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Ars Technica Reviews the MacBook 453

phaedo00 writes "Ars Technica has performed another of their in-depth and thorough hardware reviews. The subject in this review is the newly released MacBook. From the article: 'The Apple portable web site proudly announces that the "family is finally complete." What began with an announcement from Steve Jobs at the MacWorld conference in January has come full circle with the release of the MacBook this week. Every Apple laptop is Intel powered and moving in what I would consider is the right direction. The laptop line is finally better delineated by pro and consumer features, and the prices have been fixed at points that better reflect the minute differences in the models.'"
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Ars Technica Reviews the MacBook

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  • by artifex2004 ( 766107 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:36PM (#15370200) Journal
    and Jobs said, "let them eat paste! [macnn.com]"
    • Man, after reading that thread, I'm afraid to put one of those on my lap. ~83C is getting really close to the boiling point of water! That's ridiculous!
      • I've got one. I can certainly understand the worry, but I've got one, and honestly it's not that bad. Perhaps its just perception, but it's not nearly as bad as the 12" G4s were on my lap. That said however, I'm not sure whether I'd keep any of these machines on one's lap cool or no. Regardless, speaking as a biologist, by placing anything that's warm on your lap for large portions of a day you're reducing your reproductive potential. *cue joke about slashdotters, girlfriends & reproduction*
        • Regardless, speaking as a biologist, by placing anything that's warm on your lap for large portions of a day you're reducing your reproductive potential.

          Speaking as someone who would like but can’t really afford a vasectomy, I could spin that as added value!

    • classic comments there. some choice ones:
      "OMG, it's a CPU not a sandwich!"
      "That's not a f-ing sundae!!"

      This review tempts me to no end. I'd need to try out that weird-looking keyboard. (The powerbook g4s have great keyboards and I type a lot, so the keyboard is, um, 'key.')

      But I can't stand the tacky glossy screen--I don't need Toys 'R Us colors from the screen! Give me matte or give me, um, nevermind.
  • by DaedalusLogic ( 449896 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:38PM (#15370207)
    I went and checked out the 13.3" Macbook in black with the matte finish today. I think that it will hold up as well as the aluminum. (All the iBooks I have seen scratch like crazy) The keyboard is nice, and I would say it's neither better nor worse than that of my 12" PowerBook. I think it's a little crazy to charge an extra $150 for a black versus white finish... However, market demands it... I even bought a black iPod.

    After getting my hands on it, I think I will eventually buy a black one. But still...

    I wish that they had a 13.3 Pro coming out with a matte screen, backlit keyboard, and the extra little perks that the 15 and 17 Pro's have... But that would probably end up costing as much as the 15...
  • Benchmarks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by astrosmash ( 3561 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:43PM (#15370224) Journal
    What's most interesting are the benchmark results. While some screamed bloody murder over Apple's apparent downgrade to Intel's integrated graphics chipset, the new MacBook completely outclasses the old iBook on all fronts, and even out-performs the MacBook Pro in some cases (due to its slightly faster processor).

    So what's worse? Integrated graphics or an underclocked Radeon X1600?

    Nonetheless, the MacBook looks great, and I can't help but feel sorry for the people who rushed out and got a MacBook Pro. It seems that Apple rushed the Pro out of the door, whereas they took their time with the MacBook and got it right.
    • It's true, and leaves me a little miffed, but I have a 15" machine. And if I had to choose now, it turns out I'd still buy the 15" machine.

      The only thing that was a surprise is how fast the MacBooks are [compared with the Pros].
    • whereas they took their time with the MacBook and got it right.

      How I admire your faith!
    • Re:Benchmarks (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blackmonday ( 607916 )
      Ars compared the new Macbook to the first revision of the Macbook Pro, one processor gen behind. It would have been more appropriate (and expensive) to compare against the newer faster Macbook Pro.

      Remember that funny (and accurate) web page that shows the Apple product cycle? The Macbook is not yet at the stage where users demand their money back over some small detail that Apple overlooked. Wait a week or so, people will be damning Apple over heat issues, weird sounds, smells, thermal paste, whatever.
      • tiBook! I had a TiBook G4 550 when it first came out. Loved it. Had to part with it as I took on a roll that required Windows 2000/XP on my lap (sniff) but I returned to the OS X fold ASAP with the iBook G4 12". Now my wife uses it as I bought the PowerBook G4 15" last Fall. It runs very well for my purposes, especially now that I maxed out the memory (unless someone knows a good way to cram more ram?).

        But, I admit Intel-lust. I want an Intel-based processor not so much for the definite speed bump but for w
      • Re:Benchmarks (Score:3, Informative)

        Remember that funny (and accurate) web page that shows the Apple product cycle?

        You mean this one [misterbg.org]?

        -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
    • Re:Benchmarks (Score:5, Informative)

      by znu ( 31198 ) <znu.public@gmail.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:29PM (#15370366)
      Don't take the Xbench OpenGL scores Ars reports too seriously. In MacWorld's benchmarks [macworld.com] with real-world OpenGL (UT2004), the MacBook Pro, with real video, delivered three times the framerate of the MacBook.
    • So what's worse? Integrated graphics or an underclocked Radeon X1600?

      That's a pretty stupid question. The builtin chipset used sucks; it uses system ram, for starters. That is -really- going to hurt when you're mucking about in Aperture or iPhoto, or go to play a video and the whole system becomes slow as a dog.

      Here's a test: why don't you try running Quake 4 at 1280x1024 or higher and tell me how well it works for you. Works FANTASTIC on the MBP (it was a little laggy sometimes, but they've since up

      • by gozar ( 39392 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:03PM (#15370607) Homepage
        Test number two: try playing the high-definition (1080i) trailers on Apple's website. I'd be absolutely shocked if it manages to do it without dropping frames like crazy. My Macbook Pro barely breaks a sweat.

        I went to the Apple Store today, and this was the second thing I tried! It was able to play the 1080i version trailer of Art School Confidential without any problem (except for some bandwidth issues downloading the 150MB file). I didn't look at how much processor was being used at the time though.

        The Cars trailer (it was 8xx X 3xx something resolution) also played without a hitch.

        • FPS? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kadin2048 ( 468275 )
          Was it playing at its full framerate though? If you press Command-I while the video is playing, it'll bring up an informational window that will show the file's framerate, and the rate that it's actually playing at. Quicktime will drop the framerate before it actually starts to studder, so something can look fairly smooth (if you're not looking closely) but on closer inspection might only be playing at 15 or 20 fps.

          Not saying that's what's happening, but "it looks good" can be misleading if you're trying to
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Last thing ars needs is threats from Apple Legal.
  • Conclusion (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:56PM (#15370266) Journal
    Pros:
    • widescreen display
    • Nice screen resolution
    • Improved graphics over iBook G4
    • Glossy screen is nice in some situations
    • MagSafe
    • Integrated iSight
    • Affordable
    • Enhanced track pad operation
    • Dramatic performance increase
    • No latch!
    • Super easy to service (hard drive too!)
    • Front Row and remote control

    Cons:
    • High operating temperatures (Almost 85 degrees!)
    • Glossy screen can be annoying under certain circumstances (i.e., with any direct lighting)
    • Integrated graphics siphon off system RAM, slower than dedicated graphics card


    I wonder what hard drives they use. My powerbook's hard drive died in just a little over 2 years. Between whine noises, power adapters that fall away too easily, notebook latches that don't close properly, logic board issues, overheating, display glitches, dead hard drives and more, i think that apple
    hardware is just as error-prone as regular pc hardware.
    • "High operating temperatures (Almost 85 degrees!)"

      In the Ars review, the mentioned that the thing was throttling the CPU down to avoid damage, and in another review [notebookreview.com] they had some instability caused by the heat.

      I would have expected more from Apple, particularly after they had an identical issue with MacBook Pros. They have released a firmware update, but that just turns the fans on at lower temperatures, it can't increase the thermal conductivity of incorrectly applied thermal compound.
      • Re:Conclusion (Score:4, Informative)

        by NutscrapeSucks ( 446616 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:23PM (#15370656)
        In the Ars review, the mentioned that the thing was throttling the CPU down to avoid damage

        Yeah -- This is an important point. You are buying a 1.83Ghz laptop, but effectively you are only getting a 1.66Ghz laptop. This should never happen under normal use conditions. (And 100% CPU should be considered normal use, so long as you aren't sitting on the beach or something.)
    • Re:Conclusion (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kilodelta ( 843627 )
      Interestingly I noted that the benchmarks pretty much showed there was literally no difference and in some cases the regular Mac Book peformed BETTER than the Mac Book Pro.

      What's most amazing is the crowing about features that are on my Dell laptop that I bought back in December. Matter of fact in February I bought another for the SO, but that one had the glossy screen which neither of us really are all that thrilled with. But the screen is wide aspect and 1280x800. Price point is even the same. But the
    • Re:Conclusion (Score:2, Interesting)

      I wonder what hard drives they use.

      From what I've been able to gather in most of the disassembled pics I've seen, they use Fujitsu 5200RPM Serial-ATA 2.5 inch drives.

  • New keyboard (Score:5, Informative)

    by tji ( 74570 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:58PM (#15370274)
    I spent a couple minutes checking out the MacBook at my local Apple store.. It looks good. I think it will do well at that price point.

    But, I did not like the keyboard. Compared to the keyboard on my PowerBook, or the MacBook Pro's, it didn't feel nearly as good. Maybe it's something you could get used to. But, I really like the old PowerBook keyboard..
    • Re:New keyboard (Score:3, Informative)

      by hrbrmstr ( 324215 ) *
      Definitely second this opine. I had the opportunity to check out the new MacBooks today as well and the shiny screen is really annoying (I'm a coder, not a laptop movie-watcher). That, combined with the reduced tactile feel of the keyboard, made me feel much better about buying a MBPro. It ran a tad faster than my 1.8, but it's not like my 1.8 is a dog.

      I got a chance to play with a Lenovo X60 (2GHz Core Duo, 1GB DDR2, bluetooth, wifi) today as well and I have to say that I wish the MB was more like it. It w
  • I look forward to seeing these laptops myself in the stores. From the pictures, I don't like the look of the keyboard at all. And the glossy screen just sucks, especially because I'll be using it in a florescent-lit office most of the time. I don't want to have to constantly counter the glare. And what about bright sunlight? And the fact that Apple still hasn't done anything about the thermal paste problem is worrisome. Maybe by the time I'm in the market for a new machine about November these issues
    • Just had to go to the store and check one out. Good news is the keyboard is not as bad as it looks. It feels quite good actually. The screen is vivid and beautiful--if you have perfect light conditions. Otherwise it is glare city. And the size isn't too bad. Bigger than the 12" and heavier too (not by much). But overall the unit has a fisher-price feel (impression, not physical quality) to it. The chicklet keyboard gives the whole thing a real Commodore PET-like quality to it. Definitely not a unit
  • by sarcasticfrench ( 949383 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:22PM (#15370352)
    Has anyone else noticed that the Powerbooks/iBooks have gone the way of the dodo? Also, at the beginning of the Core Duo age they were still selling the iMac G5's along with the iMac Core Duo's, but now it's just the Core Duo. Same with the Mac Mini. As for all the Apple notebooks now being widescreen, I don't know about everyone else, but I'm going to miss the good old days of non-widescreen notebooks. I don't know why, but a good old non-widescreen still has much more appeal to me than a widescreen of the same size.
    • >I don't know why, but a good old non-widescreen still has much more appeal to me than a widescreen of the same size.

      One factor could be that if pixel pitch is the same, non-widescreen has more pixels than a widescreen of the same "size."

      A 12" "screen" (measured diagonally, as usual) would be approximately 9.6" x 7.2" (= 69 sq. in.) in 4:3 ratio whie it would be 10.5" x 5.9" (= 62 sq. in.) in 16:9. It's about 10% "smaller" even though it's labeled as the same "size."

      Be aware of this fact when you buy wi

    • Has anyone else noticed that the Powerbooks/iBooks have gone the way of the dodo?

      How could anyone NOT know? It's been the whole point of numerous Apple press releases and Slashdot stories. The MacBook Pro replaced the PowerBook, the MacBook replaced the iBook.
  • by cbc1920 ( 730236 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @10:20PM (#15370487)
    I have a new Macbook pro, and yes, it does get hot. As for the thermal paste, I think it's an issue of it being easier to tell the assemblers to gob it on rather than risk someone not getting enough. As soon as my warrenty expires, you can guarantee I will be in there redoing it myself.
    On the other hand, I notice that my laptop's fan NEVER comes on, as long as I'm not in the hot sun. It seems that with the aluminum case, they have the luxury of using the back half of the laptop as a giant heat exchanger. Heat radiation is proportional to the difference in temperature between the air and the heatsink, so the high temperatures just mean that Apple has decided that having a quiet laptop was more important than a cool one.
    My friends all have Dells and Sonys. Yes, they run cooler, but their fans are almost ALWAYS on, and if they run any more than the basics, they start to sound like a leaf blower.
    Bottom line- with all my past laptops, I have had underclock them in order to keep the fans off, since that seems to be the first component to fail. I can put up with a hot computer, as long as it is quiet and lasts longer.
    A final note- my processor has a full blown whine, but it is easily quited with the well-known quietMBP program. I hope someone comes up with a more elegant solution.
    • The fan of my MBP is always on but usually it is spinning slowly enough that I don't hear it, I just feel it. Even when I am looping three simultaneous HD videos (all but forground video are stuttery but full CPU load), the fan sound isn't bad, my MBP is still the quietest mechanical device in the house, though my Compaq laptop isn't that loud either, silent on idle and only slightly louder at full load.

      It appears that Intel has disabled the ability to force down the clock speed in software vs. the PIIIm n
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think it's an issue of it being easier to tell the assemblers to gob it on rather than risk someone not getting enough.

      Considering heat is a major engineering issue for laptops, I'd say they should probably train the people to use the right amount, not just swing one way or the other. A thermal paste layer of more then 0.003-0.005 inches thick can be less effective then no thermal paste at all. The thermal paste is used to "close the air gaps" between surface imperfections in the heat sink and the devi
      • I can’t help thinking that the insane gobs of thermal paste shown in the service manual has got to be the result of studio photographers setting up a shot to read right rather than to be right. And then somebody at Apple approved the shots based on the assumption that any techs replacing heat sinks would quite obviously know what a reasonable amount of paste should be.

        Of course, if a significant number of machines in the wild are really sporting a quarter pound of paste then either I’m wrong or
  • The one neat feature on the Macbook that the pro doesnt have and not one person has mentioned it. You can remove the Macbooks hard drive through the battery bay and replace it with whatever size you want by just simply removing 3 screws. No more cracking open the case to replace the hard drive on them.

    K maybe I like those types of neat little nuances.

  • Not much out there. Any definitive setup to have a MacBook Pro talk to a Linksys WRT54G using WPA-PSK?

    59 hits [google.com].

    Groups? - Nada [google.com].

    Is this old news [oreillynet.com] still true that to do WPA from Airport you must talk to an Airport base station?

  • by Jethro ( 14165 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:33PM (#15370675) Homepage
    Alright, it seems that this is a great upgrade for people coming from a 12" iBook.

    I, however, am looking for an upgrade for my 12" Powerbook G4. And this ain't it.

    First of all, the glossy screen. I guess we've got that confirmed now. I hate those. As the Ars review mentions, that's not a feature 'professionals' want. I certainly don't.

    Quite a few of the new features - display spanning, for example - are NOT a new feature for me. My 12" Powerbook can already do that.

    I'm not sure about the keyboard... I'll have to go play with that at an Apple store or something.

    Now, I would NOT pay $150 for a black case. I would, however, HAPPILY pay an extra $150 for a non-glossy screen. I will never buy a laptop with a glossy screen.
  • Ultraportable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by this great guy ( 922511 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:37PM (#15370684)

    I really like Apple laptops. Great quality, performant hardware, and NOT expensive. However I have never bought a single Apple laptop. And you know why ? Because they don't make ultraportable laptops, and, oh boy, I wish they would ! The lighter Apple laptop is the MacBook at 5.2 pounds (2.36 kg). For comparison purpose my current ultraportable, a Panasonic R3 stands at 2.2 pounds (990 g !). Wouldn't that be cool a 2.2 pounds Apple laptop ?

    • How much do you like that Panasonic? I remember trying out out in a store once (I think so, anyways... maybe a different model?) and wondered if I'd like it after a few months of normal usage.

  • Poor Dell (Score:3, Insightful)

    by switcha ( 551514 ) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:53AM (#15371127)
    Slashdot posts yet another Apple story, and they again get hammered with a bunch of people configuring pimped Dell's but never buying them.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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