Up Close and Personal with Apple's Macbooks

A new generation of Apple computers always causes a lot of ink to be spilled. It happened again when the new MacBook and MacBook Pros in aluminum launched October 14. These new computers aroused just as much admiration as frustration among fans of the Apple brand.

With their obligatory glossy screen, the disappearance of the FireWire ports and weaker battery power, the new MacBooks have some marks against their name right off the bat – despite the laptops’ superb, stylish design with a focus on quality assembly and exterior finish.

To be fair, a good portion of the critics who made calls like this did so before they even had the new laptops in hand. After a week of use, Tom’s Guide offers you our version of the facts, in order to shed some light on those nasty expectations that surrounded the MacBook.

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  • Anonymous
    "By using the GeForce 9600M GT 512 MB with our top-of-the-line model, we got a little over 60 FPS. The old generation with the 8600 GT 256 MB reached around 58 FPS. So the difference that this new graphics configuration makes isn’t enormous."

    Are you aware that most games have V-Sync turned ON by default? Meaning that, when possible, the FPS are synchronous with the vertical refresh rate, which is 60Hz. So, your 60 FPS number for the 9600 GT most certainly doesn't mean anything.

    "There are also certain ergonomic failures, like the need to close and restart a session on the MacBook to change one graphics setting for another (the new Sony VAIO Z does it on the fly)."

    You're refering to the MacBook Pro and it's dual graphics card (9400M and 9600M GT), not the MacBook. Also, it's probably just a case of the lack of maturity of the NVidia drivers. The first Windows laptops with this kind of functionality also had this problem in the beginning.
  • Anonymous
    What kind of craptastic review is this? Where are the test numbers? Where is the indepth review of the software? Where is anything that is worthwhile?
  • radguy
    "Will we be seduced by Apple's charms"


    and definitly not for Apple's price
  • wkcar
    "Lastly, let’s not talk about Apple’s stinginess, since it is operating these machines on the same processor
    as it does for the iPods."

    These aren't running ARM cpus, they have penryn based core 2 duos, 2.0/2.4 GHz in the macbook (previous gen had 2.1/2.4 GHz) and 2.4/2.53 GHz in the macbook pros (previous gen had 2.4/2.5). The only difference here is in the motherboard FSB (800->1067 MHz) which probably has a negligible difference with respect to performance.
  • frozenlead
    A PC half it's price could outperform the thing, and have more than 2 USB ports.

    What kind of review is this? There were like 4 numbers in all 6 pages.

    I actually find the thing incredibly ugly - I never found any of the Macbooks attractive or pleasing in any way.

    The process of making a laptop case out of an aluminum brick should be described as wasteful and completely unnecessary - I never saw other macbooks (or PC notebooks, in that case) breaking at high rates.

    iPods running the same processors as Macbooks? Were you thinking when you wrote that?
  • Anonymous
    Seriously? I don't want to be a punk, but is this as good as the reviews are now on toms? I remember pulling up under the hood, tearing things apart, being serious about the science of differentiation. What does this tell me that, uhm a thousand other places haven't already a month earlier? SCIENCE>lame qualitative ramblings.
  • Tomsguiderachel
    SkeptikSeriously? I don't want to be a punk, but is this as good as the reviews are now on toms? I remember pulling up under the hood, tearing things apart, being serious about the science of differentiation. What does this tell me that, uhm a thousand other places haven't already a month earlier? SCIENCE>lame qualitative ramblings.

    Hi Skeptik,
    I hope you continue to get your quantitative hardware analysis over at Tom's Hardware. However, here at Tom's Guide, where this article was published, we cater to people who aren't as interested in pure numbers.

    All the best,
    Rachel Rosmarin, Editor of Tom's Guide
  • chaohsiangchen
    anonymous11What kind of craptastic review is this? Where are the test numbers? Where is the indepth review of the software? Where is anything that is worthwhile?

    You can't review an Apple Inc product with numbers, since Apple Inc. can't, and doesn't compete in that category. They just brand themselves as "fashion leader" of IT industry. I even know someone's wife bought an iBook because Sarah Jessica Parker used that in Sex and City. How are you going to argue that? How are you going to argue with people who think branded clothes are better than the one I've got 3 for $2.99 from local night market?

    There are good designs from other companies. However, most people who buy from other companies care more about specs and price/performance. Good design features rarely got noticed.
  • Anonymous
    I'm underwhelmed. I bought a 17" MacBook Pro this Fall but returned it a few days later when I learned about the imminent debut of these new laptops.

    I planned on using it for mobile recording using a Firewire audio interface. The glossy screen sucks, sure and lack of firewire makes it a non-starter. I really expected a quad-core option using the 45nm QX9300 Intel.

    I'd really like to see the iPhone screen intergrated into the touchpad so it can reconfigure itself into a numerical keypad or specialized controller for different applications.
  • Anonymous

    First of all, I didn't know Ipods ran on 2.0ghz intel dual core processors....... After all u claimed that the same processor of the macbooks are used in the ipods?

    aslo what laptop did you review, was it the macbook or the macbook pro version or both?

    Well, here's my take
    Body design-- pure aluminum, big whoop, why not pure gold or stainless steel? does the brick really help? is it better in cooling or withstand drops better than a plastic counterpart?

    Glossy screen-- Sucks! never liked it on any laptop, my Toshiba has glossy and I hate it. you are right, it glares too much

    Touchpad-- I kinda like the huge touchpad. for apps like photoshop, the trackpad is very accurate and I have lots of room for control to a point that I don't even bother with a mouse. I don't notice the lack of click button, and tap-to-click is a matter of opinion depending on PC brand. I know some PC trackpads are so unresponsive and tiny that it's frustrating. I can play FPS's on the Mac Trackpad

    No Firewire--- Man bummer. guess i won't be using my daisy chain 500gb drives or chain link an external hardrive along with video camera. Firewire is still used by a lot of AV professionals. Despite the age of firewire, it still has better features and performance than USB2.0 . Firewire 800 is not backwards compatible and hasn't saturated the market yet.

    battery power--- its a crap shoot since I haven't encountered any notebook with good battery life without being super gimpy or have a 5lb brick battery in them. If I can get 3 hours of DVD or web surfin, i'm fine.

    Magsafe power adaptor-- ZOMG! best idea/invention ever for a laptop. 3 laptops over the past 12 years mostly had problems in the power cord sector, mostly from regular daily wear and tear as well as cracks on the board, or a fatefull yank that sends the computer flying. Mag-safe is #1 and worth every penny. I'd pay $300 to have one of those on a PC laptop, the thing is like accident insurance.

    overall design-- Well its not like hauling around a bulky desktop replacement style of laptop. it fits, its light, it's portable. The kind of design where u laptop from your lap and not placed on a desk or some sort of docking station or constantly on a table. Its comfortable to tote around and the backlit keyboard is godsend for low light working enviroments (like on a long car trip at night).

    As far as price,,, well once u add up all the bells and whistles it's not too far off from the competition. I haven't seen many PC laptops out there with similar features or design as the mac. Are there some cheaper? yea, but they won't come with standard stuff like large trackpad, backlit keyboard, webcam w/mic, small/light design and built in bluetooth.
  • Anonymous
    Hey TomsGuideRachel,

    Maybe you haven't noticed, but Tom's readers care about the numbers. If your publication is too lazy to bother with providing quality articles for Tom's readers perhaps you should stop having your publication linked in any way to Tom's Hardware.
  • BillLake
    The article is a little thin on the MacBook/MacBook Pro separation. Also the article leaves out that Apple went to a wireless keyboard style keyboard on the MacBook Pro so it does not have the feel of the old MacBook Pro's exceptional keyboard. This article also left out the fact that the MacBook Pro has no option for a Blu-Ray drive. Apple does not support it in OS X so they did not included any Blu-Ray drives. The article seems to be a look and see not a true putting the unit through real usage. Since I have used an Intel MacBook Pro for over 2 years now I wanted to see if the new ones were competitive and here is what I found during my look see

    New glossy screen is annoyingly glossy

    New touchpad is smooth to use but easily confused by heavy fingers

    New Keyboard lacks the textile feel of the old and black is not as elegant as the old matching silver

    Apple included 9600/9400 Nvidia parts while expected are a little weak in this price range market, nothing exceptional here

    Construction and feel of the MacBook is really improved but the MacBook Pro is more visual than major improvement.

    The lack of Blu-Ray is a huge issue as almost every laptop over 1400-1500 has a Blu-Ray drive.

    The Memory support is also lacking, the MacBook Pro's motherboard should support 8GB of RAM however it only supports 6GB due to limitations set by the system. Now why is that, could it be that OS X only supports 6 GB of RAM in its current state? That seems to be the issue but why they disabled it in EFI (new version of BIOS) is beyond me.

    Well the article is shallow and has a few mistakes so maybe a followup that details these and a few more would be better.

    At this time however unless you are a Mac lover there is no reason to buy the new units that seem to be having a lot of failure issues. The cost is to high with too few improvements to justify buying this over any other PC unless you just want to run OS X. And while OS X is an interesting OS, it just is not worth $600 over other Laptops to get it in a MacBook Pro or the 300-500 more for a MacBook.
  • crosshares
    Amazing review, but I found one better.


    It even includes number for those who want them.
    How can you compete with this? You can't.

    Anyways, I'll be skipping this generation, still waiting for Nehalem macbooks, that's when things get interesting.
  • crosshares
    crossharesAmazing review, but I found one better. It even includes number for those who want them.How can you compete with this? You can't.Anyways, I'll be skipping this generation, still waiting for Nehalem macbooks, that's when things get interesting.


    still haven't fixed your url thing have you?
  • waffle911
    Firewire 800 is completely compatible with Firewire 400 - albeit with a 400 to 800 cable or adapter, which honestly, isn't really so bad.
    Plus, two USB ports? You need more? really? If you had that many peripherals with you at all times, then you have room in your bag for a USB hub. Get a Bluetooth mouse, if you really need a mouse, and use one USB port less. The cord gets in the way anyway.

    Though I have to agree, not having an integrated card reader sucks, but the format standards change too often. You can't put an SDHC in an old SD reader, and its a similar case with many other cards as far as I know.
    Plus as for BlueRay, it drains more battery sure, but it was the licensing of HDCP that really prevented Apple from supporting it.

    Both Mac OSX and the hardware in the MacBook Pro support 8GB, so the 6GB of RAM is partly limited by the drivers for the new Nvidia chipset, which manages most of the functionality of the notebook. Its still new, the drivers will improve, and GPU switching will occur on the fly eventually, and likely hybrid SLI as well. But I won't get one until that happens.

    But nobody mentioned that the backlit keyboard is only available on the more expensive of the two MacBooks, or that the MacBook's screen, although an improvement, still sucks. The MacBook Air actually has a better quality screen, even though it's the same size as the MacBook's; it is nevertheless a different LCD panel.

    The new manufacturing process is actually LESS wasteful, because the case is machined from solid aluminum, but the scrap can then be melted down and reused. As a result, there is almost 0% wasted material. Pretty much the entire notebook is recyclable when the time comes to junk it in 6 or 8 years because there are no toxic materials used in the manufacturing process.