Latest MacBook has a long life but shows signs of aging. (March 7th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Apple
Price: $1,299 (2.4GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB, Superdrive)
- Stunning battery life that beats Apple's estimates.
- Faster than a model just a few months old; rivals Mac desktops.
- 2GB of RAM finally enough to use out of the box.
- Best value for dollar in the MacBook lineup.
- Design quickly getting old, prone to cosmetic damage.
- Sorely needs a dedicated graphics option; X3100 too slow in some cases.
- LCD is unnecessarily low-quality compared to the MacBook Air.
In stock trim, little needs to be changed: the 2GB of RAM and 160GB hard drive are enough for most, especially casual users only buying the mid-range system for the sake of the DVD burner. Most other aspects can't be upgraded, which is unfortunate but perhaps not surprising given Apple's insistence on including 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth, and other features that are often left out of other systems (but which also reduce the system price).
One plus point from keeping the MacBook's original design is the ability to replace the hard drive and the RAM after the sale, and those interested in squeezing the most performance possible out of the system are advised to go shopping for third-party upgrades rather than ordering through Apple. Two 2GB sticks of compatible and fairly reliable memory can be purchased for less than $100; a larger (or faster) hard drive an also be purchased for not much more and gives you a spare drive in the process.
It should also be noted that, after the MacBook Air, this is only the second MacBook to ship without an Apple Remote; it's admittedl a less than essential feature on a 13-inch portable, but anyone still intent on using the system as a makeshift home theater will miss the previously standard controller, which now costs $19 as a separate option.
As a performance upgrade to the November MacBook, the new model marks all the right checkboxes. It's not a dramatic leap, but it can slightly edge out considerably more expensive Macs in certain categories. And for longevity, it currently holds the title as the longest-lasting MacBook to date and should outperform most immediate competitors, though few of these have been on the market and in testing long enough to gauge their results. For students and long-haul travelers, the MacBook should be high on the list of notebooks to investigate.
The MacBook does need a dedicated graphics option to be competitive for graphics; anyone looking for a gaming or 3D modeling notebook would be better off upgrading to the MacBook Pro or considering a Windows notebook such as the XPS M1530, especially if price is a sticking point.
In terms of a design exercise, though, the MacBook does fall short: it's overdue for a refresh. While the actual design is not quite two years old, it shares some of the styling traits and technical weaknesses of the iBook, which first saw the light of day in 2001. It's scratch- and stain-prone, and shows too many signs of using low-budget parts, especially with the LCD. The MacBook is still a pleasure to use in many cases, but more than ever it's clear that the MacBook is built to a price, not built to impress. More importantly to Apple, it's also no longer that exciting. The all-white (or black) finish and the basic template have existed for several years; it's time for something new.