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New MacBooks: Worth buying despite the gloss?

Now that Microsoft has given up pretending that Vista will come out in time for Christmas, maybe it's time to give those totalitarian monopolists a little taste of the old Mac...

No Zune, no PS3, no Vista. This Christmas sucks. Don't asphixiate yourself in the plush seats of your garaged Lexus just yet though, there are some new treats still available. Apple launched two new MacBooks yesterday. The basic 13-inch chassis is the same as with the previous models, but the processors have been upgraded to Core 2 Duos.

This means the MacBooks aren't too far off matching the entry-level MacBook Pro for raw power -- although with the MacBooks you have to contend with the glossy screen. It seems to us that these screens have been introduced to pander to consumers' magpie instinct rather than actually improving the clarity of the picture.

It's a common impulse to head towards the shiniest-looking laptop in the shop and then rue the decision at leisure. Although glossy screens do provide a superior picture when watching DVDs in a dark room, in most practical situations they infuriate us. Opinions vary though, and some people may love the glossy displays. Personally we find it distracting to see our haggard, trampish faces reflected in the middle of the document we're working on.

It's much harder to colour-calibrate a glossy display, and for this reason, Apple's Pro line (popular with designers and photographers) feature matte displays. This quibble aside, the MacBooks are lovely as ever. If you haven't test-driven the new keyboards yet, head over to the Apple Store on Regent Street and give them a go.

Apple is still leagues ahead in the design stakes here and probably will be for a long time yet. Sony seems to have taken to copying the old Apple iBook designs -- now many years old -- so don't expect much innovation elsewhere. Price-wise (from £749), the new Apple laptops are on a par with any off-the-shelf mainstream PC manufacturer. Take a look at a Dell XPS M1210 that costs £100 more and you'll find the same RAM, a smaller hard disk, a smaller 12-inch screen, no FireWire and no OS X. We couldn't spec a PC with the same components for less (although we found some for roughly the same). There's also the bonus that all new Intel-based Macs can run Windows in a sandbox alongside OS X. -CS