When the sleek and sexy MacBook launched last year, many hailed it as the perfect balance of productivity and artful design. But can one of the top notebooks of 2006 get any better? The answer is a resounding yes. While the new MacBook isn't a complete overhaul of the previous version, Apple's upgrade features a faster processor, better 802.11n Wi-Fi performance, and longer battery life. It may not have enough additions to entice current MacBook owners to upgrade, but those on the hunt for an excellent all-purpose laptop should snatch up this model.
Sporting the same glossy white finish and one-inch-thick design as its predecessor, the 5.1-pound MacBook revamp also retains Apple's attractive, minimalist aesthetic. Popping the lid reveals a gorgeous 13.3-inch (1280 x 800-pixel resolution) widescreen LCD that displayed robust color when we loaded Finding Nemo into the slot-loading drive. The LCD kicked back some reflections but nothing too detrimental to the viewing experience. The built-in speakers offer adequate sound but lack volume and a strong bottom end (view photo gallery).
The excellent keyboard in the first iteration of the MacBook returns with the same low-to-the-base key design and fine responsiveness that we enjoyed a year ago, as does the MagSafe power adapter that detaches if pulled accidentally, preventing your notebook from tumbling to the ground. We were disappointed to see that the MacBook still lacks expandability in the form of memory card, PC Card, and ExpressCard slots.
The updated MacBook comes in three versions, all of which are powered by OS X Tiger, have 1GB of RAM, integrated Intel graphics (discrete graphics are reserved for the MacBook Pro line), and built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. You also get two USB ports, mini-DVI, and FireWire. The only differences are that the entry-level model ($1,099) has a 2-GHz processor, 80GB of storage, and a Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW); the mid-tier option ($1,299) has a 2.16-GHz processor, a 120GB hard drive, and a SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD+RW/DVD-RW/CD-RW); and the high-end MacBook Black ($1,499) sports a 2.16-GHz processor, a 160GB hard drive, and an 8X SuperDrive.
We tested the mid-tier configuration using traditional PC benchmarks by loading Windows XP Pro onto the system using Boot Camp. The updated components made a solid showing on our PCMark05 test; the score of 3,245indicates that the MacBook can smoothly handle any productivity task you throw its way, a capability that was borne out in our day-to-day experience. We also saw excellent wireless throughput: 19.5 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, dipping slightly to 18.3 Mbps at 50 feet.
On our DVD rundown test, the MacBook lasted a very good 3 hours and 43 minutes, which is 24 more minutes than the MacBook Black we tested last year. And this system has a more capable Core 2 Duo CPU. As expected, the integrated graphics produced a meager 1,605 on 3DMark03, so high-end gaming is out of the question.
The MacBook once again comes preloaded with iLife '06, one of the most creative and entertaining suites around. The award-winning multimedia package includes iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, iWeb, iTunes, iChat, and GarageBand. Other excellent preinstalled applications include Front Row, which comes with a six-button remote and is the MacBook's answer to Windows Media Center, and Photo Booth, which uses the integrated VGA iSight camera to take fun photos using the Comic Book, Light Tunnel, and face-altering Fish Eye settings, among others. The MacBook also comes with 90 days of phone support and a one-year limited warranty. Both can be expanded to three years with the optional $249 AppleCare Protection Plan.
While it doesn't feature Intel's Next Generation Centrino processors or card expansion (those features are reserved for the new MacBook Pros), this refresh of the consumer MacBook line offers a beautiful design, an excellent price, and enough power for work and play.
View:Apple Macbook photo gallery
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Apple MacBook Black
A powerful dual-core portable that's big on performance and style.
Apple MacBook Pro
The dual-core MacBook Pro is fast, fun, and sleek. It can even run Windows.