Apple MacBook Update

Apple recently updated their MacBook Pro range, leaving the entry level MacBook and the niche MacBook Air looking rather left out. Now it is the white plastic MacBook's turn to be brought back to terms with its aluminum siblings. Like the 13” MacBook Pro, Apple has not incorporated an Intel Arrandale Core i3/5/7 processor in the new MacBook. This is disappointing considering the state of the competition. Instead, the updated MacBook has to make do with a speed bump of the existing Core 2 Duo from 2.26GHz to 2.4GHz.

A slightly bigger upgrade comes in the form of NVIDIA's new GeForce 320M chipset—not to be confused with the GT 320M. This may very well be NVIDIA's final chipset for Intel platforms, but at least on paper it's a sizeable upgrade from the previous generation 9400M. Instead of 16 CUDA Cores, the 320M sports 48 cores, potentially giving a large boost to performance. However, the IGP still shares memory with the rest of the system, so memory bandwidth will be far less than discrete GPU solutions.

These upgrades bring the basic specification up to the same level as the new 13” MacBook Pro. The bump in performance will come in handy now that Steam has come to Mac and Valve has made Portal free for the next few days.

The MacBook comes with 2GB DDR3 RAM, which is upgradable to 4GB for $100. Storage comes in the form of a 250GB 5400RPM HDD with 320GB and 500GB options available at an additional cost of $50 and $150 respectively. Should you need to upgrade either, it would be strongly recommended to do it yourself to save on the small fortune Apple charges, especially as you can sell the components you remove.

Perhaps the most important part of the upgrade is a larger capacity integrated battery that boosts battery life to a very impressive 10 hours, up from a still impressive seven hours of the previous MacBook. This makes it a tough match for just about anything else out there with similar performance.

Otherwise the MacBook is unchanged with two USB 2.0 ports, Mini DisplayPort, combined audio in/out port, and Gigabit Ethernet comprising the usual limited wired connectivity of Apple’s products. The wireless side is well catered for with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n. An integrated slot loading DVD writer is standard.

The plastic ‘unibody’ chassis retains the familiar multi-touch trackpad, iSight webcam, stereo speakers, and chiclet keyboard. The screen, which has often been a criticism when compared to the MacBook Pros, appears to be unchanged with a 13” LED-backlit LCD panel with a resolution of 1280x800. We’ll have to see if there have been any improvements on this side when we get our hands on one.

The Apple MacBook is available direct from Apple for $999—or $899 for those who qualify for student pricing. This compares to $1199 (or $1099 for students) for the basic 13” MacBook Pro. With no fundamental specification difference between the two machines aside from an extra 2GB of RAM (something you can easily upgrade, though the MacBook ships with 2x1GB SO-DIMMs so you'll have to remove your current RAM), it comes down to how much you value an aluminum chassis, SD card reader, Firewire port, and a backlit keyboard? If the answer is less than $200, then the updated MacBook looks very tempting.

As usual, if you are willing to go without the Mac OS X operating system, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives available in the PC market that are worth considering.

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  • MonkeyPaw - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Try Microcenter. They are selling the old model for $999, with an instant savings of $200 when you add it to the cart. Doesn't sound like the updates are that great, unless
    7 hours of battery just isn't good enough for you.
  • killerclick - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    It's Craptastic!
  • Cali3350 - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Its a moderately powerful Mac for under a grand with ~8 hour battery life. It has a place in some peoples homes I don' doubt. I cannot stand the Macbook's screen though. I think my 15" PRO has a crappy screen and people tell me its actually one of the best in laptop land.
  • cknobman - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Hmm severely outdated proc, no discrete graphics memory, and the lovely apple ecosystem mandated by dictator Jobs.

    Im just licking my chops over this turd!!!!
  • mcnabney - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Yeah. 2006 called and wants it's processor back. A thousand dollars for four year old COMPUTER technology. The iConsumers are as braindead as ever....
  • DaveninCali - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Maybe you guys need a little education on how manufacturing and business practices work. Just because you computer nerds read Anandtech and follow the latest and greatest doesn't mean the world works that way. Take this article for instance back in February from Fudzilla:

    It basically states that 77%. You read that right 77% of all Intel processors made and shipped were socket 775 just 3 months ago. That percentage will still be greater than 50% by the end of this year. GREATER THAN 50% of all Intel processors made and shipped by December 2010 will still be socket 775.

    By the way, just because socket 775 processors were last generation, does that make them automatically stop checking email or playing games or browsing the internet? Companies like Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc. are all selling computers with Core 2 processors in them. A move to a new manufacturing process and/or architecture doesn't magically mean 100% of all computers will ship with that new process/architecture from day one. It takes YEARS before you reach the cross-over 50% mark.

    To educate you a little further, ever since Intel stop letting Nvidia make chipsets for their processors with integrated memory controllers, small form factor laptops just don't have the room for a processor, i/o hub and discrete graphics. The 13" MB is a case in point. It just doesn't have the mainboard space to house all the chips necessary for a discrete graphics solution. Not being happy with Intel IGP, Apple is holding off on adopting 32 nm nehalem chips with integrated graphics for the low end until Intel either improves the IGP (Sandy Bridge) or they switch to AMD (Llano).

    Schools over. Class dismissed.
  • Foggg - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    How many of those 775's are in systems selling for a grand with 2GB, 250GB 5400rpm, etc.?
    13"ers like the ASUS 30JC, HP Envy, Sony SR and Sony Z all have discrete graphics.
  • DaveninCali - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    How many of those laptops can boast 10 hours of battery life?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    The "motherboard space" argument is absolute garbage. ASUS has managed to package a GPU + H55 + Core i3 + DVD and all the other stuff into a chassis that is, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same size as the new MacBook.

    ASUS U30Jc: 13.12" x 9.52" x 0.80-1.20" (WxDxH), 4.80 pounds, 8-9 hours battery life
    MacBook: 13.00" x 9.12" x 1.08", 4.7 pounds, "10 hours" battery life

    The MacBook is .1" narrower, .4" shallower, and it's a flat case instead of a mild slope. Most of the extra size on the ASUS comes from a battery that you can easily swap out without opening the casing. Apple chose to go with the old Core 2 platform, most likely for the 320M chipset as much as anything. Honestly, I can understand that argument in the PC world, as 95% of people won't care much about the extra 20% performance in applications but 100% more graphics performance (relative to 9400M) would be very useful at times. The problem is, I don't think Apple has enough stuff that really benefits from the 320M vs. 9400M. Games are certainly out of the question, at least if Portal is any indication, as OS X imposes a ~50% penalty compared to Win7.

    Anyway, the whole package with the new MacBook really isn't that bad, but it's still overpriced relative to the PC world. Build quality won't be better than the ASUS U30Jc, 2GB of RAM is stingy, and you get a slower CPU all for $100 extra. (And I would wager if ASUS had gone with P8600 and the 320M, it would have shaved $50 off the BOM for the U30Jc.) Such is the world of Apple, though.
  • DaveninCali - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Very good points. The Asus laptop you mentioned is $919 on Newegg which is very close to the MB. Of course, many of the internal specs are higher on the Asus. It will really come down to build quality and which platform one finds more useful. But I don't see the Asus laptop being much of a better buy. Just a different buy.

    With regards to room inside, I'm just speculating as to what is going on here. Looking at the Asus laptop, I guess there are other reason Apple stayed with Core 2 for the MB refresh.

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