I'm looking at a used Unibody MBP as the new ones have been severely downgraded. The early 2009 2.53 GHz model was available with both video cards... the 9600GT having 512 mb vram. The 2.53 GHz is no longer available with the 9600GT and even the 2.66 GHZ model, though available with the 9600GT only has 256mb vram. You now have to opt for the 28 GHz model to get the 9600GT with 512mb vram. What is Apple doing here?
Probably hitting a price point? The previous low-end machine went from $1999 to $1699. For someone who doesn't need the graphics performance (likely NOT a photographer, but let's say a business user), why pay $300 for something they don't want and can't use? Certainly businesses would ask the question. Lightroom doesn't (yet) leverage the GPU, and Photoshop barely does (and that's new as of CS4), so it's a way to offer something $300 cheaper.
Similarly with the one with both GPUs: you're comparing CPU speeds and RAM amounts. I'll bet the "former" 2.6 GHz model was at the $2499 price point? So the new one is $500 cheaper than the old one was, and what you give up is 256 MB of VRAM. Again, unless you're using Aperture or Motion (the only products that _really_ leverage the GPU right now), you're not going to miss it.
Bottom line is you are getting MORE for your money with the new laptops than with the old ones. Compare the 2.8 GHz machine at $2499 to the previous offering at that price point if you want to play the spec game. You can't drop $500 off _and_ complain if one spec has changed. Well, you can; you did :-)
The Mac forums are replete with problems on the MBP's running both the 500gb 5400 rpm drives as well as the 7200 rpm drives. I was going to install a Crucial Ram 256gb SSD and bump the ram to 6 gb with a 4 gb OWC ram module, but it might be best to wait and see how Apple addresses this freezing hard drive issue. It appears to be very common. Here is the thread, and the problem is on every model from the 13" MBP to the 17" MBP: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?t...45&tstart=0
My understanding is that there's a firmware update on the way, from what I've seen mentioned in the blogs/press over the last day or two.
The older models also have the EC/34 Express Card slot, removed in the new models for the SD card slot. Yet another reason to buy used.
I've never used the ExpressCard slot on either of my MacBook Pros; the original 2.16 GHz model, or my new 17" model. I use a Firewire reader (the ExpressCard reader is so big you can't leave it in there anyway). If you had an eSATA drive this could be an issue. I personally use Firewire 800 drives, and it's sufficient for me, as I travel with the laptop and it's sufficient. For heavy processing work, I use my Mac Pro. Plus, with the internal 320 GB 7200 RPM drive in my 17" MacBook Pro, it's fast enough for use and I just use external drives for my Aperture vaults.