The MacBook is the best-selling Mac model in Apple's history. So it makes a lot of sense that Apple has given its entry-level white laptop a considered makeover.
The MacBook is Apple's entry-level Mac laptop, first appearing in 2006 after the company's migration to Intel processors. The latest version, while offering essentially the same facilities and all-white plastic design, now sees a subtle facelift for the bodywork that echoes the all-metal MacBook Pro range.
But where the unibody MacBook Pro series is milled from solid aluminium, the MacBook is still based on polycarbonate white plastic, albeit finished to a new, higher standard. Edges are now more rounded, making for a much more ‘grabbable' laptop. And the palm rest area has a glossy finish that should see it more resistant to the ingress of dirt and daily wear that could stain older models.
The other major revision is to the trackpad, which is now the same all-rocking glass multi-touch item fitted to the Pro series notebooks. Combined with the pinch and swipe gesture facilities built into Mac OS X Snow Leopard, this will certainly improve day-to-day comfort and productivity.
The new design has the entire baseplate as a removable plate, held in place by eight screws. With this removed it's easy to access the hard disk and RAM for later upgrading.
But that same baseplate lacks any individual ‘feet' as such, relying on the whole base - itself bearing a slightly rubbery texture - to support the MacBook. A unifoot, if you will. It's a neat idea although this we fear this will become quite marked over time, detracting from the virginal whiteness above.
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Connectivity included on the Apple MacBook is all well up-to-date: gigabit ethernet, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 with Enhanced Data Rate, along with Mini DisplayPort for digital video connections to an outboard screen. This does mean, of course, that for use with any non-Apple screen you'll need to buy a DVI adaptor.
Peripheral support is limited to just two USB 2.0 ports - FireWire, Apple's erstwhile favourite high-speed data link, has now been removed.
Screen quality of the 13.3in LED backlit display is good, if not as crisp or defined as the same size and resolution version fitted to the MacBook Air, for instance.
Aside from the gentle revisions to the curvier casework and a subtraction from the port line-up, the processor is now a faster 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, now backed up with 2GB of the latest DDR3 RAM in place of DDR2, while hard disk capacity has moved from 160GB to 250GB.
The graphics engine is the same, nVidia's highly regarded, and efficient, 9400M chip - the same as that allied with the Intel Atom to form the Ion platform. Some light gaming is more than possible: we saw an average framerate of 14fps in our toughest FEAR test, rising to 33fps when quality settings were taken down from Max to High.
In raw performance, we saw a useful boost in overall speed too. The previous starter Apple MacBook sported a 2.0GHz (P7350) processor that took it to a WorldBench score of 79 points. The extra quarter-gigahertz and faster RAM resulted in the Late 2009 iteration of the MacBook seeing a 16% speed increase in WorldBench, to a total of 92 points.
With its built-in lithium-polymer battery, the Apple MacBook is also capable of impressive battery life. We measured a very useful 6hrs 38mins in MobileMark 2007 Productivity, running in Windows 7 Ultimate.
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