Apple's MacBook ditches its plastic shell and Intel chipset for a solid aluminum chassis with an Nvidia chipset, and serves up a multitouch glass trackpad, LED-backlit display, and mini DisplayPort.
Editors' note: As of June 2009, the product reviewed here has been replaced by these updated models.
The latest MacBook refresh sees Apple's mainstream laptop get a complete design overhaul. Replacing the white or black plastic chassis is an aluminum body built from a single piece of metal. Gone is the mouse button, consumed by a large glass trackpad with multitouch gesture support. The screen stays at 13.3 inches, but gets LED backlighting and a piece of glass that runs from edge to edge of the laptop. And a mini DisplayPort makes an appearance, but it kicks the mini FireWire port to the curb in the process.
Less has changed on the inside. The biggest change is the move from the Intel GM965 chipset and integrated GMA X3100 graphics to an Nvidia chipset and integrated GeForce 9400M graphics, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs says is up to five times as fast as the old Intel graphics. The default memory allotment stays at 2GB, but you trade 667MHz DDR2 memory for faster 1066MHz DDR3 memory. You can also upgrade to 4GB of RAM for only $150; previously adding 2GB of RAM cost $200.
Moving in the opposite direction, however, is the CPU offering on the low-end model. The $1,299 MacBook features a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, down from the 2.4GHz chip in the previous model. The new $1,599 MacBook features a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo chip like the older $1,499 model. Both new models feature a faster 1066MHz front-side bus, up from 800MHz on the old MacBooks.
The hard-drive offerings stay the same: 160GB on the lower-end model and 250GB on the higher-end model. But new upgrades will net you a 320GB drive for $100 or a 128GB solid-state drive for $600.
Meanwhile, the black MacBook has gone the way of the Newton, while the old entry-level white MacBook is still kicking around, with a $100 discount that brings its price under $1,000.
Many may bemoan the absence of the FireWire port, while the step back with the CPU on the $1,299 model is a strange move, even if the DDR3 memory and Nvidia graphics might make up for it.