The New MacBook

On the outside, the new MacBook is no different from its predecessor but this was my first time really using a MacBook while I'd lived with a Pro for a couple of years now, so I paid it extra attention.

As with all Apple notebooks, physical build quality is a strong point. While neither the MacBook or MacBook Pro feel quite as carved-out-of-stone as the Air due to the greater complexity of their physical design, they are both very well made.


Opening and closing the Macbook reveals its solid build quality. Apple has paid tremendous attention to the tactile experience of its notebooks and it shows.

Everyone harped on the MacBook Air for its lack of expansion options, the base MacBook does also have one complaint in that regard: it lacks an ExpressCard slot. While the Pro has an ExpressCard/34 slot, the MacBook relies on USB or FireWire for all of its peripherals. It’s not a huge deal but it does prevent the use of ExpressCard cellular modems, which would be my biggest use for the expansion slot.


That's all you get with the MacBook, no ExpressCard slot here

I really do love the style of the base MacBook, it’s honestly the best looking laptop you can get for $1100. It’s also got an advantage over the all-aluminum MacBook Pro in that the exterior casing is made out of plastic: it doesn’t shock me after walking through airline security.

Unfortunately, as is the case with virtually all Apple products, it takes a lot of effort to keep it looking good. The glossy white exterior does scratch/scuff easily like the aluminum exterior of the Air and Pro models. It’s much like owning a car in that you dread the first scratch, but once you get a few swirls in the paint you stop worrying so much and just try and keep it looking as good as possible.


Even the LED and remote IR receiver are stylishly integrated into the design

Flipping open the lid reveals an equally scary surface - it’s all white. The keys are white, the wrist rests are white, the whole thing is white. The problem isn’t the color, it’s that our bodies tend to secrete oil and leave dead skin around, which will ultimately end up on your wonderfully white MacBook. It’s a lot like owning white furniture, it can look great but it’s also a pain to maintain. Obviously a slightly discolored MacBook isn’t going to reduce its functionality any, but with greater style comes greater responsibility - keep that in mind.


It's so pretty


You can get it in black, but that'll cost you...

One solution is to get it in black, but unfortunately you need to opt for the $1499 version of the MacBook if you want that. The sweet spot for the MacBook is definitely the $1299 version as you get a fast enough processor (giving you virtual performance parity with the MacBook Pro as you'll soon see) and an appropriate amount of memory, as 1GB can be borderline for multitaskers like yours truly.


The MacBook (right) lacks the blacklit keyboard of the MacBook Pro (left)

There’s no backlit keyboard, which I hadn’t thought about until actually purchasing and owning a MacBook. It’s a feature that the rest of the industry has taken far too long to copy and there’s no excuse, even if it’s one of cost, to not include it in the base MacBook. If Apple wants to fight off claims of putting form over function it needs to include highly useful features like the Air/Pro’s backlit keyboard in all of its notebooks.

Despite the lack of a backlight, the MacBook's keyboard is excellent. I fell in love with it on the MacBook Air and it's truly a joy to type on. It's amazing how bad most notebook keyboards are, but the MacBook's is just very well done.

Oh Hashmir, Multitouch Me Down There More on the MacBook
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  • steveyballmer - Tuesday, July 08, 2008 - link

    ... being a mac!

    get real people! Vista is the thing!

    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com">http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    Reply
  • alisonkay2008 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    You can get the best Macbook Pro Case at Macbook Pro Case Reply
  • alisonkay2008 - Friday, March 07, 2008 - link

    Sorry... the link didn't work.
    http://www.macbook-pro-case.com">http://www.macbook-pro-case.com
    Reply
  • JAS - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    FWIW, MacWorld Labs is reporting that the new "entry level" MacBook Pro is about 10% faster than the model it replaces.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/132330/2008/03/mac...">http://www.macworld.com/article/132330/2008/03/mac...

    On this third year anniversary of my current laptop, I'm headed over to the Apple Store to purchase the 2.4 gHz model. Thanks to Anand for providing his helpful analysis.
    Reply
  • brunerd - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    Quick note about the Exposé key and some modifier keys:
    If you hold down Command when pressing Exposé (F3) it shows Desktop
    If you hold down Control when pressing it, it shows just the App Windows

    So you don't have to resort to fn-f12 or fn-f11 to get the above behavior.

    Thanks for the write up, nice to know it's running cooler.
    Reply
  • louieking - Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - link

    I was very disappointed that you did not compare the new Penryn 2.6GHz, 200GB- 7200RPM model with the 2007 Merom 2.6GHz, 200GB- 7200RPM model. I don’t think the tests were comparing apples for apples. I think most people interested in your reviews would have wanted to see the difference in overall performance (processing times, battery life) as it relates to lower voltage demands of the Penryn. This would have shown true comparison in battery performance since I suspect that the Penryn version would out-perform in all tests and still have better battery life by a few minutes. Lastly, I think many folks would have been intrigued with a test that showed Firewire 800 download speeds as it relates to battery life. This is an everyday task that would make a difference for a professional MacBook Pro user.

    PS. It’s not too late to WOW the world with your review since you usually beat everyone else to the punch.

    Thanks for your insight.
    Reply
  • azca - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    Hint: you can use a tiny driver/software to control the frequency of the intel cpus to show better comparison in your charts:

    http://www.coolbook.se/CoolBook.html">http://www.coolbook.se/CoolBook.html

    Please, if you can, use this for your next review so that you can have better apple-to-apple comparison.

    You can also use the program to undervolt the cpu and hence measure the thermal output and lifespan of battery etc.

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • Pete248 - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    While the MacBook Pro keyboard isn't bad, I'm really wandering, why Apple didn't switch to the new keyboard they now use in the MacBook, the Air and the external keyboards.
    Having tried both side by side, the new keyboard feels more definite than the MacPro keyboard. And its probably less susceptible to dust, crumbs and water - the later killing the MacBook Pro keyboard easily - even in traces.
    With a new keyboard I would have pulled the trigger for a purchase, now I'm holding back to see what comes within the next 3 months.

    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    The review says Intel's upcoming video would help the Macbook Pro with Blu Ray playback. Presumably that should have said help the Macbook, as the Pro doesn't use integrated video, and has already had a GPU that accelerates Blu Ray playback for most of a year.

    [quote]MelCarnahan, 2 hours ago
    The author claims Apple picked the right CPU partner in Intel, yet these Intel CPUs could not come close to matching a 32nm Quad Core IBM Cell processor with 2000 MHz FSB. It is disingenuous to compare these Intel egg fryers with a single core PowerPC with a 133MHz FSB. Clearly the Cell processor is superior both in performance and battery life. Only those who wish to use their Yonahs to fry eggs prefer Intel. [/quote]

    Is this some kind of joke? If so, I don't get it. There's so much wrong with this post I don't know where to start, and someone else can do a far better job explaining why, but off the top of my head:

    Cell is a TERRIBLE general purpose CPU. It gets destroyed by Netburst architecture, let alone Intel's modern CPUs. It's great for specific things, but would be terrible for a computer (and is very questionable for a game system for that matter...)

    As far as I know, Intel is a who process ahead of anything Cell is produced on. Geez, the PS3 version is only now hitting 65nm.

    I have no idea why Cell would run COOLER. If anything I'd assume the reverse is true, and certainlly it is anyway because AFAIK there's no 45nm Cell (let alone 32nm as claimed).

    [quote]The Yonah fans sound distinctly like one of those unarmored Humvees with its muffler blown off. The Merom 2.2 Macbook Pro is an improvement but still far hotter, louder and short-batteried compared to the PowerPC. [/quote]

    The Macbook Pro's I've used are dead silent unless they're pushed-but that's a case design issue. I have no idea how they compare to the G4 that was used in terms of the power they use, but I don't think it was much different, and certainly Intel's CPUs would destroy those G4s in terms of power/performance.
    Reply
  • MelCarnahan - Monday, March 03, 2008 - link

    The author claims Apple picked the right CPU partner in Intel, yet these Intel CPUs could not come close to matching a 32nm Quad Core IBM Cell processor with 2000 MHz FSB. It is disingenuous to compare these Intel egg fryers with a single core PowerPC with a 133MHz FSB. Clearly the Cell processor is superior both in performance and battery life. Only those who wish to use their Yonahs to fry eggs prefer Intel.

    Secondly, Macbook and Macbook Pro keyboards are a disaster. Forget bells and whistles and multitouch. They don't even get the basics right. These are basically what was long derided as cheap chiclet keyboards for many years. The backlighting is frivolous when you consider that even at the dimmest setting, the screen is enough to light up a room. The screen is certainly bright enough to light up both the room and the keyboard. The first and most important requirement of any keyboard is a dedicated, full-size page up and page down key. Second, full-size arrow keys. Even the first TRS-80s got this right and Apple still can't get it right. They could create a feature where you waddle your elbows like a duck while holding up three fingers and bending your knees and then the page scrolls down a page - or they could just include a proper page-up and page-down key.

    The Yonah fans sound distinctly like one of those unarmored Humvees with its muffler blown off. The Merom 2.2 Macbook Pro is an improvement but still far hotter, louder and short-batteried compared to the PowerPC.

    For solutions see: http://www.terrasoftsolutions.com">http://www.terrasoftsolutions.com

    Reply

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