Apple MacBook Review: Part 1

The Rest Of The Hardware


The MacBook ships with Gigabit Ethernet support, a feature Apple was quick to adopt, even with its earlier generation MacBooks. Historically, Apple used Atheros 802.11n chipsets. These designs, with 3x3 radios, offered theoretically better performance at long distances than similar 2x2 modules. Real-world performance with the Atheros implementation has been benchmarked at somewhere between 10 to 15% faster than the Broadcom solution depending on the access point. The current AirPort Extreme with Gigabit uses an Atheros module as well. With that said, the Broadcom design is the first 65nm single-chip 802.11n solution and has as much as 50% lower power consumption than other designs. In theory, Apple may see additional performance savings by going to a single-chip integrated Bluetooth/WiFi solution.

We did not have any trouble running an 802.11n network on both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies or run into issues with dropped connections.  The MacBook was able to see 9 access points in my apartment complex whereas an Intel 3945abg was able to see 11. The two additional access points that were seen by the Intel 3945abg were labeled as “0 bars” of wireless signal, making the omission less important.

Chassis and Keyboard

The aluminum unibody design of the MacBook is superb. Not only does the laptop carry an impressive sturdiness to it, it makes the machine easier to clean. Some of the early MacBooks were affected by crooked keys, and our original unit had a sticky left shift key. Apple gave us no trouble when we asked to switch our MacBook for a new one. Our second MacBook had none of these problems.

Keyboards have gotten considerably better over the last few years. Good keyboards were once the restricted realm of the ThinkPad and MacBook Pro. The unusual appearance of the MacBook keyboard is actually very comfortable to write with once you get the hang of it. Keys have a firm, tactile response that allows for easy touch typing. Although my first keyboard was a bit mushy (especially the Left Shift button), I had trouble noticing a difference between the MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards once I got my replacement unit. The original MacBook Pro allowed me to hit 140+ wpm at times. Using a more challenging typing test requiring more ring and small finger use of my non-dominant hand, I’ve clocked around 120 wpm for the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. Certainly for typing this entire document, the keyboard was never a problem.

Multi-Touch Trackpad

The iPhone introduced multitouch to the masses. The current MacBook and MacBook Pro’s have taken things to the next logical step. The MacBook trackpad is unquestionably the best trackpad I’ve used to date. Besides the giant surface area, the glass surface is noticeably smoother than any trackpad I’ve used. More importantly, the surface retains its slickness after extended use. Multitouch is hardly a gimmick. Besides the “use two fingers” to right click or “two fingers” to scroll, the four fingers to enable Expose and present all open windows is my most commonly used gesture.

The tap-to-click function works well in the Mac, but the integrated button is also useful if I’m doing anything complex. For example, it’s possible to swipe four fingers up to see the desktop, use the physical button to grab something from the desktop, then swipe four fingers down twice to get to Expose, pick a Finder window and then move the file into the new directory. That is, the sensor is capable of detecting all 5 fingers being used at once.

  • mrubermonkey
    My spider sense is telling me that Tom's is desperate to bring in more readers with the release of this article, which is bound to conger up the same epic comment wars regarding Mac vs. PC of Mac articles past.
  • mrubermonkey
  • curnel_D
    Yawn. Basically, you were just explaining a normal notebook that costs more than it should. It's slightly thinner by the standards in it's class but is 0.38" really a big deal? (No.) The famed apple screens can be outperformed and sometimes for cheaper if you shop around, upgradability is shaky at it's very best, and it is generally more expensive than everything in it's class.
    Then of course, you list the Mac OS X as an improvement over the PC's. That's where almost every single person will find error in your article. It is nothing more than a watered down version of more powerful unix/linux OS's. Anyone who has work to do, wont use this. Yawn.
  • ravenware
    I had three options, all of which would require considerable amounts of time. One was to reformat the HDD and start with a fresh install of Windows Vista. It’d be tried and true, but it was still going to take a lot of time to redo the whole thing. I could switch entirely to Linux. I had already switched from IRIX to Linux several years ago, so I was already comfortable managing and troubleshooting Linux systems. Unfortunately, I still needed a system capable of running the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. Open source alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite didn’t have the same quality or capabilities that I needed, while OpenOffice lacked the same multi-core computation capabilities that Excel offers for some of my more complex spreadsheets. The third option was to try switching to a Mac.

    When Core i7 desktop processors were available in greater quantities, I’d rebuild my Windows PC then.

    I was too careful, too savvy, and too poor to switch to a Mac.

    This seems rather illogical. Reformatting the drive wouldn't cost anything but time and if your too poor then why spend 1300+ on a new computer? You would also still spend time and possibly more money on installing your apps.
    You also spent time and money on upgrade options.

    Who is "We"? We is used often in the article, I thought this article was one mans account/review on switching over to a mac.

    I would like to know more about what you actually do for a living and what you really use your computers for too.

    I and the majority of the Toms hardware readers are diehard windows users too and I can not afford to pick up a $1300 laptop to see if I like it or not. So I am very interested to see how this unfolds.
  • ravenware
    Oh yeah, why would the need to reformat your computer lead to building a new core i7 machine?
  • one-shot
    ..The scent of Mac-ness and the sense of power that comes with it. Maybe spending twice as much isn't such a bad idea after all.............
  • marraco

    I found lots of spam "comming" from my computer. Even when I had run Linux -Live CD only- for a month.

    Headers are easy to fake, so, are a common spam trick, to hide real spam origin.

    By the way, there are some easy fix you could had used:

    1- Use virtual machines to access Internet.
    2- Use utilities as Norton Ghost for fast "formatting". In minutes your computer restore a partition image ready to use with all your software installed.

    I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it looks like you spent an enormous effort to justify pay for an overpriced Mac OS (overpriced because the obsolete hardware you had buy does not wort a penny, so you are paying for the OS only).
  • Pei-chen
    Reads like crap only Anand himself would have written. You went Mac because someone better (a hacker, virus writer, whoever) defeated you? That's like saying you went gay because someone get the girl you're after.

    BTW, where are the reviews of web based Java game we were promised? You got a Mac so you're not reviewing SC2 that's for sure.
  • chaosgs
    Why would anyone "switch" to a mac, when pc will do everything you need for half the price. Everything you mentioned in this article, all pc's (vista pc's) in the world can do at half the price.

    As for security, i don't need security on my computer, i NEVER get any viruses, and if i did Norton or avg would take care of all that.

    Mac aint got shit on pc.
  • arkadi
    It more like an opinion (commercial stile) not a review. It a good article with all the specs and the pictures, but it far from being objective. And the suggestions that was made here...If you writing a review, you can't emphasize the superiority of your product on expanse of other (Microsoft in this case).