Apple’s 45nm Refresh: New MacBook & MacBook Proby Anand Lal Shimpi on February 29, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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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.