MacBook Review


I mentioned in a previous post that I'd acquired a new MacBook. I've had it for a few weeks now, so here's a brief review.

Shortly after the May 2007 speed bump on the MacBooks, I managed to pick up an old middle Macbook (2.0Ghz, 80Gb HDD, Superdrive) for the price of a new base MacBook (2.0Ghz, 80GB HDD, CD-RW). While this is a small bargain, I essentially got a new base MacBook, but with a Superdrive.

It's pretty fast - 2.0Ghz Core 2 Duo, with 4MB L2 cache. iPhoto, iMovie, all run without delays. I have 2GB RAM, and I haven't seen much in the way of beachballs. Applying iMovie transitions is OK, and I haven't seen it chugging away on spreadsheet recalcs or anything like that.

The screen was my biggest worry, but the small size doesn't seem to be an issue. It's very bright and very high resolution (113dpi). Being glossy, it's not so great in brightly lit environments, but in normal office environments and at home or in the hotel it's fine. There's a quality or intensity to it which makes other displays seem a bit washed out in comparison. Perhaps it's the glossiness of the display or the brightness, but images (and especially photographs) look great. The viewing angles aren't great, but that's par for the course for laptop displays.

Having Exposé available makes best use of the available screen space. When you can see other windows with small mouse/finger flicks, you don't always need to have two documents open side by side.

It's light: weight wise, it's great - barely bigger than an A4 pad, and 5.1lbs in weight. I have a Hellolulu sleeve type case with a small pocket for the power supply, cables. It's portable with one hand and gets regular envious glances from my PC laptop colleague (also a 13.3") whose case is almost larger than my entire carry on luggage (which contained a MacBook, DSLR, DV camera, and some books). Today, I showed him my powerbrick, which is smaller than my wallet.

The second big worry I had with it was the keyboard. It looks like a grown up IBM PC Jr. or Sinclair Spectrum, but it's full size, very easy on the fingers, and very conducive to touch typing (not that I'm the world's fastest touch-typist). This is more comfortable to use than my Microsoft Natural Keyboard. It's very comfortable and amazingly easy to use with minimal hand movements. For use in restricted places (airplanes, taxis) it's perfect. If you're worried about what the keyboard is like, don't be. It's fine.

Apple's choice of control keys for cursor movement and text selection seems more and more logical and comfortable the more I use it. Now if only Excel for Mac didn't have a completely different set of keyboard shortcuts...

The multi-touch touchpad is a vast improvement on PC laptops. One finger for left-click, two fingers for right click. One finger for select, two fingers for the context menu or scrolling. A mouse is more precise, and required for photo work or anything requiring really fine control, but for most use, the trackpad is fine. Even with a mouse, the two-fingered scrolling is preferable. The look on the aforementioned colleague's face when I invoked exposé to pick a document from about 20 open documents, and then scrolled to the end of it with a few small finger movements was priceless. Two-fingered scrolling through my album art with Coverflow is just amazing, and really gives you a feel for how easy the iPhone should be.

I'm using it mainly for Word, Excel and the iLife apps, as well as the usual web, mail and iChat stuff. I can't use it for my heavy duty work stuff, but that's all Windows only bespoke apps anyway, and I get supplied with bleeding edge workstations for that. If I needed to, I could install Windows XP, and run it that way.

My third worry was the integrated graphics. The Intel GMA950 sucks for anything which requires accelerated 3D. I ran a Linux workstation with that chipset powering dual monitors for a long time, and I knew that it's ok for just about everything except playing 3D intensive games, Google Earth, Screensavers, etc.

Happily, the Macbook manages to handle Google Earth, screensavers and the various accelerated parts of OS X satisfactorily. I don't know how it would handle a larger display, or any games, but it's not noticably underpowered in the graphics department. I haven't tried any 3D games, however, so it would probably fall down there.

It's a great small laptop, highly usuable for most tasks, with the added extras that gives (security, ease of use, design).

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This page contains a single entry by dave published on June 3, 2007 12:29 PM.

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