Tempting new MacBooks – here’s how to save some cash.

The new Macbooks – faster, smaller, $200 more. That $200, though, looks well worth it.

The new enclosure is a single piece of milled aluminum. This promises to be more structurally sound than the existing polycarbonate Macbook cases. The new machine is also about a pound lighter than the old.

The new trackpad is much larger, and does away with a separate button. The trackpad is the button. It also incorporates all the pinch / swipe gestures from the iphone.

Comparing the new low-end model at $1299 with the old MacBook (white), now selling for $999, we see a 2.0Ghz Core 2 Duo processor in the new model vs. a 2.1 Ghz processor in the old model. Memory has doubled, to 2GB, and hard drive capacity increases from 120GB to 160GB.

But – now, it’s DDR3 memory instead of DDR2. What’s the difference? In a nutshell, it’s faster, and I expect it will soon be cheaper, as manufacturers start to phase out widespread use of DDR2, much as they have done with DDR memory, and DIMMs and SIMMs in the past.

The new MacBook can handle up to 4GB of memory, up from 3 for the last generation. A quick check shows that you can purchase 4GB for $80 locally, and a bit less if you purchase online. If you want Apple-supplied and Apple-supported memory, you can order your new MacBook with 4GB directly from Apple for an extra $150.

Similarly, upgrading to a 320GB hard drive runs $200 from Apple. for a few minutes of your time (or mine) to install, you can buy your own for about $100-120. As an added bonus, you’ll have another drive you can sell to recoup some of your cost, or install in an external enclosure for a portable or backup drive. Note – I haven’t yet confirmed that the new MacBook hard drive is user-upgradable, but I suspect that it is.

The Video chipset is said to be something like 5x faster. this will only help performance, as it can offload more graphics processing from the CPU.

One drawback, for those who are invested in FireWire peripherals already – the new MacBook has dropped FireWire completely, following the lead of the MacBook Air. This would be a reason to go with the new MacBook Pro. The MBP line continues to sport a FireWire port, though it is a FW800 port. FW400 peripherals can be connected via an inexpensive generic adapter.

If I were in the market for a new machine, I’d jump on the new MacBook in a hearbeat. Unfortunately for my new-toy gene, my current MacBook is still holding its own, chugging right along two-plus years later with a bit of help from memory and hard drive upgrades.

Edit: A month later, I’ve seen a few of these in the wild. I like!