May 22, 2006

MacBook

Today marks the day when I yielded to a temptation thoroughly. I saw, I liked and I bought — a new bright and shiny Apple MacBook. A nice little white marvel that fits so comfortably on ones laps or an airplane table...

By way of rationalization I bought it for my wife — she claims to have liked it. I think she may have said that to give me an excuse, if I needed one. I pretend that this was indeed her honest wish.

There now are three Macs in our household — my old PowerBook G4 17”, a relatively new iMac G5 (without iSight) and this new little baby. At first I wanted to wait till I got back and picked a name from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for it — then I decided to call it the name that sounds very close to marvel — it has, therefore, just been christened as “Marvin.”

Marvin is maxed out on RAM — it has 2GB of it. It is the top of the MacBook line with a SuperDrive and a 2.0GHz Intel CoreDuo CPU. The only thing I have decided to leave unchanged is the hard drive, hence it has a mere 60GB one (The primary reason is that I may decide on upgrading it to a bigger *and* faster HDD at some point in future. On the other hand, since my wife is unlikely to carry tons of MP3s and loads of AVIs on it — 60 should be enough!). While black matte MacBook looks quite nice, I found more traditional color to be a better fit.

What it feels like

There were quite a few of MacBook reviews made all around the web already. Mine here is not really a proper review/benchmark, but rather a look at what is/is not different on this white Intel-based baby and my other two Macs (and it looks like I’ve got a nice set of three latest generations of Mac CPUs in my house).

This is all very subjective, yet overall this little thing does feel a bit more responsive than both of my other machines. Then again, my PowerBook and iMac both have respectively a fourth and a half the memory MacBook has. Applications do indeed startup much faster on MacBook, and dragging of the windows happens fast as well — no complaints there.

It is very quiet — especially while running on battery (a bit noisier when charger is plugged). It does seem to warm up a bit more than PowerBook, but at the same time it does not burn your laps as much — most likely thanks to its plastic body.

I do miss the ambient light sensor of the PowerBook and the keys that would light up automagically in low light conditions. The keys themselves feel a bit strange — they are completely flat and move in a subtly different way. That said, I don’t dislike them — they’re just different.

MagSafe connector I like — it snaps in nicely and stays there quite well, at least IMHO. Have not tried it in a “reclined” position, maybe then it would behave less adequately. (UPDATE: There does not seem to be any noticable issues with MagSafe). Wrist rest on MacBook is quite generous, although the edge of the body can be felt, maybe a good idea to tilt it a bit. I like the big rubbery legs that this laptop has, unlike the always-getting-torn-off-and-lost variety that a PowerBook has.

The screen — the one that sparked so many controversial POVs: I like it, although I have not yet tried it in daylight. May change my point of view then, but right now, in the evening, sitting in a dimly lit room I don’t get any glare from anywhere. (UPDATE: I have now seen the glare, although one needs to be sitting in such a way that there's a lot of light coming on to th screen, e.g. from behind. I doubt, however, that a non-glare screen manages considerably better in such condition). I’ll have to run a very subjective visual comparison (once I’ve gone with iKlear over PowerBook’s LCD) once I get home.

Battery life is better than on my PowerBook at present — although it is not that better than what battery life used to be when I had a new battery. It does take quite a bit of time to load the battery, especially while working. Power adapter also heats up quite a bit in the process.

What else is there to note? MacBook has a CD hatch on a side — small difference from where it is on a PowerBook (is it there on an iBook? I don’t know). iSight is fun, although I, for one, could live without it. Two-finger scrolling that is available as a hacked kernel module for my PowerBook comes as a standard here and is very nice. As an added feature you could also two-finger click to emulate a secondary button.

Preloaded

My MacBook came with a few preloaded titles — aside from iLife ’06 there’s also iWork ’06, a customarily Office for Mac Test Drive from a Redmond company, a bunch of board games from Big Bang (instead of a 3D flying Nanosaur I got with iMac), a copy of OmniOutliner (too bad no OmniGraffle), and Comic Life. It is clear that this setup is aimed more at a lighter home use, some entertainment — as opposed to PowerBook (and I suspect MacBook Pro) being targeted at a more professional segment. As all iSighted Macs, there are Front Row and Photo Booth applications that let you either sit back and enjoy a movie, or sit back and create a little cult of yourself using a peep hole of a camera.

Net-net

Overall, I think I like this little beast. It is a solid laptop in a very nice package. It is solid in and out — thanks to Apple engineering efforts. I wish this were our corporate standard...

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