With its new MacBook, Apple has filled out its Intel-based portable line with an entry-level model. But this mobile Macintosh packs so many clever, practical features into its compact case that using it never feels like a compromise.
At 32.8cm x 22.7cm x 2.75cm, the 2.36kg system is trim enough to be travel-friendly, yet it packs a 13.3-inch wide-screen display. The screen is Apple's first with a glossy surface. It's a definite plus for movie watching, and we weren't overly distracted by the reflections we occasionally saw. A startlingly high percentage of the pricier MacBook Pro line's features have trickled down here. Even the basic MacBook sports an Intel Core Duo CPU running at 1.83GHz, an integrated iSight Webcam, Front Row media software and a tiny remote to control it, optical audio input and output, and 802.11g and gigabit Ethernet networking. In addition, MacBook laptops run OS X 10.4 operating system and include the iLife digital media suite.
The MacBook does come with integrated graphics rather than the faster discrete adapter that gamers and graphics pros will want. And it has no ExpressCard, PC Card, or memory-card slots, nor a dial-up modem.
The sunken keyboard looks weird, but it feels solid, and the keys can't brush up against the display and scratch it when the case is shut. Magnetism keeps the MacBook closed without a physical latch and connects the power brick to the notebook in a way that makes it almost impossible to damage either the MacBook or the plug if the cord gets accidentally yanked.
Like all Intel-based Macs, it can be a Windows PC, once you've installed Apple's Boot Camp utility and a full copy of Windows XP SP2. We did, and the 2GHz Core Duo MacBook performed respectably in our speed test. Boot Camp is still betaware, and it shows: The Webcam doesn't work in XP, and Windows forgets what time it is when you power down. But all in all, the MacBook is a terrific piece of hardware that's good value.