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.
the display and webcam
One of Apple's most controversial decisions when it introduced the MacBook was to switch to a low-cost, glossy display. Day-to-day use has softened my stance on glossy displays: while I would still prefer matte whenever possible, the gloss is only an issue in extreme cases.
What's less forgivable is the quality of the panel itself. An early look at the system suggested that the viewing angles were better; after more testing, it becomes clear that little has changed. Apple still bases the MacBook's LCD on a very frugal twisted nematic (TN) panel that represents a considerable drop in quality. Colors aren't quite as accurate, and the viewing angles are simply too narrow.
To see the full quality of the display, users have to be looking almost directly at the screen; while relatively minor shifts in position don't ruin the image, the difference is clear. This is especially true for vertical angles, as colors quickly wash out and invert with anything less than a level view.
The decision is livable for basic use. However, on a $1,100-plus system, the LCD feels like an unnecessary throwback to an earlier era, especially in light of the Air's much better display. An LED backlight may still be too costly, but the Air's display itself is better quality even without the extra lighting. If any one component needs urgent improvement on the MacBook, it's a more modern display.
The webcam, at least, is up to expected standards. While no built-in webcam is currently capable of producing sterling results, the camera is sharp, reasonably color-accurate, and free of ghosting or other visual artifacts. My only complaint is that noise becomes visible in moderately dark and very dark environments, though this is par for the course for any very small camera.