example. I’m typing this on one right now and it’s a beast. The $2500 rig has a quad-core Core i7, a 1GB ATI 5830, 8GB of RAM, 1900 x 1080 screen all wrapped up in an aluminum case that could disguise it as a MBP if it wasn’t for the HP logo on the lid. It’s my main computer and I love everything about it (Windows 7, really) except the battery life. I’m lucky if I get a full hour out of it on the battery-saving mode. It’s about 35 minutes when I select the High Performance mode.

The Envy 15 isn’t the only PC like this although I’ll admit it’s probably the worst. Most other machines with the same sort of specs get between an hour or two out of the standard battery. Thankfully all of these have a user-replaceable battery unlike the MBPs, but that’s not the point. Apple clearly went with less powerful hardware in favor of a longer battery life.

It’s a case of good enough, really. The dual-core Core i5 and Core i7’s available in the new MacBook Pros are just that — good enough. The same thought applies to the GPUs, too. It’s not like Apple is marketing these machines as gaming solutions as the dual-core CPUs and switchable graphics should be able to handle nearly anything else. Besides, Intel’s quad-core CPUs do not support the Intel HD Graphics, which these notebooks use to save battery life when a resource-intensive task doesn’t call on the power-hungry Nvidia GeForce chipset.

We’ll likely see real-life reports on the new MBPs’ battery life in the coming days from consumers. Chances are users won’t find that the battery life lasts as long as Apple claims and that’s fine. Manufacturers have always touted unrealistic battery levels and most consumers are used to it by now. But the batteries should still last longer than the previous generation and worlds better than the MBP’s PC counterparts, totally compensating for the less power hardware. It’s clearly an interesting but smart move by Apple. I’m jealous.

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