Apple MacBook Update

Apple recently updated their MacBook Pro range, leaving the entry level MacBook and the niche MacBook Air looking rather left out. Now it is the white plastic MacBook's turn to be brought back to terms with its aluminum siblings. Like the 13” MacBook Pro, Apple has not incorporated an Intel Arrandale Core i3/5/7 processor in the new MacBook. This is disappointing considering the state of the competition. Instead, the updated MacBook has to make do with a speed bump of the existing Core 2 Duo from 2.26GHz to 2.4GHz.

A slightly bigger upgrade comes in the form of NVIDIA's new GeForce 320M chipset—not to be confused with the GT 320M. This may very well be NVIDIA's final chipset for Intel platforms, but at least on paper it's a sizeable upgrade from the previous generation 9400M. Instead of 16 CUDA Cores, the 320M sports 48 cores, potentially giving a large boost to performance. However, the IGP still shares memory with the rest of the system, so memory bandwidth will be far less than discrete GPU solutions.

These upgrades bring the basic specification up to the same level as the new 13” MacBook Pro. The bump in performance will come in handy now that Steam has come to Mac and Valve has made Portal free for the next few days.

The MacBook comes with 2GB DDR3 RAM, which is upgradable to 4GB for $100. Storage comes in the form of a 250GB 5400RPM HDD with 320GB and 500GB options available at an additional cost of $50 and $150 respectively. Should you need to upgrade either, it would be strongly recommended to do it yourself to save on the small fortune Apple charges, especially as you can sell the components you remove.

Perhaps the most important part of the upgrade is a larger capacity integrated battery that boosts battery life to a very impressive 10 hours, up from a still impressive seven hours of the previous MacBook. This makes it a tough match for just about anything else out there with similar performance.

Otherwise the MacBook is unchanged with two USB 2.0 ports, Mini DisplayPort, combined audio in/out port, and Gigabit Ethernet comprising the usual limited wired connectivity of Apple’s products. The wireless side is well catered for with Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n. An integrated slot loading DVD writer is standard.

The plastic ‘unibody’ chassis retains the familiar multi-touch trackpad, iSight webcam, stereo speakers, and chiclet keyboard. The screen, which has often been a criticism when compared to the MacBook Pros, appears to be unchanged with a 13” LED-backlit LCD panel with a resolution of 1280x800. We’ll have to see if there have been any improvements on this side when we get our hands on one.

The Apple MacBook is available direct from Apple for $999—or $899 for those who qualify for student pricing. This compares to $1199 (or $1099 for students) for the basic 13” MacBook Pro. With no fundamental specification difference between the two machines aside from an extra 2GB of RAM (something you can easily upgrade, though the MacBook ships with 2x1GB SO-DIMMs so you'll have to remove your current RAM), it comes down to how much you value an aluminum chassis, SD card reader, Firewire port, and a backlit keyboard? If the answer is less than $200, then the updated MacBook looks very tempting.

As usual, if you are willing to go without the Mac OS X operating system, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives available in the PC market that are worth considering.

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  • Commodus - Sunday, May 23, 2010 - link

    No, Apple is not clearly holding back.

    I've seen the insides of the MacBook and MacBook Pro. There's no room for a dedicated graphics processor in there.

    Now, you might argue that Apple may have focused so much on the battery that it hurts the ability to get a dedicated graphics core, but there's no real indication that it chose a Core 2 Duo and a GeForce 320M solely to squeeze you out of extra cash.

    If there's any unnecessary cost-cutting, it may just be in RAM. Apple should really be stuffing the MacBook with 4GB; I think it's just uncomfortable with having the plastic MacBook that close in features, even when the aluminum, display quality (maybe) and the extra expansion (FireWire 800, SD card slot) are the real reasons for the difference.
    Reply
  • Leyawiin - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    "It goes without saying that if you are willing to go without the Mac OS X operating system, there are plenty of cheaper, compelling alternatives available in the PC market."

    Why bother saying it then?
    Reply
  • Setsunayaki - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    Whether it is MAC, Windows or Linux..

    The majority of laptop users going to school are able to get by in simply using the machine to take down notes in class, run certain programs like an image editor, word processor or database application (if you are into business or information technology).

    There are gamers out there, but a lot of them deal with desktops because of the heat issues laptops have.

    The one thing most people truly wish for is actually a longer battery life. The 10 hours isn't bad, but a lot of people want to maximize such a thing. Unfortunately, Battery life truly is something that is not so easy to gague in just a number.

    The correct question to ask is

    What is the total system draw and how much power does the battery provide? Example:

    Suppose you had a battery that gave you a Kilowatt of power (for simplicity I am using 1000w)..One can then truly take a measure of maximum system draw and minimum system draw....Then a person would have a range on what the true battery life is.

    Battery Life is always a range and not a static number.

    If I wanted to buy a laptop that could help me...I would look for the following:

    1) A large, high end battery with a lot of power charged to it.
    2) A processor based on efficiency with low TDP and a low voltage as well. Everyone knows the heat problems laptops tend to have
    3) Finally, A laptop with a solid state hard drive:

    That reason is simply. They consume mW of power and a lot of laptop users enter their idle state modes when typing or doing something really basic. The 5400 RPM laptop hard drives really are old technology and they aren't that green or efficient. If a laptop would cost me $1000 - $1500...I would expect to have an SSD in it over the 5400 RPMs...

    This would truly help both performance, heat issues and battery life. I don't see many users maxing out a 40 - 80GB HDD on a laptop, compared to the TB HDDs on Desktops..Unless of course they are pure gamers.

    Its always nice to see a laptop update out of any caliber, but there really isn't that much of a boost...All camps like to release some laptop update that is minimal that say "look at me"
    Reply
  • geok1ng - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    We have waited decades for integrated graphics that matched spec wise the lower end VGAs, and finally we have a 48 shader IGP!
    BUT...
    It runs on a MAC...
    paired with a 3 generations old CPU...
    with only 2GB memory- that was main stream 3 years ago!
    Reply
  • Daeros - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    3 generations old? Can you tell me what was between Core 2 and Core iX? Reply
  • arswihart - Saturday, May 22, 2010 - link

    Wow, I didn't realize even the MBP 13" resolution is 1280x800, that's truly pitiful. Reply
  • topsecret - Monday, May 24, 2010 - link

    yeah, I have a 5 year old dell that has the same res in a 12" package. Reply
  • weakerthans4 - Saturday, May 22, 2010 - link

    "Apple has updated their MacBook notebook to bring it into line with their recently refreshed MacBook Pro series. Starting at $999 the new machine features a faster processor, improved graphics, and 10 hours of battery life. Apple hopes these tweaks will be enough to tempt back to school buyers over the summer."

    I think you mean sucker, not tempt...
    Reply

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