Saturday, June 17, 2006

MacBook Review

I'm loving my new Apple MacBook. I've got the white one, because I couldn't see why I should want to pay more to get the color of almost every other portable computer on earth. I ordered it with the minimum RAM configuration and bought 2GB from Newegg right away. Apple must be smoking drugs to charge $500 for the same upgrade: Newegg's was around $180. I'm thrilled that the MacBook's RAM and hard drive are user-swappable, but there's a pitfall when installing the memory: shoving the memory modules in takes a good deal more force than anyone would reasonably expect. You don't usually want to be subjecting an expensive piece of equipment to brute force only a few minutes after you lift it out of the box. And it's a beautiful box, by the way. Apple has a knack for achieving obsessive levels of refinement, and you can see it right down to the museum-of-modern-art packaging. The MacBook has a new and different keyboard, and since I bought this machine sight unseen, I didn't know if I was going to like it. Well, I love it. It has a very crisp action that doesn't feel notebook-y at all. The key caps have a very subtle texture on them that makes them more tactile. The surface of the trackpad has the same texture, which makes it very nice to touch. If you put two fingers on the trackpad, you can scroll the active window. Remarkably, it's smart enough that if you have a window with multiple panes and multiple scrollbars, it scrolls the one your pointer is over even if if that pane does not have keyboard focus. Trackpad scrolling is so nice, I hope I never have to click a scroll button again. Speaking of clicking, the MacBook trackpad button is unfortunately a little mushy. My previous machine was a G4 PowerBook, so I am enjoying a big speed boost. I can build Sakai from scratch in four minutes instead of twelve. I've never had a computer with dual processor cores, let alone a "low end" consumer laptop like this one. Oh, I just misspoke. A lot of hay has been made about how the MacBook and MacBook Pro are too hot to sit comfortably on your lap. It is absolutely true. It's fine for a few minutes, but only if you're wearing pants. ;-) For extended use on your couch or in your bed, you are going to want some kind of tray to set it on. In spite of the dual cores, the heat, and the fact that it has a brighter screen and 25% more pixels than my old PowerBook, battery life is about a third longer. Since I like to be mobile, that's a lovely surprise. The MacBook has a new high-gloss screen. I wasn't excited about this, but it turns out that in most lighting conditions you won't notice it. In one case, reflections were obvious and I just had to adjust the angle a little bit. I personally don't buy the claim that this glossy screen is going to make video look better. That sounds like pseudoscience to me. The complement of software that comes bundled is pretty amazing. OS X is an entire universe all by itself, but you also get iLife '06, PhotoBooth, FrontRow, and full versions of ComicLife, OmniOutliner, and 7 classic board games from Freeverse. By surprise, there's also a full version of Quicken 2006 on here, which I could find no mention of on Apple's website. That's about it for my first impressions. The built-in iSight camera is nice, as is the ability to boot into Windows, should that need ever arise (I'm not holding my breath).


Anonymous said...

Do you know if the MacBook can work with just 1 RAM slot occupied? For eg 1GB in one slot with the other vacant? Thank you if you can provide the answer.

Zach A.T. said...

I believe it can operate with just one module installed, but performance is better with two. It uses dual-channel RAM, which means throughput is better if it can jam on both channels at the same time.