The MacBook will ship in two guises -- an entry-level unit costing £949, and a more advanced model costing £1,149. The entry-level machine uses an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU running at 2GHz, 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a 160GB hard drive. That, we're not ashamed to say, is not good enough, given how much of your money Apple is asking for.
Apple has switched allegiances from ATI to Nvidia for its graphics
hardware. The entry-level MacBook comes equipped with an Nvidia GeForce
9400M graphics card, a very solid card that allows smooth frame rates
in all but the most demanding of games. It's not as potent as the 9600M
GT in the new MacBook Pro, but it'll certainly do.
It's hard not to talk about the MacBook without mentioning its
13.3-inch widescreen display. This has a native resolution of 1,280x800
pixels, is LED backlit and produces absolutely fantastic image quality.
The only letdown is the fact it comes with a glossy coating on the
outer panel, which essentially turns it into a mirror whenever it comes
into contact with direct light.
The only difference between the entry-level MacBook and its more expensive sibling is that the latter sports a faster 2.4GHz CPU and a larger, 250GB hard drive. We're not convinced this is worth the extra £200, but if you're unaffected by the credit crunch, who are we to put you off?
Both MacBooks can be customised at the time of purchase. Up to 4GB of memory can be installed, and they'll accept hard drives as large as 320GB. A 128GB solid-state drive is available for a jaw-dropping £420. Software includes Time Machine for creating backups, Mail, iChat, the Safari browser, Photo Booth, Front Row, Boot Camp (for installing Windows XP in addition to OS X), and the iLife '08 suite.
You'll be hard pressed to find a Core 2 Duo laptop -- Windows-based or otherwise -- that isn't fast. Obviously, our PCMark 2005 benchmark won't run on a Mac, but anecdotal testing yielded some positive results. Our review sample uses the faster 2.4GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM, and with this, the system booted in approximately 30 seconds and zipped convincingly through day-to-day applications. Even when multitasking with iTunes, Safari and iPhoto, the system never batted an eyelid. It also stayed cool to the touch -- even after prolonged use.
Graphics performance is vastly improved on previous models.
Overall, Apple claims video performance is 6.2 times faster than on
previous models. The new Nvidia cards are also compatible with Nvidia's
Cuda technology. This enables programmers to write software that
utilises the processing power of the graphics card as well as the CPU
to solve complex computational problems. Video transcoding in
compatible applications, for example, is significantly faster through
Cuda, as is image manipulation in the latest version of Adobe CS4.
We're still in the process of testing the MacBook's battery life, but Apple claims customers can expect approximately 5 hours -- even with the wireless adaptor enabled. We find that difficult to believe -- 3 hours is more likely -- but we'll update this review with an independent battery score in the next day or so.
The new MacBook is, as we all expected, very good but very expensive. We can see where all the money is going, though -- it's an absolutely gorgeous piece of engineering that you'll spend hours just looking at. If you've got the cash, we'd thoroughly recommend it. If not, you'll get more for your money buying a Windows machine.
Edited by Nick Hide