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The only MacBook left standing isn’t some neglected also-ran. With this redesign, Apple gave its most modest notebook nearly all the power and the style of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. For $999 ($200 less than the base 13-inch Pro), the white MacBook has nearly the same specs, minus the FireWire port, SD card slot, IR sensor, and backlit keyboard--and the MacBook has a bigger hard drive: 250GB to the base Pro’s 160GB.
The most glaring difference between this MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the MacBook’s plastic body, which now comes only in white. Still, Apple took a page from the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines and built this MacBook as a unibody, with a single piece of durable polycarbonate, curved corners, and a huge glass multitouch trackpad. The bottom is covered with a gray nonslip pad--no battery compartment, because the battery is built in.
The body is constructed from a single piece of white polycarbonate plastic. No more black MacBooks--at least for now.
Yep, no user-replaceable batteries in any of Apple’s laptops anymore. The new lithium-polymer battery can last between 3.5 and 7 hours on a charge--we got a full day’s worth of usage with Energy Saver on, and a hardy 4 hours, 5 minutes during our DVD-rundown test. Apple says the battery will last 1,000 charge cycles before its capacity dips to 80 percent of the original, which could take up to 5 years. Replacement is $129, the same price as a spare battery back when you could replace it yourself. You can still access the hard drive and RAM slots to upgrade those.
The LED backlit screen (1280x800) looks gorgeous, goes to full brightness right away, and isn’t covered by glass like the MacBook Pros’ screens. We like it--there’s far less glare, even though the screen is still glossy. The MacBook has a Mini DisplayPort connection, but Apple doesn’t include the adapters for hooking it to DVI or VGA monitors ($29 each). Front Row fans will be disappointed that the MacBook doesn’t have an IR sensor, so you can’t use it with the Apple Remote. The FireWire port is gone too. You get two USB ports and that’s it. The MacBook lacks the 13-inch Pro’s SD card slot, but that barely matters because you can just use a USB card reader.
As far as system hardware, the MacBook has identical components to the 2.26GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro but a bigger hard drive. Relative to that Pro, it performed 23 percent better in our Photoshop CS4 Actions test, 29 percent better when importing a 2GB DV clip into iMovie, and squeaked out 4 more frames per second when playing Call of Duty 4. Our other tests had closer results, but the MacBook’s larger hard drive still helped it outperform the 2.26GHz 13-inch Pro across our benchmark suite.
If you don’t care about a backlit keyboard, an SD card slot, or a FireWire port, this system delivers just as much as the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which we named Gear of the Year last month. Cheeto addicts will hate the white keyboard, and the polycarbonate does pick up a few scratches, but this MacBook is a solid buy--the best sub-$1000 notebook Apple’s ever made.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB 1066MHz DDR3 RAM, 250GB 5400-rpm SATA hard drive, Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics with 256MB RAM shared with main memory, 13.3-inch glossy display, 8x SuperDrive, Mini DisplayPort, iSight, two USB 2.0 ports, 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Lighter than predecessor. Longer battery life. Brighter display. Multi-Touch trackpad. Less heat generated; more comfortable on your lap.
No FireWire port. No IR sensor. No adapters included for DVI or VGA displays. Same port for both audio-in and -out.