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New Macbooks

Cool Tech

May 16, 2006 11:46 AM PST


Comments on the new (non-pro) Macbooks? On first glance, I'm very happy that they all include DVI and Core Duo. And the magnetic power is a nice touch. The screen res and graphics card could be better, but pretty normal for notebooks in this range. Bezel seems large, and keyboard "buttons" will need to be examined in person. My main concern is the weight at 5.4 lbs seems a little high. I was hoping for the smallest macs to be more portable. I think there's still room in the lineup for an ultraportable Pro machine and a Core Solo education laptop under $1K.

All in all, I think these compare nicely to PC notebooks, and with the added value of multi-boot and virtualization, these could be very successful machines.
(Read: I could see buying a Rev B.)

Comments (25)
John, May 16, 2006 01:23 PM:

My random first reaction comments (some overlap here):

Cool that it comes in black.
For starters since the model begins at 1.83 Ė 2.0 Ghz Dual, I assumed that the Pro would be bumped up and I see that it has. It now starts at 2.0 instead of the older 1.66 or current 1.8G. But I am surprised they donít have a budget single core model like other vendors do.

It is a tad thicker than the pro, but that can be attributed to the plastic case instead of titanium. On the plus side this should give the WIFI better range. It has widely been reported that encasing your WIFI antennae in metal is a bad thing for range.

Weighs a bit much Ė nearly as much as the 15Ē pro.

Nice that it has the faster front side bus and memory of the pro. Not surprised that they cut back on the graphics and went with the 64M Intel internal.

The new mini DVI connector is pretty cool, but a drag that you canít hook to ANYTHING external without buying a converter. Also interesting (and not a disappointment to me) is that there is no internal modem, this is also an add-on.

Cool that it has Bluetooth 2.0 EDR.

I assume that since it comes with Front row it must have an IR port on it, I didnít see one in the specs.

Nice that is has digital audio in / out (coax to mini-din required). ISight camera as standard raises the bar and may help to drive video chat to the mainstream.

Bummer that you canít get a 7200 RPM drive option. Bummer that there is no cardslot of anykind.

Still only a one button trackpad but this one can detect two fingers at a time, so that should allow for some cool gestures Ė also they probably wonít be supported on XP anytime soon.

Side comment. Since this thing has front row it seems to me that itís use a media center computer would be enhanced if their was some sort of dock available for it. How could would it be to just set it on the TV and have it dock up audio and video so you could stream movies etc?

Paul, May 16, 2006 05:16 PM:

Another interesting thing is that Apple is building the EyeSight cameras into all of their computers... how long before it's built into the ipods so that you have a mobile recording studio like I mentioned before.

The DVI adapter is $19 so why not just build in such a cheap component? Not enough physical space?

I really want to know what typing on one of those keyboards is like. My G4 PowerBook has the nicest laptop keyboard I've ever used and I'd hate to see them screw that up.

Paul, May 16, 2006 08:55 PM:

Mac portable comparison chart.

J, May 16, 2006 11:34 PM:

Thanks for pointing out the chart. A few things I noticed:
1. The base notebooks support DVI becuase the Pro notebooks support Dual-DVI. That tricky Apple - always one step ahead.
2. The 7200 rpm drives in the pro models are a nice feature. I'd like to see a battery life comparison with the 5400s. Of course the faster one burns more power, but it also has to burst for less time to read the same data! I'd like to see a MPEG4 movie playback test on the two drives.
3. The non-Pro models ostensibly have more battery life (assumingly because the smaller screen).
4. The lack of a PC/Cardbus slot troubles me, but the 34mm slot on the Pro models doesn't help with reading CF cards anyway, so it doesn't matter so much for my use case.

John, May 16, 2006 11:48 PM:

Dual DVI is cool. I didn't realize the 15" pro could do that, I had thought it was only the 17"
The 7200 rpm drives are not standard, they are a pro option. My experience with upgrading my previous laptop to 7200 was that I didn't lose any battery life. This was due to the extra agressive power management that Hitachi put into that drive though. I'm not sure how it maps in todays serial-ATA 3.5" drives.
Oh and BTW they are claiming some incredible battery life for these Macbooks. I wonder how real that is.

J, May 16, 2006 11:58 PM:

Yeah, you could probably buy and install a 7200 in one of these machines for the upgrade price Apple charges.

On they say this about the keyboard: "The keyboard has a unique low-profile design that sits flush with the surface of the machine." Which makes me think that this keyboard may solve the problem apple has had in the past with the keys rubbing on the screen when it is closed, and leaving permanent marks. It's also probably because the Macbook would have been too thick without this special keyboard.

I'm still not conviced with the shiny screens. I'm really picky about glare, and my non-shiny LCDs have always seemed fine to me.

Paul, May 17, 2006 01:50 AM:

Yeah, I not sure about the shiny screens either. You'd think they would show smudges and dust more than the non-glare ones. What do you think of your laptop's screen, John?

John, May 17, 2006 10:06 AM:

Well so far the jury is out for me. The thing is very useful as a mirror that is for sure. The colors are very bright. I hear that they are supposed to be good for viewing under bright conditions like outdoors. I have not tried this yet. I will do so and report back.

John, May 17, 2006 10:20 AM:

I'm starting to wonder if that new keyboard design is more about notebook structual strength than anything else. My laptop's keys are flush with the top of the case also so I don't buy that argument. If you look at a picture of the new keyboard from the top you see that each key sits in it's own cutout. That means that there is a mesh of cris-crossing plastic over the whole top of the laptop. That has to be stronger that having one huge hole cutout for the entire keyboard.

You can see what I'm talking about in this link that Paul sent me via email.

John, May 17, 2006 01:32 PM:

Ok I saw some of these in person. They are pretty slick. The form factor and construction are nice. The new keyboard looks strange, but it is nice to type on, no problems here. Like it's big brother, however, they get pretty warm. Especially in the upper left where the power plugs in, and by the screen hinge. Apple has a page of recommendations on the topic. The black model looks much better to me although they are charging a bit much for that option. That screen res is nice for its size. While in the Apple store I heard more than one person asking the sales person about this 'boot' thing they heard about that would let them run Windows on it. Nice.

J, May 17, 2006 02:28 PM:

Nice in-person review. I'm happy to hear about the keyboard. The flat keys didn't bug you? I like the concave tops of keys typically. I also think the black one is better, but not because the color is cool. I've just never liked how dirty the white iPod and iBook got. I can't see paying over 1099 for this though. It's really weak that Apple still sells 512MB as the default ram config given how piggy the OS is. You can get that ram at $50/512MB or $90/1GB at newegg. I think the best bet is to get the base model and buy 2x1GB at newegg. That will give better performance than the additional 170mhz, especially with the IGA sucking system ram. Plus, someone will figure out how to jumper the base model up to 2.0ghz anyway.

John, May 17, 2006 04:22 PM:

Sounds like an ok way to go. Of course by stepping up to the 1299 model you also get SuperDrive DVD +/- RW in addition to the 2G proc. Plus I also hear that the HD can be replaced by the User, so down the road you could put a big 100G 7200 RPM drive in there.

J, May 17, 2006 10:47 PM:

Amazon has the base model for $999 after $100 rebate ending 5/30. Tempting... I'm interested in seeing some reviews on how well it runs bootcamp and parallels workstation.

John, May 19, 2006 07:29 PM:

So they are just about done with their product line. When do you suppose they will release a top end desktop replacement? I wonder what specs it will have.

Paul, May 19, 2006 08:38 PM:

Hopefully soon. I'm waiting to see if I even need a desktop computer anymore, given the power of today's laptops and Xbox 360. Plus, being Apple, I'll want to wait for rev 2 of the hardware.

J, May 19, 2006 11:27 PM:

One really annoying thing about this laptop would be the lack of a delete key. Well on the Mac it's called delete, but really it's backspace. On XP of course it's critical for the ctrl-alt-delete. Apparently you can remap another key to be delete in XP, but I think the lack of functionality just typing on the mac would be nearly as annoying as having to resize the windows only by the bottom right corner.

John, May 25, 2006 11:55 AM:

This is disturbing. The guy finds out that the vent by the hing on his new macbook is blocked with a piece of laminate. After removing it the fans don't run as much and he 'thinks' it is cooler. I guess my main question is was that vent blocked on purpose or on accident? Maybe they needed to block it in order to get rid of a hot spot somewhere else? It reminds me of those guys who are re-doing the thermal paste on their Macbook pro's which causes the fans to run more but the overall laptop to run cooler. More and more I'm thinking it would be best to wait until the next rev on this one.

J, May 25, 2006 12:04 PM:

Then again, it's just that clear film that they always put on electronics. It should be mentioned in the manual, but I don't think I would have neglected to notice that right away. I've also read about the heatsink compound and fans running often on the Pros. The problem is that I haven't seen any site I trust analyze it. I mean if Anandtech, HardOCP or ArsTechnica had something conclusive I would be concerned. But this is just some people on a blog.

I'm not saying it's not overly hot. But I've heard that the non-Pros are pretty cool in comparison. And what dual-core notebook isn't hot? If anything the concern for me is quality control, since some people on forums are claiming no problems. The ambient temperatures of the computers are all over the map (well randomly high, or randomly low).

I'm still tempted by the $999 deal at Amazon, but yeah, rev. A is dangerous.

J, May 26, 2006 11:00 PM:

I saw the Macbooks in person and my thoughts:
1. The size and weight seem fine. I think the weight stats are offset by how smooth and thin the machine is.
2. Keyboard seems fine. I'm not really a keyboard snob though.
3. Glossy screen has glare, but I can see how it is brighter than a normal screen in ideal situations. The width of the screen is good, but the height seems a bit short for web pages (and code!).
4. The two-finger simulation of right click works pretty well, I think I could get used to it, although a mouse would be a requirement for sanity in Windows.
5. I love Expose - I think it's a good way to handle multiple apps on the small laptop screen.
6. The black model didn't impress me much for the markup price. I'd be happy with "cataract white". It shows dirt, but the black shows grease.
7. The built in camera and magsafe are cool features. Also the FrontRow remote is cool to be included, although i didn't play with the Front Row interface at all.

All in all, it looks like a good laptop. Now there are just those little issues that will come to light online, like the heat, workarounds for the lack of a proper delete key and windows key, etc.

Paul, May 28, 2006 12:39 AM:

I finally got a chance to play with the black Macbook today. The keyboard was decent, although not as nice as the Macbook Pro. I was a little disappointed at the colour though, the black case was a little too flat black. I think that a glossier case would have been sweet.

Paul, May 28, 2006 12:41 AM:

... and the performance seemed really fast: I tested window resizing, launching iTunes, moving windows around. It was all much more responsive than my 1.5. GHz G4 powerbook.

J, May 28, 2006 12:34 PM:

Agreed - the G4 macs always seemed a bit sluggish in the UI department. I didn't make sure the Macbooks supported the "ripple effect", but they supposedly support "CoreImage" so I guess they do. I did ask if Google Earth was installed on any Macs there, so I could take a look at basic 3D performance, but the guy just kind of sneered and said "no". I would think Apple and Google would get along. I don't really care about games on a laptop, but Google Earth would be nice to use while traveling. Maybe it's not built for Intel yet.

I looked into running Windows a bit more. Unfortunately, you need a separate Windows install for both parallels and bootcamp (they can't boot the same Windows currently). So you're burning extra HDD space as well as having one more environment to synch with. And the tools to transfer data between Windows and Mac still aren't that seamless. There are videos of the Macbook seamlessly running Mac, Windows and Linux full screen, so that's kind of cool. There's a cool "rotating cube" transition you can get, and you can even switch between environments by tapping the side of your monitor (using the HDD shock sensor).

John, June 1, 2006 09:47 PM:

This story about the magsafe connector is a bit old, but it caught my attention. Let the jokes about 'Firebook' or 'Firewire' begin.

John, June 5, 2006 05:54 PM:

An update on the whole blocked vent issue.

Paul, June 5, 2006 06:32 PM:

The clear plastic should have writing on it like in fortune cookies:

"Your Mac is likely hot"
"That wasn't chicken"

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