Skip to main content

Apple MacBook Review: Part 1

Dongles And HDCP

Given that there is only one monitor on the market supporting Mini DisplayPort, we are disappointed that Apple chose not to include any dongles with the $1,299 MacBook or $1,999 MacBook Pro. Even when playing Devil’s Advocate to understand Apple’s strategy by saying that the lack of a dongle will do more to promote Mini DisplayPort as a real standard, the lack of a VGA dongle is inexcusable given that it’s still the primary manner in which notebooks are connected to front projectors. 

The Mini DisplayPort to single-link DVI adapter is required for attaching a MacBook to a standard LCD monitor or, when used with a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, for attaching a MacBook to a HDTV. The dual-link DVI adapter requires USB power and it seems that the dual link DVI adapter is including additional circuitry to allow 2560x1600 resolutions to be delivered. We haven’t seen one of these adapters in our labs yet, but we suspect that the adapter is an active device that converts Dual Link DVI data encapsulated in the DisplayPort stream into a standard Dual-Link DVI output rather than a simple pin converter.

The lack of a Mini DisplayPort to conventional DisplayPort adapter is also frustrating for most. We suspect Apple elected not to release a DisplayPort adapter to increase adoption of their Mini DisplayPort standard. If Apple shipped every MacBook with a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter, then monitor manufacturers would have no incentive to consider developing Mini DisplayPort only devices or cables when it would only mean more work and effort to license the Apple standard.


HDCP is a feature of the new MacBook and MacBook Pro, and this is a feature that I actually welcome. HDCP is a content protection system that can be applied to DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. While I would be the first to say that a DRM-free world is the best option, the reality is that HDCP was the best compromise that Hollywood and the technology industry could come to. 

HDCP is an artificial requirement. There’s no reason why Blu-ray or iTunes or other Content-on-Demand requires content protection. But Hollywood issued a simple ultimatum to the consumer electronics world: you can continue to offer DVD quality movies under the current technology, but if you want us to release high-definition versions of our movies to the home, with quality rivaling that of the original digital studio master, we will demand HDCP.

As a consumer, you have three choices. You can stick with DVD and ignore the HDCP requirement, you can go for high-definition content and agree to participate in the HDCP scheme, or you can take a stand and become your own movie studio and make your own high-def movies and release them without HDCP. By including HDCP, the MacBook joins the club of ensuring continued support from Hollywood while opening the door for Blu-ray in the future. While Hollywood studios continue to produce the majority of films that people enjoy, they will continue to dictate the terms with which their films can be used.