Now that the high-end MacBook Pro has Intel's Core 2 Duo CPU, it's high time the latest processor technology filtered down to Apple's more consumer-friendly MacBook line. There are three MacBook models, one with a 1.83GHz CPU and two with 2.0GHz CPUs. The MacBook starts at a mere £749, but our review unit is the most tricked-out of the three, offering the faster CPU and a larger hard drive for a still palatable £999.
These 13.3-inch laptops, available in the standard Apple colours of black and white, are nearly as powerful as their 15- and 17-inch Pro cousins, and they include a lot of the same features, such as the built-in iSight camera and Front Row remote. If the handful of compromises vs the Pro model, such as the screen size and the lack of discrete graphics, isn't a deal breaker, the MacBook is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to step up to an Apple laptop or upgrade their older MacBook.
While the entry-level MacBook is available only in white, when you move up to the 2.0GHz version, black is also an option. Our black MacBook isn't quite as sharp as the metallic MacBook Pro, but it still has a very distinctive look, with rounded edges and a boxy iPod-like design. The matte black surface is nice to run your hands over and is largely fingerprint resistant. The white 2.0GHz model is £120 cheaper and starts with a smaller hard drive, but it can be upgraded to an identical configuration.
Measuring about 325mm wide, 25mm thick and 229mm deep, the MacBook is small enough to carry around every day and just big enough to comfortably function as your everyday computer. It weighs in at 2.3kg (2.6kg with the AC adaptor), and while the difference is only about 225g, it feels considerably lighter than the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Opening the lid, you'll find a minimalist setup, including a power button, a full-size keyboard, a sizable touch pad with a single mouse button, and a built-in iSight camera that sits above the display. If you miss the scroll bar present on many Windows laptops, you'll find that the two-finger scroll option works well (run two fingers down the touch pad, and it scrolls like a mouse wheel). The keyboard has totally flat keys instead of the slightly concave keys you may be used to. It's matter of personal preference, but we like the cleaner look of flat keys.
The MacBook supplies you with two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 400 port (the MacBook Pro adds a FireWire 800 port), a mini-DVI port (an adaptor is required for hooking up a regular monitor), and a slot-loading SuperDrive DVD burner. You won't find a media card reader, however, which has become a common feature on many laptops. Unlike the MacBook Pro, there's no ExpressCard slot for adding components later. An Ethernet port, an Airport Extreme 802.11a/b/g wireless card, and the built-in Bluetooth take care of the networking.
At a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, the 13.3-inch widescreen display is easy to read and offers enough screen real estate for anything short of high-res Photoshop sessions. With a 15-inch MacBook Pro, you'd jump up to 1,440x900 pixels, but the difference is minimal to the naked eye. Movie-watching is best as a one-person experience on the 13.3-inch screen as opposed to the more sharable 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models.
Our review unit came with 1GB or RAM and a 120GB hard drive. You can double the RAM to 2GB for £120, which seems like a smart investment for future-proofing your machine, and you can ramp up the hard drive to 160GB or 200GB models for £70 and £140, respectively. Other than that, the MacBook configurations are mostly fixed, although Apple is happy to sell you a variety of external accessories, such as a USB modem jack (£35) or a mini-DVI-to-VGA adaptor (£15).