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Apple MacBook 13-inch (Core 2 Duo 2.4-GHz)

Jayesh Shinde 2010-06-17
81 Very Good
Price: Rs 60,900

Full Review

Apple globally announced an update to its entry-level MacBook 13-inch laptop last month and it's now available for Indian consumers. What's new in the Apple MacBook I hear you ask? Apple has packed in a faster Intel processor and improved Nvidia GeForce graphics card on the Apple MacBook 13-inch than what was available earlier, and its trackpad now supports inertial scrolling like the MacBook Pro.

Design

The most significant upgrade on the Apple MacBook shows in the graphics department: the Nvidia GeForce 320M improved 3D Mark 06 performance score over the older Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics driver by over 30-percent.

The new white polycarbonate Apple MacBook 13-inch laptop's external appearance is identical to the previous 13-inch MacBook model it replaces. The laptop has a glossy all-white unibody plastic enclosure that's just over an inch thick with the screen lid closed. The polycarbonate white MacBook's build quality's as good as ever -- the white plastic unibody enclosure's nice and elegant, has smooth curved edges, and is well built.

The screen lid is securely fastened to the rest of the chassis courtesy of a magnetic latch placed below the MacBook's touchpad. Unlike some other glossy laptops in our Top 5 Mainstream Laptop recommendations, the Apple MacBook 13-inch doesn't magnify fingerprints on its body because of its white color -- in fact fingerprints are hard to find on its frame -- be it the white screen lid or the glossy palmrest. The compact 13-inch Apple MacBook weighs just 2.13-kg with its integrated battery -- much lesser than most 14 or 15-inch laptops we've reviewed. The new Apple MacBook is nice and convenient to carry around while on the go -- it isn't small and cramping like a netbook to work on nor is it uncomfortable and heavy like a mainstream 14-inch laptop -- it's just the right size for a travel laptop.

Usability
The new Apple MacBook has a customary 13.3-inch glossy LED-backlit widescreen display with 1280x800 pixel resolution. The MacBook's screen isn't as glossy as some other laptops I've reviewed recently -- Asus K61IC, Acer Aspire 5740G, Compaq Presario CQ62, etc. The MacBook's screen has very good horizontal viewing angles and better-than-average vertical viewing angles. The laptop's screen is nice and crisp, displaying both sharp text for reading and smooth cinematic visuals. At the MacBook's top screen bezel resides the integrated iSight webcam, which is great for online video chats.

The keyboard on the Apple MacBook 13-inch is similar to the one in the late 2009 MacBook model, the isolated chiclet-styled keys are as good as ever and still a treat to type on. Fingers fly over the keyboard when in a typing frenzy and their tactile feedback is very good, and the overall typing is extremely comfortable on the Apple MacBook -- whether you're typing with the laptop on your lap or while it's perched on a desk. Like the 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro (Core i5), the new Apple MacBook also has a single-piece glass multitouch trackpad (touchpad). There are no isolated mouse buttons below the trackpad -- the trackpad itself is a huge button, allowing you to click anywhere on it. For somebody who's never used a MacBook before, it takes some time getting used to the MacBook's touchpad. The trackpad has a nice silky, satin finish on top and is quite responsive. Also the new Apple MacBook now incorporates inertial scrolling on its trackpad -- adding motion to your scrolls through Web pages and documents, making the scrolling smoother.

Hardware Specs & Features
The most important changes on the entry-level Apple MacBook 13-inch reflect at its core hardware. The older Intel Core 2 Duo 2.13-GHz and 2.26-GHz processors are now replaced with a standard Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4-GHz P8600 processor. The Apple MacBook's base configuration still comes with 2GB of DDR3 RAM but the hard drive space is now bumped up to 250GB on the entry-level 13-inch MacBook. Another significant change -- Apple has dumped the age-old Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics processor and replaced it with the much better Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics on the new Apple MacBook 13-inch. This is a very good configuration for a mainstream 13-inch laptop.

In terms of ports and connectivity, the entry-level Apple MacBook is a bit of a mixed bag. It comes with support for faster communication standards like Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR connectivity. There's also a built-in slot-loading 8x DVD writer (SuperDrive) on the MacBook's right edge and an integrated headphone-microphone port on the left. However, it's high time Apple started including more than just two USB ports on its entry-level MacBook offering. A card reader and FireWire port are also sorely missed on the Apple MacBook. But on the upside, the mini DisplayPort etched on the MacBook's left edge now outputs both audio and video through a compatible adapter -- on the earlier 2009 MacBook model, the mini DisplayPort would output video only.

The entry-level white unibody Apple MacBook 13-inch laptop comes with the Snow Leopard Mac OS X 10.6.3 operating system -- although you can also dual-boot a Windows 7 installation on a separate partition on the Apple MacBook. A Mac OSX DVD and an application disc are bundled with the MacBook, also a 60-watt MagSafe power adapter. We really like the fact that Apple has bumped up the entry-level Macbook's core hardware components -- but we would have liked a couple more USB ports and an SD card reader on it, too.

Performance
So does the improved internal hardware on the new Apple MacBook make an impact through our benchmarks? Yes, it does. We benchmarked it on 64-bit Windows 7 operating system. Where the previous Apple MacBook gave a score of 83 in WorldBench 6, the newer Apple MacBook 2.4-GHz laptop scores 92 on WorldBench 6. Similarly, other benchmarks like PC Mark 05, PC Mark Vantage, and CineBench show 15 to 20-percent improved score. Whether you're on Mac OS X or Windows 7, you can easily multitask with day-to-day programs and app without any trouble on the new Apple MacBook 13-inch laptop.

The most significant upgrade on the Apple MacBook shows in the graphics department: the Nvidia GeForce 320M improved 3D Mark 06 performance score over the older Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics driver by over 30-percent. With a 3D Mark 06 score of 4783, the new Apple MacBook 13-inch has better graphics than most laptops in our Top 5 Mainstream Laptops list and is good for casual gaming: we had no trouble playing FarCry 2 at High Settings.

Even watching DVD movies and high-def HD 720p and 1080p content on the Apple MacBook was a very good experience. Its glossy LED-backlit LCD screen displays nice cinematic visuals and its onboard audio is quite good at pumping out music for a nice audio-visual personal entertainment experience.

Battery Life
Another area of improvement on the new plastic unibody Apple MacBook 13-inch laptop is its battery performance. On Windows 7, with full screen brightness and at high performance preset, the MacBook's battery lasted a healthy 2 hours 15 minutes -- much better than most mainstream laptops I've reviewed. However, on Snow Leopard Mac OS X -- with 50-percent screen brightness, volume, and bluetooth off -- I managed to extract just over 6 hours 40 minutes of surfing the Web over Wi-Fi, more than the previous entry-level MacBook's battery life. This is very good for a 13-inch mainstream laptop, making the Apple MacBook especially ideal for usage while on the go.

Bottom Line

The entry-level white polycarbonate unibody 13-inch Apple MacBook retails for a price of Rs. 60,900 (inclusive of all taxes). Compared to the previous entry-level MacBook model, the current 13-inch Apple MacBook costs a tad more. However, that extra price is justified in terms of better internal hardware -- processor, hard drive, and graphics card -- thereby resulting in improved overall performance. It also offers one of the best battery life I've seen on a mainstream laptop in recent times. However, we are a little miffed with the no card reader on the Apple MacBook.

If you own a MacBook that's over a year old, switching to the new Apple MacBook will offer you improved overall performance and very good battery life. If you are someone who's aspiring to buy a MacBook at the lowest price point, the white polycarbonate Apple MacBook is just for you. Highly recommended for students and professionals who need a fully-functional 13-inch laptop with very long battery life for use while on the go, but you can also buy this one for predominant home usage.

For more details, check out Apple India's MacBook page.

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