Jump to content

[Review] 13.3" Black MacBook

3 posts in this topic

Recommended Posts



Well, I just bought a MacBook two days ago, and decided whilst IM was down, I'd begin to write up a review in textedit for the new addition to the Mac Family. I decided to get a black macbook over the white one, for reasons explained later on. Now this review is unbiased, as I am an ex-windows user, and so hopefully wont just bash / flame windows on how Apple does something better yada yada yada.. However, I will criticise both parties, as well as give (if any) advantages of both ends. Anyway, lets begin.




The MacBook I purchased was a refurbished MacBook, at the price of £650. There was a special offer for APP at a heavily discounted price of £80 (from £199 off Apple) if purchased with a MacBook. Its fairly new, made in 3rd January '07 according to the serial lookup I did on Apple's site. Specs are:


Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz


120GB HD


Intel GMA950 (as standard)


I returned my G4 Mac Mini under my peace-of-mind guarantee, and was given a £300 exchange voucher, which went towards the MB, so in reality, my venture had cost me £430. Anyways, onwards with the review.


The Laptop Casing:


Kudos to apple for making a proper laptop case. I've had various laptops over the years, from HP to Dell, and their casing felt fake, and to be honest, just looked pure ugly. On the other hand, apple's material feels soft yet firm, and you can see that many hours have been put into the design aspect of the case. The LCD screen 'placement' is also an added bonus, as there are no hinges that spoil the design. A possibly undocumented feature, is that the LCD screen has magnets at each corner, which can be used to simply stick your apple remote on. (I know the macbook has magnetic latching, but I doubt its used in the way I've mentioned)


The debate as-to which colour suits the macbook will undoubtedly carry on for many years, but in my opinion, black does prevail. It adds a subtle improvement to the overall fluid design of the macbook. However, the disadvantage of having black, is that smudges can be easily seen, and boy.. can they be seen. The trackpad & the button below it always show smudges, as well as the arm / palm rests. However, just grab urself a good clean cloth, five minutes later, its all shiny.


Pros: Fluid design, doesnt look obtrusive / bloated.

Cons: The £200 increase for the black macbook (brand new) is abit steep, smudges can be a minor nuisance.


External Ports:


Apologies if the title seems abit unclear. The MacBook comes with the magsafe port, a gigabit ethernet slot, mini-dvi slot, firewire 400, two USB 2.0 ports, an audio in (yes!!) and headphones / line out port:


Magsafe Port - A usefull design / feature, so that incase some klutz walk past, and trips over the adapter lead, ur precious macbook wont be hurled across the room. The power lead that plugs into the magsafe port, has a little LED which has indicates if the batteries are charging (red) or if batteries are fully charged (green).


1GBit Ethernet - A friend of mine was copying some of my itunes library files to his macbook wirelessly. Although we both had a good 54mbps connection (we were literally less than a meter away from the router) it was still rather slow. Plug in a quick patch cable between the two macs, and I managed to transfer my 13GB library over to him in a around 20 minutes. Probably would have been faster if he wasnt playing WoW, but nevermind that. However, in most places, you cant really take advantage of this speed, as most LANs operate on 10/100mbps speeds, and gigabit switches arent used except in large companies. Still worthwhile in my books :)


Mini-DVI Slot - Well, cant really test this, since I didnt get a mini-dvi to dvi adapter with the macbook. (Tch..) However, I dont really see this being anything usefull unless to those that want to hook the macbook up to a larger display, which would really be pointless, as you're not going to carry around a 30" apple cinema display with you. However, I can see the argument that folk wanna hook up their macbooks to their larger displays, to watch movies at home etc..


Firewire 400 - Was abit disappointed that Apple didnt include a Firewire 800 slot (or the faster 1000 slots, not sure if those are still under development, or have been released?) Firewire is better than USB 2.0 in my books, because it maintains a constant rate of transmission unlike USB 2.0, which tends to fluctuate. However, dont let me put you off, Firewire 400 is still fast enough for most people's needs. I transfered my movie collection (56.7GB, so lets say 57GB?) from my NTFS drive (in my old windows box) to my HFS firewire hard-drive in under 15 minutes. (I used macdrive for the HFS read/write in Windows)


Anyone looking to increase the space of their macbook, grab either an external firewire hard drive, or buy a firewire enclosure for an existing hard-drive. (Little tip: What I did was grab an old 200GB SATA hard-drive, buy an external sata enclosure with firewire output, plugged it into my macbook and formatted it to HFS, then transffered my files over from the windows box. I know this may be a long way around, and most people would just point out that Macs can read and write to NTFS partitions via the MacFuse libraries, but the Fuse libaries are experimental, last I checked, plus NTFS partitions are likely to get defragmented, whilst HFS partitions resist defragmentation :))


USB 2.0 Ports - Most laptops come as standard with USB 2.0 ports, so nothing advantageous there. However, I would have liked an extra usb port, so that I would have to carry a USB hub with me all the time. Bit of a USB freak here, most folk should be able to live with two ports just fine however.


Line In - The reason I went all happy-gorry over this, was that my previous mac (a g4 mac mini) had no line-in. I had to go and purchase a griffin imic, which was pointless really. (I use line-in to record stereo off my piano) Again, most folk wont need a line-in, but its a nice added feature in my opinion.


Headphones / Line Out - Nothing really special, plug y'er headphones plug in (3.5mm) or external speakers.


Pros: A good variety of ports / slots, an average user will be kept happy with these.

Cons: Doesnt include Firewire 800.


The Keyboard:


Well, it certainly feels different than other keyboards. You dont have to press as much, a very gentle tap suffices, and this allows for quick(er) typing without realy much effort. However, the keyboard layout does require abit of getting used to. As being a windows user, some buttons were abit unfamiliar to me (i.e. The button next to the right apple key, turned out to be an enter key. Why have two enter keys?) A quick advantage for the black macbook, is that the LED in the caps button is better seen on black than on white. The keyboard contains some usefull shortcut keys, such as changing brightness levels (F1 & F2 respectively), mute button, changing sound levels, num lock is placed in an awkward position (F6) and not too sure what the F7 shortcut is for. Also the 'Fn' button doesnt seem to do much (if at all) Would appreciate it if some folk can post what those buttons do, so that I can include the definitions in this review.


Pros: Very good quality keyboard, plastic doesnt seem to be cheap-quality, only gentle taps are required to press a button.

Cons: Keyboard layout is abit odd for new-users. (Dont know some buttons / their functions)




Well, it certainly is different than other manufacturers. There are no hinges from the top of the 'case, rather from the bottom (if you get what I'm saying) A good screen quality, brightness levels can be controlled, however LED lighting would have been nice. The iSight camera placed at the top of the display is also usefull for iChat among other uses. (such as iAlertU) However, I do have one concern. The display does seem to block the exhaust at the back, and I would assume this doesnt help in cooling. (If not, can someone clarify?)


Pros: Good quality screen, not sure what the refresh rate is, but havent seen any lagging so far. (Tested under C&C3 on bootcamp)

Cons: Seems to block exhaust at the back.




The MacBook didnt come with any recovery disks, but apple is sending me some due to my APP warranty. However, a friend did lend me his copy, and I installed a clean install of Tiger. (10.4.9 I believe) I then installed iStat Menus & smpcontrol 2 for comparisons. By default, the exhaust fan runs around 1800rpm, whilst the maximum u can kick it to is around 6200rpm. According to iStat Menus, the CPU seems to average out at around 52ºC which isnt that bad, when the fan's running at 1800rpm.


I havent really done any software-based benchmarks, except for an hour skirmish match on C&C3 (using Bootcamp) with medium settings. (It could probably be tweaked to give better graphical results, and I'll leave that for you guys to decide) I've yet to really see the two cores actually engaging in something, and not just idling away. (Which may/may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view) In my opinion, to get the best out of your Mac, you need atleast 1GB of RAM. Those who use photoshop / final cut , will obviously require more. At the current moment, I am running Safari, Adium & Activity Monitor, and have around 336MB of free memory left. This is probably due to Safari being a complete memory hog, but nevermind that.


The MacBook has been pretty responsive so far, no problems or little lags encountered, again probably due to the processor not really even awake, just slouching away, and laughing at the tasks that are thrown at it. For example, having a quick run thru QuickTime, playing an XviD movie doesnt seem to really make it move, however it seems to wake up when watching wmvs in safari. (Using Flip4WMV) By wake-up, the cpu is being used at around 12%, rather than the pitifull 4% just doing nothing.




The MacBook is worth every penny. However, the price difference for the black colour is rather questionable, but isnt that big of a problem. Would have been nice to see a better iSight camera, but that wasnt covered in this rather quick/blunt review. (Even though it does seem I've written quite abit of a thesis, I didnt really delve too much into the MB) The power-management is great, when compared to other laptops, having the ability to simply lift up the screen lid, and voila, you're ready to work. Good responsive keyboard does help, but windows users should take their time getting used to the keyboard layout, and not literally smack each key whilst typing. (My teacher does this :police: ) I'm sure the Intel processor is waiting to receive some more heavy-duty tasks such as video-encoding, rendering and so forth, but for me, if the macbook can handle C&C3, then I'm one happy customer. Other users will obviously have other requirements, however you will not be disappointed with this. In my opinion, the only reason folk should buy a MBP is for the better graphics card (gaming / professional graphics work) and the LED-backlight screen. However, not too sure that justifies the £600 premium.


Rating: :):unsure::star_smile: :star_smile: :star_smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Uh... the MacBook is 13.3'', not 15''. I've changed the title for you :)

Nah Nah, Its really 15", Steve Jobs is an excellent hypnotist :D


Side-Note: For those who wish to buy a MacBook with 2GB of memory, or have a MB and want to get it upto the maximum 2GB of memory, I would strongly suggest getting Corsair memory instead of throwing more money towards Steve Jobs. Details below:


Maker: Corsair

Stick Size: 1GB

Model No: VS1GSDS667D2

CAS Latency: 5


I'm not sure about others, but UK folk can pick up one of these babies for £27 (Buy it now auction) off ebay, so buy two of em. (Hence 2GB)


27 x 2 = £54 if I'm correct


Still significantly cheaper than the £100-odd price Apple charges from 1GB to 2GB when purchasing a MacBook. Plus, Corsair memory perform better than the propriety ones Apple uses. I'll be upgrading the memory of the macbook in october, in-time for Leopard. (Not that the macbook needs anymore ram at the moment, but just because I wanna make sure it runs on overkill ;))

Link to comment
Share on other sites


  • Create New...