PRODUCT REVIEW

Fast Processor ‘Heart’ Enlivens New Apple MacBook

When Apple introduces a new version of a product, it’s usually undertaken with some buzz-inducing design flair that fires up the imagination and whets the appetite for consumption. That iss not the case with its new MacBook offerings.

Instead of fiddling with the good looks of the MacBook, the 1 Infinite Loop crew have focused their desire to excel on the heart of the new machine.

The MacBooks now sport speedier Intel Core 2 Duo processors. The white version of the notebook has two flavors: one runs at 1.83 GHz (US$1,099), the other at 2 GHz ($1,299). For the style-conscious, there’s also a black edition, which also runs at 2 GHz ($1,499).

Although the clock speed of these new MacBooks is nothing to sneer at, the Core 2 chip has other enhancements that contribute to the new MacBooks’ perky performance — 25 percent perkier than its predecessor, according to Apple.

More Cache Memory

The chip supports 64-bit processing, which means it can process more data faster than older machines, including many PCs, that are still mired in a 32-bit world.

There’s more cache memory, at least in the higher-priced models. Cache memory allows a processor to access data faster. The 2 GHz MacBooks, for instance, have 4 GB of L2 cache. That’s twice the amount of previous versions.

The Core 2 also has an improved vector engine. Its power is very apparent when rendering effects during video editing.

Although memory and hard disk capacity for the lowest priced MacBook remain the same as in previous models — 512 MB and 60 GB, respectively — Apple gave the pricier new MacBooks a nice little bump up. Both have 1 GB of memory, the white edition features an 80 GB hard drive, and the black version has 120 GB.

Muscular, Not Muscle-bound

The new MacBooks may be more muscular, but they’re not muscle-bound. They remain a trim package at 12.8 by 8.9 inches and a very svelte 1.1 inches thick. Their weight — 5.3 pounds — may be hefty compared to a PC ultraportable, but still eminently mobile.

All the models have eye-arresting “wide” 13-inch displays with native resolutions of 1280 by 800 pixels.

As a writer, one of the first things I notice about a notebook is its keyboard. It’s also one of the few things I found deficient in the MacBook’s progenitor, the iBook.

Though the MacBook’s keyboard isn’t as firm as I’d like it to be, it’s much improved over those old iBooks. The keys are as large as those on a desktop keyboard, and the keyboard action doesn’t feel cramped.

Tears of Joy

One of the biggest hassles with buying a new computer is moving stuff from the old one to the new one. Unlike PCs, Macs make that process so effortless, tears of joy may start running down your face.

During the setup process for the new MacBook, it asked if I wanted to transfer information from my old Mac to my new one. I simply connected the two via their FireWire ports, rebooted the old Mac while holding down the “T” key, and all my settings, programs and data were sent to my new MacBook. That’s what I call user-friendly.

The MacBook has the usual complement of inputs and outputs conveniently located on the side of the unit: two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, audio in/out ports that support optical digital throughput, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a mini digital video interface port.

Tempting Laptop

It also has the very nifty “MagSafe” power port that accepts the magnetic connector from the MacBook’s power cord. If someone or something tugs on the cord, it will easily disconnect from the port without taking the laptop with it.

What’s more, this MacBook has some entertaining extras, such as a built-in video camera with microphone for video conferencing and an infrared port for controlling the computer using the Apple remote (included with the unit).

Of course, there’s that wonderful array of programs Apple includes with all its Macs that allow you to do everything from video editing to burning DVDs.

Although the new MacBook is more of an upgrade than a sea change, it will make switching to Apple’s Intel notebook line even more tempting to laptop shoppers of every stripe.


John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at reviews@jpmello.com.


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