I bought a MacBook within 6 hours of its release by Apple in May 2018. For people who know me, this might not be suprising. I also purchased a MacBook Pro within a few days of it’s release as well, but just didn’t find the time to write about it. This review will mostly cover the MacBook and compare some of its features with the Pro, since this one is the one I really wanted.
This purchase was the latest in a string of Apple laptop purchases for me. In the past few years since late 2014, I’ve purchased nearly every Apple laptop that’s been introduced, other than the 17” PowerBook and 17” MacBook Pro. The reason this one is significant to me is two big factors – the size of the notebook and the speed. I’ll write more on the speed later in my review.
I bought the MacBook Pro 15” as soon as I could get my hands on one, back in February 2006. I was tired of waiting for a replacement for my 12” PowerBook and figured this was it for the time being. I liked the speed of the unit immensely. The graphics card was amazing as well (ATI Radeon X1600), and could even play PC games quite well on a dual boot with Windows XP using Boot Camp. My main gripe with the MacBook Pro 15”, which made me sell it when this came out, was the size of the laptop (hardly a portable anymore) and also the terrible battery life (on average about 2.5 hours).
This leads me to talk about the MacBook. As I said earlier I really wanted a laptop that was as small (or close to as small) as my 12” PowerBook was. I liked the size of that laptop so much I kept it for a year (forever in my lifecycle for tech products). The MacBook isn’t as small as the PowerBook 12” was, but it is close enough for me. The design style of the MacBook combines the iBook look and materials with the thickness of a PowerBook shell that has a wide, bright, high contrast LCD.
The MacBook model I got has the Intel CoreDuo 2.0GHz processor and came with 512MB ram, which I promptly upgraded to 2GB (two 1GB modules) from newegg.com for $163. Having 2GB of RAM really speeds everything up and makes it easier to run software like WinXP on Parallels within a window and still have lots of memory left over for your Mac OS X programs.
The video card in the MacBook is the infamous Intel GMA950. I’ve heard a lot about this card from disappointed intel Mac Mini owners about how it doesn’t play 3D games that great. That is a true accusation, but calling this card a piece of junk really doesn’t do it justice. It handles playing a 1080p video clip from Apple’s Quicktime HD Gallery perfectly. What else could you ask for out of a video card? I never play games on my Mac, so I really could care less about gaming performance. One minor downside to using the GMA950 chipset is that it shares it’s VRAM with your computer’s main memory, making it steal as much as 80MB of ram away from your computer for it’s own use. This means if you have 512MB memory (the base configuration) you’re already down to 432MB ram before you even start using OS X. I highly recommend upgrading it to at least 1GB, and dual channeling your RAM with two identical modules if you can – this will increase the speed of the video card and overall memory performance slightly.
The MacBook employs a completely new keyboard which has inspired hate in some people. Personally, I like it and it serves it’s purpose well. The keys are almost like Chiclets and they recess into the keyboard (a picture). I find these work pretty much the same as any other keyboard you’ve used in the past on a laptop, and frankly I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. One complaint I have about this keyboard is the edges of the surface you rest your hands on is not beveled properly and is semi-sharp, causing your wrists to be irritated after using it on your lap for a while. Hopefully someone will make a wrist rest to make it easier on me, because it looks like I’ve been cutting myself sometimes after using it – so much that I defined a term for the laptop, EmoBook.
One bonus feature of the MacBook not available in any other Mac laptop I’ve ever used is the ability to remove the hard drive just by pulling out the battery and pulling one tab. It makes it impossibly easy to swap out the SATA 150 notebook drive with any size one you wish in seconds. Very cool. I may have to do this since mine only has a 60GB hard drive in it right now.
In my non-extensive, non-scientific testing of the Core Duo processor in the MacBook, I tried ripping a 1.5 hour DVD movie to XviD using HandBrake. It was moving approximately 41FPS through the movie, which is amazingly fast – way faster than my 3.0GHz P4 can do this. A two pass of this movie took about the same time it took to watch the movie yourself, 1.5 hours.
Battery life on the unit was more impressive than the MacBook Pro, but not as impressive as the iBook it replaces in Apple’s lineup or the old PowerBook 12″. Those two got around 4-4.5 hours typically. This unit gets in the neighborhood of 3-4 hours depending on how bright you leave the screen and processor use. I found that even at low brightness levels the glossy screen is much more readable than any non-gloss Apple LCD from the past – so it doesn’t hurt to leave the brightness low.
The unit also comes with a remote control for Apple’s Front Row feature, and has a built in iSight camera embedded into the top of the screen — so you can broadcast your nerdy face to all your friends who don’t have Macs.
Overall, I’m very impressed with my new MacBook for the time being – at least until they release another one. Then I’ll have to buy and review that, too.
+ The price is right ($1199 for the 2.0GHz version at the Educational store).
+ Great redesign of the non-pro line.
+ High resolution, high contrast 13.3″ (1280×800) LCD.
+ Case is a lot more durable than the aluminum MacBook Pro/PowerBook.
+ FAST… really fast! Did I say it was fast?
+ Battery lasts between 3.5-4 hours.
– Not as svelte as the 12” PowerBook form factor.
– Gets hot when under heavy load, which is typical of any Core Duo notebook computer.
– Video card isn’t good for gaming.
– Glossy LCD can reflect the sun pretty badly in any area with lots of sunlight.