August 4, 2006

The new MacBook


Apple’s move to a completely Intel based portable family is now complete with the recent introduction of the MacBook. The MacBook replaces the familiar white iBook as Apple’s entry level laptop – however there isn’t much that’s entry level about MacBook except for the price ($1749).

The base model MacBook sports a 13.3” glossy wide screen display that is 70% brighter and has 30% more viewing area then the previous model. It also comes with a 1.83Ghz Intel Core Duo processor (5 times faster then the G4), 512Mb RAM, 60Gb Hard drive, CD burner (with DVD read capability), 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 Firewire port, Built-in Airport (802.11g), Built-in Bluetooth, Ethernet, Audio In and Audio Out (Optical), Built-in iSight and comes with Apple’s remote control for $1749. An extra $350 gets you a 2.0Ghz processor and a Superdrive (DVD burner). If white isn’t your colour you can spend an additional $650 and upgrade to Black casing, an 80Gb Hard drive and a 2.0Ghz processor.

The MacBook picks up where the iBook left off. Most importantly the MacBook falls in line with the rest of the Apple range by getting a 13” wide screen display. A wide display makes viewing today’s HD content better as the content is pre-formatted to the wide screen 16:9 format. The MacBook’s battery life remains at 5 hours when power saving is turned on and wireless networking is turned off. With wireless networking on and usage of the optical drive expect this to dip to between 3 and 4 hours.

Another major change on the MacBook is the newly redesigned keyboard. Don't worry, you won't need to re-learn the keyboard layout but the feel of the keyboard is slightly different. The keys are now inlaid meeting they can't come loose as only the top of the key is visible. The new keyboard feels great to use and is also now recessed so that the keys don't touch the display when the lid is closed.

Two other important features of the new MacBook are the completely latch-less display closing mechanism (fantastic as no moving parts means nothing can break) and new MagSafe power adaptor. The MagSafe power adapter magnetically binds the power cable to the computer meaning that any sudden movement of the cable or computer automatically releases the cable. This means less damage to both the power adapter and computer.

The MacBook differs from the MacBook Pro in two main areas; screen size and graphics capabilities. The MacBook's memory is shared between the main system and the graphics system. The MacBook Pro employs a dedicated graphics processor with it's own memory. The MacBook Pro also comes in two screen sizes, 15" and 17". Additionally the MacBook Pro range comes standard with a back lit keyboard - great for working in a dark room.

In my testing I found the MacBook was very comfortable to work on. Compared to the last model iBook it screams along and feels much faster then any G5 I have used. The new 13" glossy screen is bright and displays colours vividly and accurately. My only concern was the heat generated by the machine. Apple have said this is normal and has been present in the recent range of laptops.

The MacBook is a fantastic entry level laptop and the only laptop on the market that can run Mac OS X and Windows XP nativley. With Boot Camp (a free download from www.apple.com.au) you can nativley run all of those Windows applications that haven't been converted to Mac. Boot Camp opens the MacBook up to a whole new market of buyers and now competes directly with the Dells, Toshiba's and HP's of the world. Do a side-by-side feature comparison and you'll find the MacBook is more feature rich for about the same money. Plus, it's the only laptop that comes with Mac OS X and a standard suite of great applications including iPhoto, iWeb and Garageband.