Editors' Note: This review primarily covers the recent updates to the Apple MacBook line. For a detailed look at the design and features, read our earlier review of the Apple MacBook (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz).
While the 2006 debut of Apple's MacBook line was flat-out revolutionary--introducing Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs and a 13.3-inch wide-screen display along with Apple's iSight camera, Front Row remote, and MagSafe power adapter--the May 2007 upgrade is more evolutionary. The overall design remains unchanged, as Apple bumped up the top processor speed to 2.16GHz and the default memory to 1GB for all three configurations while also adding larger hard drives. Eagerly awaited upgrades, such as Intel's new Centrino Duo platform, LED-backlit displays, or solid-state hard drives are still MIA, but more power for the same price is always welcome.
|Price as reviewed/Starting price||$1,674 / $1,099|
|Processor||2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo|
|Memory||2GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 950|
|Operating system||Apple Mac OS X|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.8 x 8.9 x 1.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter [pounds]||5.1/5.7 pounds|
|Category||Thin and light|
Other than the new CPUs and a default 1GB of RAM even in the cheapest configuration, the refreshed MacBook is essentially identical to the version we looked at late last year. We refer you to our review of the Apple MacBook (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz), for a detailed description of this laptop's generally excellent design. One subtle difference is that new MacBooks have 802.11n Wi-Fi support turned on by default, instead of requiring a $1.99 software patch download to enable this faster wireless connection.
While the just-updated MacBook Pro line now offers LED-backlit displays in the 15-inch model, both the 17-inch MacBook Pro and the non-Pro MacBook don't yet offer this technology. Apple doesn't claim any difference in image quality or screen brightness, but the LED displays should help with battery life, and they are said to warm up quicker, taking a few seconds less to reach full brightness.
|Apple MacBook (13-inch 2.16GHz)||Average for category [thin-and-light]|
|Video||Mini-DVI video out||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, line-in/line-out jacks, built-in mic||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, FireWire 400||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader|
|Expansion||None||Type I/II PC Card or ExpressCard|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Bumping the CPU in our MacBook from 2.0GHz to 2.16GHz seems to be a fairly minor improvement, especially in light of the faster T7000-series laptop processors Intel recently released for its upgraded Centrino Duo platform. You'll find some of those newer CPUs in the latest 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros.
Nevertheless, the new CPUs offered a not-unexpected boost in performance, improving the system's scores on CNET Labs' Photoshop CS2 and iTunes encoding tests over the older model. It should be noted that our review unit of the new 2.16GHz MacBook had 2GB of RAM, double the amount in the 2.0GHz MacBook we tested last fall. In real-world terms, you're more likely to see a difference in performance by doubling the RAM than you would by simply dialing up the clock speed a couple ticks. We've spent an extended amount of time with the older 2.0GHz MacBook and never found it wanting for speed or processing power.
Battery life was almost identical between the two MacBook models; we eked out an extra 6 minutes over the previous version, for an excellent 3 hours and 36 minutes. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and typical office use.
We're still not fans of Apple's nearly obligatory extended warranty upsell. The default warranty for the MacBook is one year of coverage for parts and labor, but toll-free telephone support is limited to a mere 90 days--well short of what you'd typically find on the PC side--unless you purchase the $249 AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends phone support and repair coverage to three years.