Apple MacBook Review: Part 1

Audio Support

Interestingly, Apple elected to go with the Realtek ALC885 audio codec for the audio. This is Realtek’s flagship CODEC with a SNR rated at 106 dB.  The Dell XPS M1330 and Inspiron 1525 use the IDT STAC9228 with a SNR rated at 105 dB. The HP 2133 Mini Note and Lenovo X300 use a conventional AD1984 with just 96 dB of SNR. A vintage Dell Inspiron 700m used a STAC9750 rated at 90 dB SNR.

The actual analog audio quality from a notebook is affected by the electrical milieu that the audio chip is installed in, and therefore, the specifications of each chip are not entirely predictive of audio quality. My iPod and iPhone offer superior sound to the MacBook despite having a DAC with less theoretical SNR. Still, the MacBook has very good analog audio for a notebook especially when compared to other notebooks. Using the standard iPhone headphone, the MacBook offered very good performance just barely audible background hiss. The baseline hiss became more prominent with in-ear monitors such as our Apple In-Ear Headphones and even more prominent with our Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 3’s. However, the background hiss did not change with the volume setting, CPU utilization, or HDD access as is the case with other laptops. We found that the noise blended into the background when listening to music. However, when the music stopped, it was noticeable. Perhaps more important is that Apple appears to be consciously designing their laptops for a premium multimedia experience--they easily could have gone with the lower-priced, but similarly featured Realtek ALC888 (used in Dell Studio Hybrid desktops) with just 98 dB rated SNR, but instead chose to implement the higher-performing ALC885.

Speaking of the new Apple In-Ear Headphones, in line with Apple’s philosophy of product integration, the MacBook’s audio port is 100% compatible with the latest iPod and iPhone accessories. The iPhone headphone/mic works perfectly with the MacBook, including the button: one click to play/pause, two clicks to skip to the next track, and three clicks to skip to the previous track.  Even cooler, the new In-Ear Headphones with the dual drivers works too. Not only do the single, double, and triple click shortcuts work, the volume control buttons work too. One of the nice things about the MacBook is that it keeps track of separate volume settings for the headphone jack and the integrated speakers.

  • 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).