Apple MacBook review

A design improvement and a decent specification, but we still prefer its Pro cousin

4
Price when reviewed 
799

Page 1 of 2 Apple MacBook review

In a field of overwhelming laptop sameness, Apple’s MacBook has long been destined to become an enduring style icon. But, with the birth of the aluminium framed MacBook Pro range, the creaky, old plastic MacBook was shown up somewhat – what it needed was reconstructive surgery of its own. Right on cue, meet the new MacBook, now with modern styling.

Imagine the MacBook Pro 13 finished in classic, Apple white, and that’s pretty much what this new model looks like. Apple has taken its unibody design concept from the original, and simply hewn this machine from a slab of polycarbonate rather than the rather pricier aircraft-grade aluminium.

It’s a transformation that isn’t just about looks. Build quality took a massive leap forward with the Pro range, leaving the old MacBook feeling creaky and insubstantial by comparison. Manhandling the new MacBook sees the lid flex slightly, but the chassis feels taut, sturdy and resilient, if not quite up to the aluminium standard. The rubber base is a nice touch, too, and stops it getting too toasty on a lap or sliding around on a desk.

Apple MacBook

In fact, the only issue is that the finish could be a bit better. The polycarbonate scratches easily, and both the off-white rubber base and glossy white shell quickly began to look grubby after a couple of days' use. And, if you’re a real stickler for details, flip the MacBook upside down and take a close look at where the rubber base meets the chassis – the erratic seam along the edge looks decidedly less professional.

Surprisingly, given that polycarbonate shell, it’s a touch heavier than its siblings, too – 2.11kg on its own, or 2.52kg with the power supply. Unsurprisingly, the lithium polymer battery is still non-removable, but you can probably leave that power brick at home: it lasted an impressive 5hrs 58mins of light use in Windows 7.

Curiously, just as we found with the MacBook Pro 13, battery life improves significantly under OS X Leopard, with the MacBook lasting just short of nine hours. The likely culprit is Apple’s Boot Camp driver set, which doesn’t allow Windows 7 to take advantage of nifty power saving features such as screen dimming. It also gave us some bizarre sound issues, such as disappearing drivers and strangely muffled audio. In its defence, Windows 7 isn’t officially supported by Boot Camp yet, so we can't be too critical of driver performance – and Windows Update couldn't find any better drivers to solve the issue. Apple promises full support at some point before the end of this year.

Page 1 of 2 Apple MacBook review

Price when reviewed 
799(£799 inc VAT)

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 330 x 232 x 28mm (WDH)
Weight 2.110kg
Travelling weight 2.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo P7550
Motherboard chipset Nvidia nForce 730i
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce 9400M
Graphics card RAM 256MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 250GB
Hard disk usable capacity 233GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/150
Hard disk Toshiba MK2555GSXF
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Matshita UJ-898
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader no
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Cirrus Logic CS4206A
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 58min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 40min
Overall application benchmark score 1.13
Office application benchmark score 1.10
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.22
Encoding application benchmark score 1.01
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.19
3D performance (crysis) low settings 29fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Apple Mac OS X 10.6.1
OS family Mac OS X
Recovery method Recovery disc

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