Macbook review


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Dazzla

Macbook Review

Key Specs:

  • 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo
  • 100GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
  • 2GB 667MHz DDR2 RAM
  • Intel GMA950
  • 13.3" Glossy Widescreen (1280*800)

First impressions

One thing I noticed about the Macbook which wasn't entirely apparent from all the photos I'd seen swarming the net was the contrast between the glossy white and the matte grey of the inside. Everything I'd seen so far suggested a difference far more subtle if at all! In reality the difference is pretty large and I'm not too sure if I'm keen on it yet. I was extremely close to going for the Blackbook but common sense prevailed, the ?100 or so difference meant an extra 1GB of RAM which was far more useful. Besides, I've seen the way my Navy DS Lite and my Midnight Black MX1000 pick up fingerprints, and I despise dust and dirt!

The texture is very nice, smooth to the touch but not glossy, a lot of people have mentioned the lip at the bottom of the macbook where just below the trackpad meets the glossy surface. There's been suggestions that it's quite sharp and it can cut into your wrist when typing. The way my hands rested when typing meant my wrist never got near the edge and even when it does it's not sharp enough to cut it, it's a non-issue for me.

Build quality>

The Macbook is an extremely sturdy laptop, I compared it with a Dell at work and an Acer at home (the patented Dazzla creak test;)) ). The Dell (although it is around 2 years old) creaked all over the place, it doesn't help that there's flaps and slots all over the place. With Dell you could also press the back of the screen and see the results on the LCD, as many of you would've done at some point. With the Macbook there wasn't a hint of shimmering, I dare not press it harder! Another aspect of the Macbook I like is the port arrangement, the lines it leaves are so clean with 6 ports on the left hand side towards the back and that's it. You have the tiny IR sensor for front row on the front and the slot loading superdrive. By it's very nature there's less room for creaking and less weak points. On the one hand you could argue that its lack of expansion slots are a downside but personally I'd rather have it just the way it is, I've not seen a well implemented expansion card slot outside of Apple.

Macbook11.jpg

Macbook05.jpg

Macbook06.jpg

Macbook07.jpg

Heat issues? What heat issues....>

Yes everyone has heard the horror stories regarding the Macbook Pro and when the Macbook came out everyone feared the worst. I'm not going to comment on people ripping apart their Macbook and reapplying thermal paste, people yanking out bits of plastic they deem extra I'm just going to let you know howmy> Macbook is. Under normal load it's not even warm to the touch, the whole of the surface where the keyboard lies is cool to the touch all over. Under normal load the fans don't even come on, the Macbook is absolutely silent. Under normal load I hear no whine, moos or anything of the kind. Perhaps I'm lucky, but more than likely I'm the norm, it's the few exceptions which are plastered all over the net portraying some sort of horror story. Under full load the fans come on but they're not intrusive, it's still quieter than my iMac, the rear left near the escape key gets warm but not hot. Running CoreDuoTemp displays an idle temp of around 40-50 with it between 70 and 80 on full load, these numbers are well within the operating spec of a 100 degrees maximum (Core Duo spec sheet section 3.2).

Expandability>

This is one of the first Apple laptops I can remember that has such ease of use with regards to replacing the hard drive. After taking the battery out you have 3 small (and I mean small, glasses screw small) screws to undo and an L shaped bracket comes out, one side revealing the 2 memory slots and the other revealing a slide out SATA 2.5" hard drive. I was tempted initially to stick with the standard hard drive and buy a 160GB Seagate perpendicular hard drive until I realized they don't offer it in SATA yet. The second option was a 100GB 7200 RPM drive but ultimately it was still cheaper to upgrade to 100GB from Apple and I couldn't be bothered to buy an enclosure for the redundant hard drive Apple supplied (I couldn't not use it!).

Trackpad and its features>

The trackpad is fortunate in that it's inherited many of the nice features of its (far bigger) 17" brother (and in a hacked up pre 10.4.7 kind of way its 15" brother too). Within OS X I'm never found wanting a second mouse button, I've taken a quick video to hopefuly demonstrate how the right clicking works on the trackpad as well as the scrolling. There's 2 ways to right click:

1. You can tap 2 fingers on the trackpad itself

2. You can have 2 fingers on the trackpad whilst pressing the single trackpad button

I personally find myself just tapping with 2 fingers to right click because I'm a tapper, as a result of this I prefer this trackpad implementation to the traditional 2 button trackpad. I used to find myself tapping the trackpad for a regular click then moving down to the right click when needed. This way I can get my clicking and secondary clicking all out of the trackpad.

Video : Trackpad in action 680KB

Here's the option to enable the two fingered tapping:

TrackpadPrefs.png

Scrolling is another are that I feel the Macbook (and Pros) excel, I've read people call it clunky and unwieldy but I love how simple it is. In a similar fashion to right clicking you just place 2 fingers on the trackpad and move in any direction, it's not strictly left/right and strictly up/down you can scroll diagonally throughout 360 degrees. Again I've included a video to demonstrate.

Video : Trackpad scrolling 800KB

When it comes to performance with scrolling (and window resizing) OS X started at the lowest it could possibly get, with each new ($129.99) update it's brought massive performance boosts in this area but with my iMac I still felt it had a step to go before being slick and snappy. The Macbook makes this final jump with scrolling and window resizing being stupidly fast, everything I've thrown at it has been instant (apart from PowerPC apps via Rosetta).

Video : Window resizing 2.2MB

Video : Safari launch speed 364KB

That keyboard...>

There are two kinds of people out there, those who like laptop style keyboards and those who don't. If you fall into the latter category then I don't think you'll like the Macbook keyboard at all. If on the other hand you do then I think you'll love it. I fall into the camp that loves laptop style keyboards, I love the reduced amount of travel compared to regular keyboards, I love how quiet they are compared to regular keyboards and I love Macbook keyboard. If I have one gripe it's that the enter key is a little too small, initially I found myself missing it and hitting the ] or the \ key sat next to it. I've got used to it now but it's worth mentioning.

Macbook09.jpg

Aperture and the Pro apps>

One of the reasons I bought this laptop was to take it with me on holiday in July, I wanted to be able to run Aperture on it when I was away to organize and touch up my photos. This has been a sticking point and a huge topic of discussion for many people because there's a huge demand for a small form factor Pro laptop. The Macbook isn't it, not only because of the lack of dedicated GPU but because of size. At over 5 lbs and with the dimensions it is, it's not the 12" Powerbook replacement many were after. Regardless, I bought it for that because that's what I need right now. If I had the option of a <4 lbs 12.1" Apple Macbook Pro then I would've snapped it up in an instant. Still, they didn't so this is what we have, how's the performance on the "Pro" apps?

In Final Cut Studio the performance so far has been pretty damn good, here's the link to the Creative Mac benchmarks and they're pretty favorable. In Final Cut Pro rendering it was alongside the Dual 2.0GHz G5, in Motion it was faster in 3 out of the 4 tests and in Compressor it was faster in 3 out of the 4 tests. Now as time moves on and Final Cut Studio evolves there's no telling how much of it they'll shift onto the GPU, in which case the Macbook starts hitting its weak point. But for the time being the very fact that a ?899 laptop beats out a ?1399 (excluding screen) Dual 2.0GHz G5 is pretty damn good.

I found no similar benchmarks for Aperture so I fired it up. The first thing I hit was the resolution warning, a dialog pops up when you try and run Aperture saying it doesn't meet the resolution requirements (1280*854). With Aperture 1.1.1 you have the option of either just running Aperture or quitting. Having previously used the program on a 1680*1050 20" iMac it did feel a little cramped at first, where on the iMac you can edit photos within the window you don't really have that luxury on the Macbook, full screen is really the only way. Browsing through the library and doing the basic tasks like white balance etc are pretty quick, but when you get into anything more than that you do notice that it's doing some pretty intensive work. Watch the video and you'll see how using the crop and straighten tool isn't quite as instant as you'd expect. I'd say it was on par with my iMac with the basics and slightly slower for the rest so you know with a dedicated GPU it's simply going to be faster.

ApertureResError.png

The Macbook certainly isn't a work horse for Aperture, it's not intended to be but for those hankering after the smallest laptop Apple offer I'd say it just about passes for a mobile Aperture workstation. There's certainly room in Apple's lineup for a proper small form factor Pro laptop regardless of what they (publicly) say, I imagine somewhere along the line when Merom kicks in and Apple learn all their lessons from their first generation of Intel laptops we'll see that hole filled in their lineup.

Video : Aperture in action 1 880KB

Video : Aperture in action 2 3MB[/urlMagsafe/b>

Unlike others I'm not one who's proclaiming this as a stroke of genius, I guess that's because I've been fortunate to never have tripped on a power lead. It's certainly a nicely engineered feature and I appreciate having it but I've never been unlucky enough to require it. For those who don't know Magsafe is a magnetic power lead, the idea is if someone trips on the lead it'll unplug itself sparing your laptop the fall. If you pull on it parallel to the laptop then the lead might as well be permanently bonded to the laptop, it's almost irremovable, but pull it at any sort of angle and it'll come straight out. Great in theory but I wonder if it'll work as nicely in practice, I'd rather not test to find out, you'll have to make do with my nicely controlled videos of it in acti:D :D

Video : Magsafe disconnect 372KB

Video : Magsafe connect 224KB

p><p>I

The first application on my laptop was Parallels Desktop RC2, I assigned the machine 512 MB RAM, enabled Virtualization and let it fly by installing Windows XP. The first thing that struck me was the speed, I'd been used to Virtual PC and it's 90 minute Windows install (at the minimum!) but this flew through it as fast as it would being native, once at the desktop my expectations were brought down with a bump, the GUI felt a little sluggish which is just what I'd feared. One thing I didn't realize was that Parallels has its own set of OS tools which you install in the virtual machine just like its competitors. After doing this there was a great, great difference in responsiveness. I proceeded to install Office 2003 because this was the test to see if I could get away with just Parallels or if I'd actually have to dual boot to get what I wanted. Word and Excel were good, I wouldn't say fast and I wouldn't say native speed because I've since used it on Boot Camp and it's simply not as fast. Could you happily use it on a day to day basis? Damn right. Is it stupidly faster than all other Virtual PC solutions on the Mac before? Again, damn right. When it came to Visio though and opening some sample files I use there was a tiny bit of lag in moving around the drawing. It probably wouldn't bother me but I like working at 100 MPH, making mistakes and fixing them rather then plodding along. As a result I wasn't happy enough using it knowing I could get blazing performance via Boot Camp. For 90% of the things people need Windows for I'd say it was perfect and at the moment it's a $39.99 pre order with the final product costing $79.99 now, that's a bargain in my eyes but something to consider if you don't already own Windows.

Parallels Desktop

Boot Camp was a bit of a shot out of the dark from Apple, for weeks the multi OS boot competition had been gathering steam and no sooner had it been solved and the prize money stumped up had Apple released their (far more elegant) solution. Boot Camp does a very slick job of holding your hand to partition your hard drive and install Windows. The setup will give you a graphical representation of the HD split by a slider you can grab, you simply resize to your liking. Personally I fancied more of a play! I actually wanted 3 partitions, something Boot Camp can't offer. I wanted XP, OS X and a third partition to store all my media; this third partition would be visible by both with shared music, movie, pictures and desktop folders. I followed this tutorial to create my 3 partitions and it worked without a hitch. I decided on the media partition being HFS+ and using Macdrive on Windows rather than FAT32. Believe it or not one of the reasons for this was FAT32 volumes always appear in uppercase in OS X and I couldn't stand thatSo, does Vista work?/b>

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Daniel.

Great review Dazzla, can't wait for mine to arrive :)

The videos were really helpful, and the writing was descriptive, informative and useful, thank you.

Daniel

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Garry

Finally. A picture of Dazzla.

Much less hair than the last picture I saw.

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RadishTM

Great review from the King of Gadgets :p

Radish?

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Pixelwix

Man thanks for the awsome review, I'm sold, just got done ordering mine :) cain't wait.

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The Angry Bunny

Great Review, as usual Dazzla

Thanks for doing this, I think you've swayed me to get a Macbook instead of a Macbook Pro. (Really can't afford the extra cost)

The only question I've yet to have answered is how the Macbook does with RTS games, like Warcraft 3 and Age of Empires. That's mainly the only games I play on laptops anyway, I've got a Desktop for FPS'S and stuff

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Amnesia

Lol, I don't know why, but I expected you to look different Dazzla.

As soon as I receive my Macbook I'll take some photos as well (since people can't get enough of photos) and post them in your thread.

Quick question though. With Parellels, is it simply similar to VirtualPC? What speed does it run as compared to a native installation? (e.g. 95% 90% etc..)

Thanks for that tip about the delete key, I hadn't thought of that!!

Tell me though, in OSX, how DO you delete? I've been using OSX and never thought of it.

I'll be waiting for your info on gaming!

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RevelMore

Very Impressive Dazzla. Great Stuff (Y)

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Flare

What do you think's better windows xp or Tiger?

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Dazzla

Great Review, as usual Dazzla

Thanks for doing this, I think you've swayed me to get a Macbook instead of a Macbook Pro. (Really can't afford the extra cost)

The only question I've yet to have answered is how the Macbook does with RTS games, like Warcraft 3 and Age of Empires. That's mainly the only games I play on laptops anyway, I've got a Desktop for FPS'S and stuff

Those are the type of games I'd play, I don't thing AOE3 would play at any decent speed unless the resolution and detail were right down. I'll have to get some XP gaming benchmarks done.

Lol, I don't know why, but I expected you to look different Dazzla.

As soon as I receive my Macbook I'll take some photos as well (since people can't get enough of photos) and post them in your thread.

Quick question though. With Parellels, is it simply similar to VirtualPC? What speed does it run as compared to a native installation? (e.g. 95% 90% etc..)

Thanks for that tip about the delete key, I hadn't thought of that!!

Tell me though, in OSX, how DO you delete? I've been using OSX and never thought of it.

I'll be waiting for your info on gaming!

Parallels is a similar program to Virtual PC but with the Core Duo chips it doesn't have to emulate the CPU. Because of that the speed increase is massive, people have ran benchmarks for things like Photoshop which are heavily CPU dependant and got similar speeds to when running Windows natively!

For deleting files in the finder you can use cmd + backspace if that's what you're talking about.

What do you think's better windows xp or Tiger?

I prefer using OS X, at work I have no choice but to use Windows XP and OS X simply wouldn't do the job so it depends on the situation.

Put it this way, at the moment if haveb> to be in front of the computer I'll probably be using Windows XP, when wantb> to be in front of a computer I'll be using OS X.

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instant.human

great review. really amazing. :) makes me want to buy a macbook but hell no money left at all.

anyways, i will read you review over and over again and pretend i own one to be cool. :p

nah just kidding, amazing review, once again, and yea, i am a bit jealous. :)

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mp4

Very thorough review. Thanks.

I'm almost certain on buying my white MacBook.

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giga

Very nice review there Dazzla--the pictures, videos, and your little personal details that you outlined was brilliant. (Y)

As for the Macbook: I think i'm in love.

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bob_loblaw

Kick*** review as always. I dont know if I have the guts to do all the partitioning and Vista Beta installation yet since Im still new to Mac, but its good to know there's a method that works. And I still have yet to install XP (I dont care enough to do so...yet).

My Macbook does have a problem concerning heat though (I think). I have nothing to compare it too but the hottest I've felt and seen it go to was ~160 F (~71 C). Right now after it being on for half an hour and doing some internet browsing, it's sitting at ~120 F (50 C). It gets hot, but not scorching hot. Even so, I've never had one of those restart message.

Great review again!

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saxondale.

From the look of it, your mac runs aperture alot better...

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XiXora
This means no ctrl + alt + del, although for the task manager there's other ways around it for users who need to ctrl + alt + del to logon there's not.

Can you Ctrl+Shift+Esc instead? That's how I get C+A+D anyway for Task Manager... I just don't know if it works for logon.

Thanks.

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chrisgeleven

Fantastic review. I was going to do one, but I have nothing to add to what you have done.

Simply fantastic!

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the_snitch

Great review Dazzla, as always you have the best stuff.

I understand your criticism of the enter key being too small, I've always felt sorry for you brits with the stupid vertical enter key on your UK keyboard layout.

Luckily in Austalia/New Zealand we get the regular US keyboard layout with the "normal" size enter key. :)

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NoneAvail

Realy nice review. I got my Mac today and it's a beautiful thing...

On my mac when i'm typing the ends aren't sharp but they do hurt if i am typing for a longtime.

I haven't still gotten that restart message or has the mac been heating up to the poinit where typing is unbearable. it's like a windows laptop warm. the left side is also hott but it's okay.

oh yeah, XiXora, my US model enter key is normal and it isn't like the L one.

hmm.. i wonder why

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XiXora

I never noticed the enter key before, are the US apple keyboards different then?

On my toshiba I have a horizontal enter key spanning about 2 normal keys...

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Amnesia

@snitch, are you sure the enter key is different in Australian and UK Macbooks??

I looked at the Apple site and they look the same...

edit:

oh wait, the UK one is verticle and the Australian one is horizontal.

I see now.

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the_snitch

@snitch, are you sure the enter key is different in Australian and UK Macbooks??

I looked at the Apple site and they look the same...

edit:

oh wait, the UK one is verticle and the Australian one is horizontal.

I see now.

Yeah they have been different forever, the noticable differences are the pound/euro instead of the dollar, and the strange enter key. Ive repaired old UK Ti Powebooks and they were different back then too.

Its also is different on the iMac's keyboard from looking at Dazzla's pics. Are all keyboard in England like that? I think it would drive me crazy.

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S550

100* in spec? my Desktop AMD in a laptop hits 55* and i think thats hot, if i had a laptop that was allowed to reach 100* (or even 80-90) i'd return it.

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Huy

I have the same laptop as Dazzla besides the hard disk (my 2GB will come this week) and it idles at about 68-70C with "normal" operating temps around 70-75 but I've seen it go as high as 88C!

I never noticed the L-shaped enter keys before, that would really annoy me as well (I've got the horizontal ones). From the looks of it, Dazzla's Windows XP boots really slowly? Mine takes ages at the black loading screen but it shouldn't take that long from selecting the Windows HD to loading the black screen.

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