If price plays a greater role in a shopper's buying decisions during tough economic times, Apple's recent updates to its entry-level laptop, the white, £749 MacBook, should help push some cost-conscious consumers over the laptop-buying fence.

As the least expensive laptop in Apple's MacBook family, the white MacBook is popular in the education market and with consumers looking for a lower cost Mac experience.

While keeping the same inexpensive price tag and white polycarbonate shell, Apple has quietly bumped the speed of the laptop's Core 2 Duo processors from 2GHz to 2.13GHz and increased the hard drive capacity from 120GB to 160GB.

The white MacBook now includes faster 800MHz DDR2 memory than its last iteration, which used 667MHz DDR2 RAM. These updates amount to not only a better performing entry-level MacBook, but also a system that's faster than the 2.0GHz aluminum unibody MacBook that Apple sells.

Aside from the outward appearance and price, these updates to the white MacBook bring its specs up to the same level as the aluminum MacBook. Both systems have Core 2 Duo processors with 3MB of shared L2 cache. They both include 8x DVD-burning SuperDrives, 160GB hard drives, and 2GB of RAM. They both have glossy 13.3-inch LCD displays (a non-glare option is no longer available for the white MacBook) and both have 1066MHz system buses and use Nvidia GeForce9400M graphics.

Despite the similarities, differences do remain. The aluminum MacBook costs more, features the new unibody design, includes the new mini DisplayPort connector, and uses 1066MHz DDR3 memory. The aluminum MacBook also uses an LED backlight and has glass covering the screen for an even glossier (some would say mirror-like) screen.

The new white MacBook uses the older polycarbonate shell, has the older mini-DVI port and is the only current MacBook to include FireWire. As a person whose job requires wiping and installing software and operating systems on Macs almost daily, the lack of FireWire on the aluminum MacBook frustrates me to no end. On the other hand, the unibody design generally seems to be more durable over time.

Although we did not see any problems during our short time with the white MacBook Pro, buyers may want to consider some of the documented durability issues reported by users of the polycarbonate model.

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