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Aluminum MacBook at Corvillus
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Aluminum MacBook

As you may already know, Apple Inc. has launched a new MacBook and MacBook Pro, at their October 10th Event. Seeing as the PowerBook G4 I was previously using had been getting long in the tooth, I decided to pick one up.

First Impressions

The first thing you’ll notice out of the box is that the new MacBook has the impression of being much more solid than the previous ones. This can be chalked up to Apple’s brand new unibody design process, where the main body of the notebook is carved from a solid block of aluminum. Another thing to note is that the MacBook looks significantly thinner due to the tapered edges of the screen bezel and the body (similar to those found on the MacBook Air and the iPhone 3G).

Open up the laptop and you’ll be presented with a black chicklet keyboard, which actually looks very similar in color contrast to the Titanium PowerBook G4. A new larger touchpad is also visible, but where did the button go? It’s actually still around, and better than ever, but we’ll get to that later.

Move on up to the bezel, and you’ll notice flush glass covered glossy display. Power on the computer and you’ll notice a beautiful LED backlight and a vibrant screen. Using the trackpad, you’ll notice that the bottom of the trackpad clicks down as a hinge. And did I mention that the trackpad was multitouch? Your iPhone gestures also work, such as the pinch and the flick, in many applications. In addition, there are new 3 finger gestures, and 4 finger gestures for Expos√©. Go into the Keyboard and Mouse Preferences and you will also have the option of configuring a secondary click area (Windows users: this means you can have your right click back).

In addition, the new MacBook also has a brand new chipset architecture under the hood. Apple decided to eschew the Intel GMA X1300 chipset in favor of a new nVIDIA 9400M chipset with 256MB shared video memory, initially built exclusively for the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. This means that many users that were originally considering going with the MacBook Pro might be able to settle for the MacBook, as it now has enough graphical power for light to moderate use of professional applications. If you’re an actual professional though, the MacBook Pro is still available with a dedicated option, which adds either a 256MB or 512MB 9600M GT video chipset in addition to the 9400M, and you have the option of switching between these 2 based on whether you need power or battery life at a given time.

Another feature new to the MacBook, but previously available in the Pro, is the ambient light sensor. This works remarkably well, if anything, possibly too well (as this new sensor responds IMMEDIATELY upon a change, even really small changes in light, so don’t be surprised if the sun comes out and all of a sudden the screen lights up). If you get the 2.4GHz MacBook or better, you’ll also get a backlit keyboard.

Caveats

Unfortunately, the new MacBook is not perfect, at least not for some people. While I personally love the glass display, people who want a matte option, have no choice. None of the new MacBooks are available with matte displays.

The second thing that might annoy people is the multitouch touchpad. While I personally don’t find it much different than the one button touchpad on older MacBooks in terms of usage, I’m sure there will be some people that will have trouble with it. Also, you may find that you have to handle the touchpad a bit differently to ensure that clicks register properly, if you’re the type that uses your whole thumb to depress the button. I’ve also noticed that sometimes I’ll accidentally perform the pinch gesture when I’m not paying attention. Still, I personally find the new touchpad a vast improvement over the old one.

The third thing that will be a deal breaker for many people, especially in the professional segment, is that FireWire 400 was axed, so no FireWire on the MacBook, and the MacBook Pro’s FireWire connectivity is now limited to one FW 800 connector. So if you have a FireWire camera and were looking at buying a MacBook, too bad, you’re shelling out an extra $700 for the Pro. If you’re the type that has a camera connected to FW 400 while writing to a hard disk enclosure on FireWire 800, too bad, it’s not happening. That said, for me, these weren’t deal breakers, so I went for the MacBook.

Conclusion

All in all, if you can live with the compromises you have to make with the new MacBook, which I would say 80% of Apple’s market can, you will more than likely be happy with the new MacBook or MacBook Pro. If not, the old MacBook can be had for as little as $999 brand, and the old MacBook Pro as low as $1700, so it might be best to pick one of those up and wait to see if and how Apple addresses these issues.


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