Since its debut in May 2006, the Apple MacBook laptop family has earned a place in the pantheon of Apple's all-time greatest hits. The sturdy, Intel-powered MacBook notebooks have been so popular with consumers, especially students, that they've helped Apple nearly double its laptop sales over the past year and grab close to 10 percent of the US retail market.

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The latest enhancements to the Apple MacBook line aren't spectacular, but they're sure to solidify the MacBook's status as a market leader. All three models - still weighing in at 2.3kg, and priced at £699, £829 and £949, have slightly faster processors and higher-capacity hard drives. In addition, the entry-level model now has twice as much standard system memory (1GB) and on-chip Level 2 cache (4MB) as its predecessor, bringing it up to par with its higher-priced siblings.

Building on success

All three Core 2 Duo MacBooks come with the same rich set of standard features as before. As in the previous iterations, the base model includes a Combo (CD-RW/DVD-ROM) optical drive, while the other two models come with an 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support.

All three models include bright, glossy 13.3in screens, with a native resolution of 1,280x800 pixels; a 667MHz frontside bus to ferry data between the CPU and RAM; AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) wireless networking; a Gigabit Ethernet jack; one FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports (but no FireWire 800); a scrolling trackpad; digital and analogue audio in and out ports; a mini-DVI (digital visual interface) port, which, with the addition of inexpensive adaptors, can drive displays with external DVI, VGA, or Composite and S-video connections. The all-new MacBooks also contain a built-in iSight camera for videoconferencing via iChat AV or having fun with Apple's Photo Booth software; an infrared Apple Remote and Front Row software; and, of course, the innovative MagSafe power connector, which reduces the risk of disaster by detaching itself from the computer if you trip on the power cord. Phew.

Also included with the Apple MacBook Core 2 Duo line is the iLife '06 suite of digital media applications. You don't, however, get any productivity software such as iWork - you'll probably need to add Microsoft Office or something similar.

All three Apple MacBook models now come with full, out-of-the-box support for 802.11n, the latest flavour of Wi-Fi wireless networking. 802.11n offers twice the range and up to five times the throughput of the previous standard, 802.11g. (The previous Core 2 Duo MacBooks, introduced last November, had 802.11n hardware built in, but you had to pay and download special software from Apple to enable this capability.)

Of course, you won't be able to use 802.11n unless you're connecting to a base station that supports the new standard, such as Apple's latest AirPort Extreme Base Station . (In principle, Apple's implementation of 802.11n should also work with other companies' 802.11n-capable hardware, but since the new standard isn't final, there are more compatibility challenges than with recent previous generations of Wi-Fi gear.)


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