Apple MacBook 2.0GHz

Introducing the all-new MacBook, that’s the slogan that Apple uses for the MacBook page. Welcome to the third Apple transitioned product and the completion of the portable Mac line.

With more speculation and gossip than that surrounding Paris Hiltons latest antics, the inevitable replacement for the iBook G4 was rumoured to come in many different size, shapes and form. Some speculated that there would be a 15 and 12-inch widescreen models, some said it would just be a 15 or 14-inch model and some even got it spot on. The rumour of a 13.3-inch widescreen model turned out to be true and was later confirmed when details leaked that Apple had placed a large order for 13.3-inch widescreen LCDs.

Whilst I was going around in circles shouting that it was going to be a 13.3-inch widescreen iPod device, as mentioned by Steve Jobs himself at one of the past conferences (whilst recording his super secret Apple podcast), everyone else had pretty much been convinced that it was going to be the iBook replacement.

I’ve spent the past two weeks using this 13.3-inch widescreen beauty and it can be summed up by saying that it hits all the criteria that I have for a product of this type.

Packing up to a 2.0GHz Core Duo processor and 2GB of DDR2 RAM in Dual Channel arrangement, the possibilities are endless.

Encased in a white polycarbonate shell, the two out of the three MacBook models feature a stunning 1-inch chassis and the total weight of this comes in at a paltry 2.36kg. It weighs next to nothing considering the performance you will be carrying under your arm or in your backpack.

Some key new additions to the Apple MacBook include the Front Row media interface and the iSight camera. You have the option to get either the 1.83GHz Core Duo model but you sacrifice the DVD burner if you choose to go down that path. The mid-range model featuring the 2.0GHz Core Duo, 512MB DDR2 RAM, and 60GB HDD is the best value and best model to go for.

As well as these two models, Apple have also introduced a black model, but the only difference between that and the 2.0GHz White MacBook is the fact that it has an 80GB HDD. It still works out cheaper to upgrade the white model with 80GB and you get the exact same machine bar the colour.

Personally, I recommend the 2.0GHz MacBook in white, configured with 1GB of RAM. As it has been stated many times before, Mac OS X Tiger becomes a completely different animal altogether when you have 1GB of RAM to play with.

One of the most controversial topics regarding the MacBook is the fact that it features a glossy screen. The 13.3-inch widescreen LCD has a nice resolution of 1280 x 800, which offers the same if not similar resolution to that of larger 15-inch widescreen displays. This is great news considering the screen shaves of 2-inches from your typical notebook size.

Glare and reflection were the major concerns that Mac heads lost sleep over. I can confidently confirm to you all today that the glossy finish to the screen is a nice addition rather than a detriment to the otherwise magnificently designed MacBook.

In the office, the screen was crystal clear, offering sharp contrasts for my photos and movies. The display, which has improved brightness over the iBook generation to the degree of 80%, means superior performance when it comes to display clarity.

I tested the claim that glossy displays work better in sunlight than matte displays do. On one of the warmest and sunniest days this month I took the MacBook down to the lake. A place where I could also test the digital camera I’m reviewing at the moment.

Although I didn’t have my MacBook Pro directly next to me for comparison purposes, I was very impressed with how clear the picture came up despite being exposed to direct sunlight. The MacBook display took a few seconds to warm up to its full display brightness, but once it did, I was able to comfortably work with my photos.

I didn’t have to squint my eyes or move my head closer or look at it, at an awkward angle positions or a place of shade. The display worked great. There are not many displays, which are able to do this on laptops, where they get the right combination of picture quality and brightness for practicality. Sony is the only other names I can mention that implement quality displays that are also practical on their notebook range.

Front Row debuted in the iMac G5 last year and has made its way to the MacBook Pro and unsurprisingly the MacBook. This welcome addition to the feature set now means you can watch your favourite videos, DVDs and listen to your music without having to be near your notebook. Simply use the included 6-button remote to navigate and control the Front Row interface.

The first time you see Front Row activate, it will hold you in an unnatural trance-like state for several seconds. The desktop that you’ve become so used to, will float away in to the background and out spins the four Front Row icons. You’ll remember these icons from iTunes, iMovie, DVD and iPhoto. These all allow you to view and play your content either locally on hard drive/DVD or over a network (wireless or wired). Front Row automatically scans your network for any Macs or P.Cs that are sharing content such as that found in iTunes.

The built-in iSight camera allows you to tap in to iChat AV and have some fun with your mates using the madcap effects in Photo Boothe. Watch out for Leopard too, the next release of Mac OS X to ship next Spring. Leopard marks the start of Photo Boothe effects within iChat!

The visual effects are quite wacky and like me, you’re sure to have some laughs with friends and family. Built straight in to the LCD display panel, this impossibly thin camera allows for taking snaps and recording movies using iMovie HD. You’ll be impressed with the quality that this camera achieves given its form factor and believe it or not your very own podcast and blog are not as difficult to create as you once thought they were.

iChat AV uses the impressive graphics foundation built in to Mac OS X, so that you can have high quality four way conversations. So you and three others can chat away. You don’t need to worry about buying any extra peripherals such as a microphone because the MacBook has a high quality built-in mic. Hidden away somewhere, I’ve yet to discover where exactly they’ve put it.

iLife 06′ ships as standard on all Macs, and this complete and seamless suite of media tools really does unlock your creative potential. You may not believe it, but inside everyone there is the ability to edit photos, download music, create a DVD of their holiday trip, blog about their experiences or just jam to some music!

Any combination of these or even just the one, you definitely won’t have any difficulties in learning how to use iLife 06′. This is one of the major selling points for Apple; you can’t find a better suite of content creation tools other than iLife 06′. There are plenty of imitators out there but none that can match the finishing touch that iLife 06′ does with all of your projects.

Macs come complete with so much software you’ll want to use. Combine this with the features in the operating system and you’ve got yourself a best selling Dummies Guide to Macs. There’s too much to talk about software side. All I can do is summarise the entire experience. It defines what interaction between a man and a machine should be like in all walks of life.

If you’re not sure what I mean, then the best way to find out about it is to simply use it. Go and find your nearest Mac expert or Mac Head as I like to call them. It might be a friend in the office or your next door neighbour, you can guarantee that there’s usually one nearby. There’s more and more of us in the Mac community and it continue to grow by the day. We’re probably the friendliest and most helpful bunch of people you’ll know. This culture has existed for many years, and is reinforced by the award winning service you get from the Apple Retail Stores.

The MacBook can only be described as a combination of the old iBook and an iPod combined together. The glossy white exterior made of a bullet-proof polycarbonate material means excellent resistance to life. Just like the iPod though, because it’s a glossy finish, it can get scratched. Not as bad as say an iPod, but it all depends on how you treat it I guess. Getting a case for it would be recommended.

The magnetic latch-less design on the screen and base means nothing to break of at all. You also get a smooth clean contact between the screen and the base of the notebook. This means no gaps and no warping. I only wish they’d done that on the MacBook Pro, because I and many other users have experienced screen warping and an uneven gap starts to appear where the screen comes in to contact with the base. The point is the MacBook now has no moving parts to break off or get caught on something. A brilliant move!

The overall thickness of the MacBook comes in at a fraction over 1-inch. The 2.75cm thin chassis makes a massive difference to the bulky iBook G4 offering. The slim profile brings it in line with the sleek aluminium MacBook Pro.

For those who are familiar with the MacBook Pro, they need no introduction to the ingenious MagSafe Power Adaptor. Many people have sent their notebooks flying either because they or someone else tripped over the power cable. That can no longer happen since the MagSafe Power Adaptor simply breaks away from your notebook if it gets tugged too hard. No more smashed laptops and no more broken power adapters.

This is a fantastic idea and one that I’ve already made use of as I’ve been clumsy enough to trip or tug too hard on the cable sometimes. This is going to save a lot of people and hassle as well as insurance companies from having to pay out for smashed laptops.

The track pad has been widened for easier control and comfort. It also features the two finger scrolling and now the two finger right click. The two finger scrolling debuted in the PowerBook G4 and simply allows you to place two fingers on the track pad and then move it about to scroll up and down or left and right around a large window. This saves you having to fiddle around with scroll bars.

The two finger right click is where you can tap two fingers on the track pad and it’ll bring up the right click menu. I hear you asking, why they don’t just put right click button in. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that OS X rarely needs the right click, which is a good thing right?

The keyboard is something to be envied as well. It’s not like your typical laptop keyboard. It’s completely flush against the unit. It’s all enclosed which means you’ll find less build up of crumbs and dust underneath the keyboard. At first it looks like it might not be so comfortable to type on, a bit awkward if you will, but I’ve written thousands of words on the review unit I’ve had and I’ve got no complaints. It’s just as comfortable to type on as it is on the 15-inch MacBook Pro or any other keyboard for that matter.

At the side of the MacBook, you’ll find all of the ports lined up neatly in one row. I feel this is Apple yet again sacrificing functionality over design. It looks great having all those ports lined up neatly down the side and the profile shut does look stunning. However, if you want to plug in several devices, not only do you struggle to fit everything in sometimes but it becomes difficult to manage because they’re all squeezed together.

This simple problem even happens when you just have two USB devices plugged in. None the less, you will find the MagSafe Power Adaptor port, Gigabit Ethernet, Mini-DVI with support up to 23-inch Cinema Displays, FireWire 400, 2 x USB 2, Optical In/Analogue In, Optical Out/Analogue out, Kensington Lock.

One thing I would like to have seen is the inclusion of an extra one or two USB ports with at least one on the other side next to the optical drive. This wasn’t done either because of cosmetics or they simply couldn’t have squeezed in the circuitry in the already cramped chassis, or a combination of the two.

I didn’t go all out on the benchmarks, but the tests I did run gives you some idea of the performance gaps between the Mac Mini Core Duo with 512MB RAM, 2GHz MacBook with 1GB RAM and the 2GHz MacBook Pro with 1GB of RAM. And to throw some controversy in there I also tested my Athlon 64 2800+ machine with 1GB of RAM in the iTunes test.

The results:

Mac Mini MacBook MacBook Pro PC
Bootup 00:28 00:29 00:32 01:50
CD Rip 02:02 02:03 02:05 01:57
Audio Finalising 09:37 08:34 08:33
Video Rendering 03:28 03:15 03:18
Xbench 59.84 64.44 75.61

Time is in minutes and seconds – lower the better
Xbench – higher the better

Boot up times are impressive across the board for the Mac, with my PC coming in at a disappointing 1 minute 50 seconds. Problem is the hanging when it comes to establishing a wireless network, but even still the Macs beat it for boot up time by a large margin.

The Macs all deliver on the 30 second boot up time. This is a huge difference compared to the PowerPC generation which took a whole one minute longer.

CD Ripping was the next test. This was done in iTunes with all settings for mp3 encoding at 192kbps using the same CD in turn. All three Macs come in with near equal scores, could this be down to the read speed of the CD/Optical Drive? Since this was only a six track Linkin Park CD, it’s possible the CD drives and the CD itself never span up to full speed that these drives were capable of. It’s safe to say that none of the machines broke in to a sweat performing this task though.

The next test was exporting a Garageband audio track, one of my podcast recordings to iTunes. This near one hour recording meant that the Core Duo chips could stretch their legs and see what they can do.

Not surprisingly, the MacBook and MacBook Pro achieve more or less the exact same scores. The 2GHz Core Duo chips are identical in these machines with the exact same DDR2 RAM configuration as well. The Mac Mini doesn’t fare so well. Taking nearly a minute longer with its 1.66GHz Core Duo chip and 512MB of DDR2 RAM, the Mac Mini comes in last place at 09:37.

Video rendering in iMovie HD involved finalising and converting a short video podcast recording in to iPod format, using the iMovie export preset. This test will yet again stress the CPU and RAM as it number crunches hundreds of megabytes of data.

The Mac Mini really stands out here with its 03:28 time. The MacBook and MacBook Pro deliver an admissible three second gap with times of 03:15 and 03:18. Again this proved the point that I made in my previous article on the MacBook when it first came out. That the hardware in the MacBook is just as powerful in the MacBook Pro when it comes to tasks like these. Yet you get all this performance at a fraction of the price. The Mac Mini also demonstrated an excellent performance figure.

XBench was the last test and is probably the best for showing all round performance and the scores start to widen up at this point especially considering the type of hardware that are in these three machines.

The Mac Mini scored 59.84, MacBook scored 64.44 and the MacBook Pro 75.61. Bearing in mind, the score of 100, which is the baseline mark is a Dual Core 2.0GHz G5 system. The Mac Mini score is probably expected however the MacBook is not that far of from the MacBook Pro. It’s quite obvious that the shortfall has come from the lack of a video card with dedicated memory.

So in a nutshell, the MacBook is a blisteringly fast machine. It’s only going to come short when it comes to 3D performance, but you’re not going to buy this machine for that. Despite that, I was still able to play Call of Duty 2 Demo at smooth frame rates. Quake 4 however was a different story. That was non playable due to its painfully slow frame rates, and this was on the lowest settings I could find.

It depends on the game; you might just get away with it. More intense 3D action games you may not be so lucky, as I discovered when I lock and died on Quake 4.

Another part of the performance criteria that I often look at for portable systems is the battery life. The MacBook, just like its bigger brother, now features a Lithium Polymer battery. I wanted to test the claim that it could last 6 hours on a full charge. So armed with a fully charged battery I worked, played and relaxed with the MacBook and used it to browse the web, write emails, write my reviews, listen to music, use iPhoto and chat on MSN Messenger.

Basic productivity tasks, which we can all confidently assume is what this 6 hour figure is based on. I was definitely sceptical of whether it could reach 6 hours on a full charge even under light usage and Best Battery Life mode. My MacBook Pro only lasted just over 4 hours under the same conditions.

The results? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that I managed to get 5.5 hours out of this machine before it went for a snooze. That’s more than acceptable for a notebook being used for the above tasks. That’s with the wireless switched on too! This actually bests the estimate that Apple make on the web-site where they state that it’s 6 hours without the wireless, 3.5 hours with the wireless and 2.5 hours for DVD playback.

I can see this machine being perfect for students. Combine the great battery life which is probably thanks to the technical wizardry at Intel, with the amazing Sleep mode, and you’ve got an all day battery. Whether you’re travelling, flying long distance, going from office to office or class to class, you can rely on the Sleep mode to work for you. In practice the sleep mode only drained about 1% of its battery per hour. That would equate to over 4 days if you never used it! I don’t think one can really question the performance per watt theory.

It turns out that Apple have created quite the uber portable. If I didn’t already have the MacBook Pro or prefer the larger screen, I’d probably go for the MacBook instead. It clearly demonstrates amazing performance when compared to the Pro model. With excellent build quality, ‘iPod’ looks and a stamina battery life, this notebook gets top marks.

If this is the first time you’re going to be purchasing and using a Mac, any of the MacBooks are a perfect choice, however like I said early on in the article, the mid-range model offers the best feature set and value for money.

A word of warning, you may demonstrate pre-Switcher symptoms after you’ve ordered the MacBook, you start to get a little crazy. You bug the UPS guys making sure they deliver as soon as they can, you won’t be able to sleep the night before it arrives because you’ll be dreaming of your new iLife and best of all it will give you that warm fuzzy sensation as you open up the box and it all clicks and makes sense. And don’t forget with Boot Camp and Parallels, you’ve got a ‘just in case’ fail safe.

This MacBook is worth its price, its astounding value for what you get even when compared to Windows laptops and I tell you what, you’re going to really love using this nippy little machine. It’s true. I’ve seen it and experienced it and so have many millions of other Mac users out there.

If that’s not enough for you, get yourself down to an Apple Store, where a Mac Genius will be on hand and raring to go with any reservations you may have over switching to a Mac.

The MacBook is a truly stunning product and one that will be remembered in my history books.

2006-08-11 Onwah Tsang

2 comments - why not add yours

  • |>4(_)! \'.-!6}{7 says:

    =)

    I ordered the Config u suggested (1 day before you posted this) 2.0Ghz, 1GB RAM and i got a 80GB HDD, I went for the White model as people have been claiming that the black paint was flaking off and the colour makes it look like a ThinkPad so your paying about ?Ǭ£90 to get your Mac to look like a ThinkPad, anyway did you get any problems while using the Mac, and if you didn’t was it a display model?? wouldn’t suprise me if apple gave you a display model to review as they put the best on display which dont have any of the defects which are pointed out on appledefects.com.

    Great Blog =)

    Paul

    Posted on 24th August 2006
  • oni says:

    Thanks for your comment!

    I honestly did not get any problems whilst using the Mac that was supplied to me by Apple. The unit was sent to me from a third party company that Apple uses to loan out equipment. Although the unit didn’t appear to be pristine, it was freshly formatted and ready to go. I believe the test unit I had was relatively new if not brand new.

    I would have to doubt that Apple sent me a non-shipping model for the reasons outlined above.

    Glad you enjoy the site and look forward to hearing more from you!

    Posted on 24th August 2006

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