Apple MacBook Review for 2.0GHz Core Duo Black Color Version (pics, specs)

by soulreaver99 Reads (229,710)

by Louie Tran, California USA

Apple MacBook Quick Specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core Duo 2.0GHz
  • Memory: 512MB RAM
  • Screen: 13.3″ Glossy Widescreen TFT
  • 80GB Hard Drive
  • Graphics: Intel GMA950 64MB Shared
  • Optical Drive: Super Drive DVD+-RW
  • Wireless Communications: Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, AirPort Extreme (WiFi 802.11g)

Apple makes the switch!

Apple has come up with many creative methods in successfully “switching” Windows users over to the Mac through a variety of ad campaigns (yes, the ones on their website), promoting an intuitive OS X operating system, and mass marketing the Windows compatible iPod MP3 players. The next thing you know, Apple announces they will be dropping the IBM made processors and then switching over to the manufacturer that’s been powering PC-based computers for years, Intel. This then creates an opportunity for old and new Mac users to do this blasphemous thing which is to run Windows XP NATIVELY on the notebooks and desktops! Now just recently Apple finally adds the “glossy” screen that Windows based notebooks have been using for years on their new line of MacBooks and MacBook Pros. What’s next, a two button mouse? Ha!

An Intel chipset, being able to run Windows XP and a wide glossy screen makes the new MacBook one of the most anticipated laptops of all time. I personally held off on the 15″ MacBook Pros which came out earlier this year to wait for a smaller 13.3″ since I am used to working with smaller notebooks such as my 12″ iBook and my 13.3″ Sony Vaio S460. I was even more pleased when I heard that Apple finally implemented the glossy XBRITE-like screen onto their new MacBooks and just recently, the MacBook Pros.

Apple’s line of MacBooks consists of three notebooks of different configurations. The least costly at $1099 has a 1.83GHz processor, a 60GB Hard Drive, and a DVD/CDRW drive. The middle one at $1299 has a 2.0GHz processor, 60GB, and a DVD+-RW drive. And finally the most expensive one at $1499 has a 2.0Ghz processor an 80GB, a DVD+-RW drive, and a black casing. If you configure the middle one to have the same specs as the black Mac Book, it actually comes out $150 less so you’re basically just paying for the color. Some may find it silly but the black casing is really nice and I do like the color black so that’s what I’m going to use for this review…

The traditional box opening ritual…

We all know that Apple is famous for their fancy packaging and there’s always a ritual taking the Apple product out of the box to slowly admire the art involved in the process. So let’s not break tradition and slowly unpack the MacBook!

(note to readers – the author included pictures featuring his MacBook on his washer on purpose as he has in his past reviews, feel free to laugh or just wonder what type of weird person this reviewer is)


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1) So there you have it. The MacBook box looks like it could almost be confused for an LCD flat panel monitor. Too bad it’s about 6 times more expensive than one…


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2)  Here we go opening it and we are greeted with some Styrofoam protection


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3)  As we lift off the Styrofoam, we see how the MacBook is neatly packed with the power adaptor and the remote! Just under the MacBook lie the documentation and a pair of Apple stickers! Yay!


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4)  Just for fun, let’s compare the packaging for my Sony Vaio S460 and the Apple MacBook. What a world of difference!


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5) Here you have it, the MacBook completely out of the box!

Design

This is the most unique Mac out of all of all their notebook lineups because it breaks the tradition of having a white or silver casing that have been used for years. The black MacBook looks very sleek, but I feel that the white iBooks and MacBooks have a much more solid casing. One of the first things that caught my attention was that I could already feel the weight difference between the MacBook (5.2lbs) and my Vaio S460 (4.6lbs) even though it’s not much.


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On the left side of the MacBook, you’ll find all of the ports lined up on this notebook. It starts off with the MagSafe power port, Ethernet, mini-DVI output, two USB 2.0 ports, Firewire 400, and audio input and output ports. Missing is a 56k modem, but when was the last time anyone ever used dialup? On the right side, there is a slot loading DVD+-RW drive which is very convenient in saving space and not having to worry about snapping off the drive (lord knows that’s happened before). Unfortunately, there is no PCMCIA slot nor a card reader found on the MacBook. For something that’s $1499, it would not have been hard to include one! A dual layer DVD burner would have been nice too. As I mentioned earlier, there still isn’t a second mouse button built onto the notebook for those who absolutely need it.

Finally as we open up the notebook, you’ll notice that Apple has finally adopted the glossy screen which PC users have had the luxury of using for awhile already. The 13.3″ 1280 x 800 widescreen shines brilliantly and it actually looks sharper and brighter than the one found on the Sony XBRITE screen. Personally, I feel that this is the best feature found on the MacBook because it feels very pleasing to the eyes looking at a very sharp, bright screen. Also built in the screen is the iSight webcam with mic so you don’t have to carry anything else if you want to videochat.

The first few hours


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After taking it all out of the box and inspecting all sides of the MacBook, it’s time to plug it in, turn it on, and see it in action! After the initial power up and registration, I went through the preinstalled software and quite a handful was just trial versions such as Microsoft Office 2004. AppleWorks was nowhere to be found, so if anyone wants to type up anything, they would either have to buy Office, download Open Office for free, or stick with Text Edit. Text Edit is like the equivalent to Word Pad found on Windows, but it’s actually more superior with features such as spell check. I would really like to get into detail about how wonderful the Tiger OS is but that’s been way overdone so I’m going to focus on just the usage of the notebook itself. Just note that Macs come with an impressive software suite called iLife which includes Garage Band, iDVD, iPhoto, and iMovie HD to help you create a variety of multimedia projects. All of these have been optimized to work with the new Intel chipset so you don’t have to worry about any performance issues.


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The built in AirPort Extreme card found my wireless network and I was online with Safari. Web surfing and reading on the MacBook is really enjoyable because the screen is so clear and the text is very crisp. The colors on the screen shine brightly and it really accents the beauty of the OS. One thing that I do not like is the keyboard because some of the keys feel very loose and cheap as I type on it which I also had the same experience with on the MacBooks on a store display. I’m not sure if it’s just my MacBook but a few of the keys stick when I type on them, especially the spacebar. I don’t have this problem with my iBook and it gets irritating.

Next I opened up iChat to try out the iSight camera for some videoconferencing and it has been nothing less than amazing. My friends see me very clearly and the microphone sensitivity is perfect. I am loud and clear and I was very surprised at how good the quality was. The Photo Booth program included is fun to play with allowing you take snapshots of yourself or with someone else and then add some effects to them.

I plugged in my iPod 5G 30GB just to try out the built in stereo speakers. Just like other notebook speakers, they are nothing to write home about. Music played was clear and satisfactory but the max volume isn’t really that loud. Also don’t expect decent bass from any notebook speakers. If you want excellent sound then I suggest using headphones or just hook some speakers onto the notebook.

I grabbed the remote that was included with this MacBook, hit the Menu button and Front Row opened and I can opt to play Videos, Music, DVD, and view Photos. With my iPod plugged in, I select Music but for some reason I can’t play any songs or view playlists on my iPod, which is kind of pointless. I can however skip tracks and adjust the volume within iTunes using the remote, but not within Front Row! Hopefully, Apple will resolve this issue in the future or maybe there is just something that I’m missing.

I have a full version of the Student Microsoft Office 2004 so after installing that, I had the opportunity to do some serious writing on it (such as writing notes for this very review). One of the things that I noticed when starting Microsoft Word is that it takes about 23 seconds to load whereas on Windows XP, it loads instantly! This is mainly because the Mac version of Office has not been optimized to work with the Intel chipset. Just like Photoshop and many other programs, you’re going to half to deal with the performance decreases when switching from a G4 or G5 to an Intel chipset on some of the software.

As I’m typing and multitasking, I also noticed that there is on occasion one or two second load when I’m in the middle of something. For instance, I have Adium, Word, iTunes, and Safari open at the same time. When I’m typing on Word in the middle of a sentence, the spinning “loading” icon pops up for a few seconds, but fortunately it does not happen quite often. Again, this probably has something to do with Word not being optimized to work with the Intel processor. Maybe more RAM will help remedy the problem but I’m thinking 512MB should already be sufficient enough.

After a little over an hour working with the MacBook, I remembered people reporting that the MacBook Pro had some heat issues and wanted to see if it was resolved on this version. I put my hand on the bottom left side of the notebook and it was uncomfortably warm when all I did was do websurfing, listening to music, and typing. Using Core Temp Duo to check the temperature, I get 58C/134F and that’s only on light usage! On my Sony Vaio S460 review, I complained that it gets really hot but this MacBook actually goes beyond what the Vaio produces.

And finally to take full advantage of the screen, I loaded up one of my favorite anime series, Fate/Stay Night which plays at a widescreen resolution and has excellent animation. Thanks to VLC, running Xvid or DivX files on a Mac works just as great as it does on a Windows PC. It’s just too bad that I can’t utilize Front Row to play these types of media files. Next I put in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVD and opened up Front Row to launch the DVD. Finally I’m able to test out Front Row and skipping around chapters with the remote is convenient. The picture quality on the screen is very clear and bright thanks to the glossy widescreen. Compared to my Vaio, playing movies and videos are about the same.

Installing and Running Windows XP


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Now that I’ve played around with the Mac OS end enough, it’s finally time to install and test out Windows XP on the MacBook! In the past people were able to run Windows on Macs using Virtual PC but the performance was hardly bearable and now thanks to the new Intel chipset, people are able to run Windows natively using BootCamp. BootCamp is still in its Beta version and is a free download off the Apple site. Basically all you do is sit through the download, and follow the automated process in partition the hard drive, creating a drivers CD, and then installing Windows XP. At default, BootCamp allocates 5GB for Windows XP but I put 10GB just to be on the same side using the NTFS file system. The whole process was really simple that took less than an hour to do.


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When Windows XP finally finished installing, I popped in the drivers CD it created and then it basically installed itself. Next I ran a Windows Update just to be safe and that all went through just fine. The feel of Windows XP on the MacBook was no different from a regular PC just that the right click was missing but that could be remedied by using any USB mouse. Keep in mind that CTRL-Click in Windows is not the same as doing it on the Mac OS so if you plan on using Windows quite often; remember to carry an extra mouse! Also, the “two finger scroll” or any other scroll does not work within Windows using the trackpad. I really wish that Apple would’ve included the second mouse button on their new notebooks but I guess we have to wait for the next generation.


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Next I installed Microsoft Office 2003 so I could write on this review some more. I opened up Word and it launched instantly without the 20+ second wait I experienced from the Mac version. Other software programs I installed and ran were Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and Adobe Acrobat which worked perfectly. I also installed Palm Desktop to sync my Palm TX to Outlook 2003 which the MacBook detected and synchronized without any problems.

Just for fun, I installed Nero 6 Ultra Edition and DVD Shrink to try to burn a DVD. At first I thought my version of Nero was too old to recognize DVD burning on the MacBook but after rebooting, it detected it just fine. In half an hour, I created a perfect backup of a DVD movie that I actually own I should have at least allocated 20GB instead of 10GB just in case I had to rip and compress a DVD larger than 4.7GB since the MacBook does not have a Dual Layer drive.

Just to fully test the MacBook’s performance on Windows, I installed 3Dmark 2003 and it scored 1328 points. My Sony Vaio S460 scored 2358 which totally kills the MacBook because the Vaio is powered by a GeForce Go 6200 with 128MB of dedicated memory. The MacBook on the other hand has a built in Intel videocard at 64MB shared video memory. You can view the full test on the MacBook on 3Dmark 2003 by going here: http://service.futuremark.com/compare?2k3=4796183

Within Windows, the wireless card found the wireless network in my home and I was able to get online and use Internet Explorer. Even though the BootCamp software is in Beta, the drivers pretty much covered everything except for the iSight camera which crashed within Windows when I tried to use it. All the keyboard functions work as if they were in Windows such as Alt+F4, Ctrl+V, etc and the “Apple” key works like the “Windows” key.

One thing that I noticed when running Windows for about half an hour is that the MacBook gets much hotter at a faster rate than running Tiger. There is also an issue with the clock when you boot into Windows because it starts off from the last time you used XP so you need to sync the clock if you want the accurate time.

Although quite a handful of people may say that the whole BootCamp feature is a pointless novelty, it is really a great convenience for me. For instance, I use the Palm Desktop and Outlook in Windows quite often and the DVD burning programs in Windows work much better for me. I’m also waiting for the Mac Intel version of Photoshop so in the meantime, using PhotoShop 7.0 on the Windows side of my Mac works great. All other functions such as word processing, websurfing, instant messaging, and creating multimedia projects are a lot more fun to work with on Tiger. Maybe it’s psychological but the MacOS actually helps my creativity, but it might be just me.

On the road!

I’m hardly at home and work on the road a lot so performance outside of the house is extremely important to me. Even though it is slightly heavier than my Vaio, the weight is still bearable walking around with it in a backpack all day. When I had to stop at a local cafe with free WiFi, I took out the MacBook to write out this portion of the review. I plugged in my iPod, opened up Word, and then Adium to chat on AIM and MSN and then got to work. In between I used Safari to check my e-mail while everything was running. Just like the iBook, the MacBook is a great multitasker and switching in between applications is seamless. Also switching back into Windows XP to update my calendar in Outlook is very simple too. I just realized I could do so much on the MacBook by switching back and forth in between operating systems without having to carry two notebooks is extremely useful. The battery life is also great, lasting at 3.5 hours under what I consider normal usage. There’s also more than enough time to take a break and watch a few anime episodes. The small square sized power adaptor is also easy to carry around unlike those other brick sized monsters that other notebooks have.

It can do a lot… but how is it in value?

A lot of people compare this to the Sony Vaio SZ because they are both similarly priced and have almost the same specs. However, the Vaio SZ has a much more superior and dedicated videocard, Dual Layer burning, an expansion slot, and a memory card reader which are all missing on the MacBook. Other issues on the MacBook such as the heat and cheap feel of the keyboard keep this from being the perfect notebook. Another thing to keep in mind is that the white version of this MacBook at the exact same specs costs $150 less so you have to ask yourself if the color is worth it.

Other than the issues stated above, the MacBook is definitely superior to any iBook and the 12″ Powerbook thanks to the widescreen glossy display, integrated iSight, larger trackpad, and the ability to switch into Windows to run it natively. The screen is definitely its most attractive feature and it really brings out the beauty of the Mac OS. However there is a lot of room for improvement for Apple’s MacBook. I hope in the near future that they at least include a dedicated graphics card and especially fix the heat issue.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10




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