Apple's Todd Benjamin, director of portables worldwide product marketing, took a few minutes out of his hectic schedule to speak with Macworld UK this afternoon.

He offered a whistle-stop tour of some of the new features in Apple's new MacBook systems.

"The performance improvement in these systems over the preceeding systems is dramatic," he explained. "Performance is going to be a really big draw (for customers)," he said.

"The improvement will be evident to anybody who has been using a G4 notebook," he added.

Faster, brighter and better

Apple claims the new portable to be up to five times faster than comparable iBooks. A range of tests published on the company's website confirms the claims.

Benjamin stressed the numerous enhancements in the new systems as compared to the iBooks and 12-inch PowerBooks these new machines replace."The new MacBooks have a really compelling feature set," he said.

The new MacBooks include a 79 per cent brighter display, much faster processors, Sudden Motion Sensors, MagSafe power cables, Front Row and integrated iSight cameras. Benjamin called this "a very robust feature set".

Apple has been describing the new Macs as boasting "glossy" displays. Benjamin explained what this means. "We say glossy because when you look at the screens you'll see a glossy appearance. It means colours are much richer, they look great," he said.

Benjamin observed that users watching DVDs on a new portable MacBook should appreciate the extra lustre. "I think people will really enjoy these displays," he said.

Unlike previous-generation iBooks, the new MacBooks simultaneously support full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 1,920 x 1,200 pixels on an external display. iBooks couldn't do this.

Thin well-featured Macs keep level price

"The enclosure is amazing," Benjamin explained. "The machines are 20 per cent thinner than the previous iBooks." They weigh 5.2 pounds, which is "slightly more" than 12-inch PowerBooks, "but you get a 13-inch screen," he observed.

Apple has also maintained a general equivalence on price, though the entry-level model is £50 more expensive than the previous entry-level iBook. "But you are getting plenty of extra features," Benjamin explained, "it's fabulous value for the money."

The mid-range MacBook (£899) costs the same as the iBook model it replaces, while the new black top-of-the-range model actually costs a little less, he said: "This model is £70 cheaper than the 12-inch PowerBook G4," he observed.

However, with the only differences between the 2.0GHz white and black MacBooks evidently being the hard drive size and colour, it's strange to note that the white model costs £939 with an 80GB drive installed - £97 cheaper than the black model. This matter wasn't addressed during the conversation.

Please use Apple Care

There have been numerous reports recently of MacBook Pro owners experiencing some problems with their new Macs. One well-documented problem involves a loud whining sound when the machines are in use. Benjamin had nothing to add to this debate, but advised that Apple's customers contact the company if they experience problems.

"Anyone who has an issue with their system should contact Apple Care," he explained. "We offer 90-days free telephone support and a one-year warranty. Anyone with a problem should get in contact."

Despite these reported problems in the first generation MacBook Pros, Benjamin's pretty confident in the new Macs.

"These are really compelling, well-featured, exciting products," he said.