MacBook First Impressions

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: News

MacBooks side by sideWith consumer and professional expectations in portable computing coming so close together over the past few years it’s really become apparent that Apple has taken this on board. With todays introduction of the MacBook, Apple is now offering very similar machines for very different tasks. Their newest addition to the line-up of Intel based Macs, which so far have directly replaced their PowerPC brothers; is the 13″ MacBook.

As expected this new iBook replacement is indeed named the “MacBook” and fills the consumer portable quadrant of Apples marketing plan. It bears many similarities to the iBook, but also to the MacBook Pro which should suggest a good starting point. Available in 3 models options there should be plenty of choice available for the consumer level Mac user and MacBook should leave few people wanting more. The MacBook can already be picked up in US Apple Retail Stores and are available for shipping in 3 days from the Apple Online Store.

The first noticeable thing about the MacBook is how it is available now in two colors; black or white. This change follows in the wake of the iPod line and shows Apple are indeed listening to their customers who have been screaming out for exactly this change. It does however come with it’s downsides. For example the black color is only available with an 80Gb hard drive (minimum) and a 2.0Ghz processor, where the white color is available with a 1.83Ghz (or 2.0Ghz) processor and a minimum of a 60Gb hard drive. This takes the price up by $200.00 USD with a retail value of $150.00 USD for the color which I for one can’t quite fathom.

Backtracking a little, the MacBook rings in at $1099.00 USD for the basic model, with 2.0Ghz versions available for $1299.00 USD (white) and $1499.00 USD (black) as standard. The basic models each come with 512Mb of RAM (2x256Mb), a 60Gb hard drive (80Gb minimum in the black model) and full networking capability with AirPort Extreme, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth. They also feature SuperDrives as standard for the 2.0Ghz models and Combo Drives for the 1.83Ghz model. This is something I am a little disappointed in due to the lack of options on the models where you could previously drop the SuperDrive in favor of a Combo Drive for a saving of $70.00 USD.

All models come with a 13.3″ screen with a native resolution of 1280×800. The screens have been adorned with a glossy finish which is causing concern right now, but will not be proven either way until they hit the streets. They also have built-in iSight cameras, Frontrow (with remote), and iLife ’06 as standard. Each model also boasts a good set of peripheral connections with one FireWire 400 and two USB 2.0 ports each. The lack of FireWire 800 is understandable, but would be a welcome addition for use with external hard drives, but connectivity is increased with the addition of the same optical digital audio ports as we saw in the MacBook pro as well as the inclusion of MagSafe power connector technology.

Interestingly the MacBook lines up pretty well with it’s 2.0Ghz brother the MacBook Pro. All specs barring the screen size/resolution (being different sizes) line up pretty well. Basic specs are the same on both Macs with the MacBook Pro weighing in 0.4 pounds heavier and slightly larger. The MacBook Pro is also slightly thinner than the new MacBook… 0.08 inches thinner to be precise. The MacBook Pro offers a better battery life however at 6 hours if you push it. Most users will leave AirPort turned on though offering a fairer comparison of 2.5 hours to the MacBook Pro and 3.5 hours to the MacBook. Again, real life testing will verify this statistic.

Other than that the two machines are almost exactly the same, with the exception of the graphics card and keyboard. Apple have included an Intel GMA 950 in the MacBook with 64Mb of shared memory. This is not nearly as good of a graphics card as the MacBook Pro boasts however it does keep the costs down for consumers that really shouldn’t require any more from a portable machine. Sadly the keyboard on the MacBook is not backlit but I feel this is something that will be remedied in later versions (possible 12-24 months away).

Overall this looks to be a a great little portable and a fantastic replacement for the iBook. It really looks to be good alternative to the MacBook Pro if you don’t require the screen real estate or graphics card, which would save you $500. I think this will be Apples #1 consumer Mac for some time to come, and am desperate to find the cash myself.

There are 29 comments on MacBook First Impressions:

RSS Feed for these comments
  1. Jeff | May 16 2006 - 01:09

    Looks great, though did they get rid of the microphone feature on the new MacBook?

  2. eternalnewb | May 16 2006 - 01:52

    My iBook gets about 4 hours with Airport/Bluetooth off, but playing graphics-intensive games. Anything advertised will be without anything open, just sitting on the desktop. The real battery life must suck.

    They better have not gotten rid of the mic. The mic is one part of the Mac I really like… Just having a built in audio input is great. You don’t have to get some annoying USB mic, it just has audio input.

    As for the choice of white or black, I’ll stick with white. Well, at least there is something to go with those hideous black iPods now!

  3. Matt Hoult | May 16 2006 - 02:53

    Unfortunately I can’t find a definitive answer about the microphone (it’s not listed anywhere on where the Pro did have one listed) but I am in the process of finding out now and will get back to you as soon as possible on that.

    The battery life I am intent on taking as “average use”. Every Mac I have ever used has had an average use battery life as shown on Apples website so I am inclined to believe them. It should also be remembered that while CPUs are moving on, the batteries are not (or not as much at any rate) and more features (viz. the iSight) are draining more and more power at the same time.

  4. Jason | May 16 2006 - 02:34

    Guys – if the new MacBook has a built-in iSight, which it looks like it does, then it also has a built-in mic.

    Very cool, I say. I am looking at picking one up in the next day or two. I wish our local Apple stores got new products sooner. We still don’t even have the 17″ MBP. =(

    P.S. On battery life, I just made two 5 hour flights to and from Hawaii, and I was able to use my 15″ MBP and iWork the entire time (well, during “approved electronics time” anyway) and still had an hour or so of battery power left over. I’ll bet these new MacBooks will get great battery time.

  5. Matt Hoult | May 16 2006 - 03:26

    I am going mad, they have iSight cameras so they MUST have a mic surely.

  6. I would disagree with the comment that you might want to wait for a DC adapter. I recommend to people instead to get a separate AC to DC adapter like

    This is only $19 and will work with your laptop, iPod, cell phone, etc. So I find it a better idea to get one DC adapter and not a special one for my laptop

  7. Matt Hoult | May 16 2006 - 05:19

    I have just learned that the MacBook has a user replaceable hard drive under the battery. Lift the battery and protective layer out of the way and you can pull your hard drive right out, no screws. The RAM is also located there now.

  8. cctoronto | May 16 2006 - 06:06

    If you look at the comparison page for all the MacBooks, you will see that the mic is built in for all of them.

    The harddrive situation is cool, I’ve replaced mine twice in my iBook, and I’ve got it down to a 50 min process, but that is cool to make it REALLY user replaceable.

    Where did you find that info Matt?

    Cheers fro the summary, dude.

  9. ShanMac | May 16 2006 - 06:37

    These new units are sweet. You sure get a lot for your money.

  10. chornbe | May 16 2006 - 07:49

    I was originally looking very forward to the retail Intel MacBook. I really couldn’t wait much longer because I had sold my iBook and needed another laptop. I went ahead and bought a MacBook Pro.

    As it turns out, I’m not sorry. A few things that I don’t like or that make little or no sense to me:

    1 – $200 for a black case and a paltry 20gb space bump? Pfffffffffffffft.

    2 – shared memory/vid-memory. ’nuff said

    I’ll keep and be very happy with my MacBook Pro

  11. proook | May 17 2006 - 01:08

    The best: MINI DVI!! Add a 2nd Monitor. OK not for games but for my day to day work as a graphicdesigner perfect. And the 13.3” Display is realy portable (In a plain or on a coffeebar-table).

    order now!

  12. Nick Circosta | May 17 2006 - 03:32

    well you luky US users can enjoy it , mine doesnt ship untill the 6th of june :(

  13. Matt Hoult | May 17 2006 - 03:05

    [b]@CCTorronto[/b]: The information was originally posted on AppleInsider but it has surfaced elsewhere since.

  14. Alex Santos | May 17 2006 - 04:36

    I read on that the new MacBook comes with a SHINY SCREEN…can this be? Oh my God? Why. Who wants glare? All these years of improving anti glare screens an Apple for some katamari like reason decides that marketing a shiny screen is cool.

    Apparently on the MacBook Pro a shiny screen is an option.

    If this story about the macbook is true then this is a huge mistake.

  15. Alex Santos | May 17 2006 - 04:06

    ok ok

    A glossy screen may indeed improve color reproduction on screen but do you any of you think glare might be a problem?

    It would be nice if someone could actually confirm my speculations because otherwise this is a great great machine.

    BTW Katamari is a very cool game for the PS2

  16. Matt Hoult | May 17 2006 - 08:07

    I for one have not seen, used or known anyone who has a MacBook to this point so I can’t say too much, but I can tell you that the Flickr photos I have seen don’t show a bad glare at all, in fact they look much better with a single line of minute reflection across them. Overall I’d say the color is easily worth the minimal reflective downside from the little I have seen.

  17. Wilf | May 17 2006 - 09:41

    Thanks for that initial review Matt, you’re a great writer and I’mi sure you’ve got a lot of potential :) Good luck with finding a job in the US!

    This is the Mac I’m interested in; I’m 15 years old, and this would be my first computer, but a bit over £700 (educational) I can’t really afford at the moment. So either I’ll be saving up, and in the meantime waiting for revisions to it, or I won’t get one. But I hope that’s not the case.

    I think it’s a great computer; as I suspected they went for shared graphics, but there has to be some difference between the MacBook and the Pro, to keep the price down as much as possible (though I wish it was lower still, in the UK at least the lower end iBook was cheaper). I would get white, as I just think it looks so sexy and is cheaper. :) This is great! Can’t wait to hear what Adam thinks about it on the next MacCast

  18. rick | May 17 2006 - 12:55

    Is it true that the new MacBooks do not have an illuminated keyboard?
    I would be very very dissapointed if this is true.

  19. Matt Hoult | May 17 2006 - 12:32

    Sadly they do not. This was a feature I was also hoping for but I guess there is either issues with cost, manufacturer (as with the iBooks) or simply in keeping some things Pro only.

  20. Wilf | May 17 2006 - 02:19

    Yes that’s true rick

  21. Bruce | May 17 2006 - 04:55

    It’s nice to finally have consumer level Intel notebooks. The additions to the design are really sweet, but I really don’t like the black Mac. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to them being blinding white. But they are going to take some getting used to.

  22. Peter Ramsing | May 17 2006 - 09:14

    I personaly don’t really like the black look

  23. Henry | May 18 2006 - 08:37

    I give it an 8 out of 10. My ideal laptop would be a black 13.3″ MacBook Pro

    Meaning I want the dedicated video processor and separate vRAM. Not so much for high performance video, I’m just leary of shared RAM for anything.
    I also would like an expansion slot (for an aircard), and the backlit keyboard. The latter two are biggies if you’re a road warrior.

    I saw them in my local store today for the first time. I am impressed with the large battery. Hopefully it can keep the unit running a long time. Also worthy of note is the texture of the wrist area on the black unit. Almost feels like rubber. It is soft, not so platicy. (Which is good.)

    Keyboard feels a bit wierd (the ThinkPad is still the keyboard king), but it works fine.

    My only price problem is with the black unit. They’re really trying to throw their weight around now. Apple is essentially charging customers $100-$150 for the privledge of having the black color.

    The two super-drive models are identical except for the HD (white – 60 GB; black 80 GB). I believe Apple used to charge only $100 to upgrade +20GB in the old 12″ G4 PowerBook. And since HD prices only go down; you can assume that they just getting a bit cocky with the $200 price jump. If they want the color to be more exclusive fine. But put in some hardware. For $1499 it should come with 1 GB RAM and 80 GB HD; that would be reasonable.

    Magnetic closing lid is pure genius.

    The built-in eye-sight is nice, but nothing original. Sony did that first, and the camera could flip around 180 degrees.

    The new two finger right click works. But you have to ask youself, when is Apple just going to admit that two button mice are here to stay.

    If you recall the selling point of the single button mouse way back in the early days it was because people would get confused as to which button should be clicked.

    Well now with this latest elegegant design contraption, you need three fingers to right-click.

    They don’t need to break the button in two. They can just make it work like the Mighty Mouse.

    Apple also needs to make the power-supply in black.

    But that’s enough griping. It has WiFi, Bluetooth, a very nice screen, it’s just the right size and of course, it’s a Mac.

  24. Larry | May 20 2006 - 11:25

    Interestiing to note that MacMall offers them with Windows XP preloaded.

    Obviouly I’m ready to buy one and looking for the best deals.

  25. Paul | May 20 2006 - 11:17

    Why is it that if you want the convenience of the 13inch screen you must suffer with less features?? Is it purerly a size thing where adding a backlit keyboard or a beefy video card would not be possible??
    I don’t want to whinge too much as i love this new line, i was just hoping Apple might realise there are many of us who don’t want to drag around a 17inch MBP just to have a decent video card or firewire800……

    Happy….but frustrated!!!!

  26. maccast | May 22 2006 - 12:34

    I don’t think Apple has said they would never produce a 13″ MacBookPro, unless I missed a press release somewhere. ;)

  27. Matt Hoult | May 22 2006 - 11:35

    I have to agree with Paul that it is frustrating, but it certainly hasn’t been said that we won’t see holes patched one way or the other. FW800 is what does it for me and while even the MBP is kinda lacking in this area, it is possible to get add-on cards that support it (they are becoming more widely available all the time). Unfortunately, without an expansion slot the MacBook doesn’t even have this option.

    Having an external-HDD I find this very frustrating, but would be willing to live with it I feel ;)

  28. maccast | May 22 2006 - 11:01

    Hey gang. At the MacGathering event this weekend the RadTech guys told be about this cable they sell to bridge the gap between Firewire 400 and 800. It will let you use that 800 device with a 400 port. Now obviously you will not get the speed of the 800 on your MacBook, but at least you don’t have to abandon your external 800 drive.