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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  • Pirks - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    "complete flop Macbook Air"

    Is it a flop in your wintroll head or do you have some proof?

    I'd bet on the former.
  • CSMR - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    What's the obsession with Apple on this site?
  • Brazos - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    I believe Anand uses one. Wouldn't call it a fixation though. It's a just a computer.
  • DaveninCali - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Did you leave that same comment about the Asus U3JOc that was reviewed on the main page or are you just picking on Apple because you don't realize that the MacBook is just a computer and this is a computer review website? I'm just asking.
  • B3an - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    He left that comment because Apple get more articles and news dedicated to them on here than what they deserve. And Anand himself often seems to be bias towards them.
  • Tros - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    The way I see it, there are two reasons as to why AnandTech covers an article:

    1) It's cutting edge technology, that will enhance your experience of technology, due to the improved process inside.
    2) It's a new product, that will enhance your experience with technology, due to the improved process outside.

    #2 fits for awesome gadgets, new processes like 3d-vision, and the market recently opened up to Steam-Mac users.
    #1 Also fits for 3d-vision, newer laptops that fit a niche for the extremists, and new processor architectures.

    This is more of #1. If Dell or Acer had released this kind of laptop, AnandTech would have covered that as well. But alas, this is an extremist laptop that relies on last year's processor architecture to maintain the best of integrated graphics and battery life. And that's okay, since the set of things you need a Core i3 for instead of a Core 2 Duo, isn't very large. (IE, the jump from Atom::Core 2 Duo is much larger in terms of usability versus Core 2 Duo::Core i3).

    What's really a shame though, is that no hardware comparisons in terms of benchmarks are given! I'd go to Appleinsider or MacRumors if I wanted announcements like this. I go to AnandTech though for the analysis!
  • jleach1 - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    Hey daven? Do you post the same defensive comments on every enthusiast site that you visit?
  • DaveninCali - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    I only post defensive comments in response to other defensive comments. It is true that Apple is treated a little differently in the press but computer enthusiasts treat Apple differently too: they HATE Apple almost like racism. So far most of the comments here have been tame but I have read things like Apple is in it only for the money or they are being hypocritical, etc, etc.

    If you guys could calm down and JUST talk about the technology then everything would be okay. But no, you guys attack Apple users by saying things like iSheep and Jobs worshippers. The only thing that does it make you look bad not Apple users.

    All corporations are out to make money and abuse workers in Asia and use cheap marketing tactics. ALL OF THEM. To single out one based on some false commercial war started back in the 80's and 90's by both PC and Mac companies, is nonsense. Ignore the marketing and comment on the technology. That's what we are here to do.

    BTW, Anandtech has been around for almost 15 years. One news post about a Macbook on one day in the whole history of the site is not going to kill anyone. And now that they have changed the site format, the front page has news stories, opinion pieces as well as reviews. If you don't want to read fluff stuff, ONLY click on the reviews. Ignore everything else.
  • jleach1 - Saturday, May 22, 2010 - link

    I don't hate apple's products. But i suppose you could say im "unappreciative" of bias. If we talk tech, we should have a level-headed discussion. Like you said, the comments were relatively tame here. We were talking specifics here, the graphics card, the price. Exactly like the comments on other see the same stuff. "Price blah, screen blah, vid card blah, this company is good, this company's what sux."

    It's obvious that apple hold's back, and isn't in the same competition that dell, lenovo, hp, etc. are in. Apple could easily throw more power into the machines. Just to say "it's good enough" with it's products, when clearly users want more performance, puts it in a bad position. Apple caters to a comparitively small audience. Quite a few of us (ok...probably the size of the whole mac user community) would like to see apple step it up.
  • Hxx - Sunday, May 23, 2010 - link

    FYI when you're buying apple you're buying the whole package not just the hardware with a random OS like you do with a pc. Apple is known for their ability to integrate their software with a set of specific hardware... by now eveybody should know that. PCs are known for their performance but windows is not as well optimized as apple for the same set of hardware. Some of us prefer one over the other

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